It's nearly impossible to overstate the significance of what Ronda Rousey did Saturday in her brawl with Miesha Tate for the Strikeforce bantamweight championship in Columbus, Ohio.
It was one of those defining moments in a sport's history, and not just on the women's side. This was a defining moment in the history of mixed martial arts, period.
Rousey, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo, lived up to the insane hype that has enveloped her, as she submitted Tate with her signature move, the armbar, at 4:27 of the first round.
This wasn't just another armbar and it wasn't just another fight.
The significance of Rousey's win will be felt around the sport, on both the men's and the women's side.
Much will be made of her appearance, because, sadly, it's always what happens in women's sports. A high percentage of Internet searches in 2011 were for photos of women's tennis players, and you can bet it's not because there are a lot of people who care about the WTA.
And yes, much like Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki, Rousey has the looks that are going to attract a lot of young men. She looks like she could have been the homecoming queen at USC or UCLA.
She's also a quick wit, who has poise and confidence in public settings. With a good writer, she could be a standup comedienne. She turned the bout with Tate into a major event with a stream of trash talk, much of it clever, far more unique than the usual "I'm going to kick your [expletive]," that comes from the mouths of the majority of fighters.
She showed another side on Saturday. Not only did she prove she's one of the elite athletes in the world during the captivating fight with Tate, but she showed her cold side. She was a killer.
Several hours before the bout, Showtime's Heidi Androl interviewed Rousey in her locker room. Rousey entered the matchup having won all seven of her previous fights, three as an amateur and four as a pro, via armbar in less than a minute. When Androl asked Rousey if there was a Plan B in case the armbar didn't work against Tate, Rousey sneered.
"Of course," she said, icily, her expression as ferocious as Mike Tyson ever showed. "But I'm not going to tell you what it is."
She never showed a hint of a smile. When the fight was over and she was given an opportunity to squash the feud that had grown with Tate, she passed.
"She's much more savvy on the ground than I anticipated," Rousey said of Tate. "But she's good. She's legit, but I don't feel that bad about [injuring her]."
You have to be an robot if you didn't have emotion watching her fight and hearing her talk.
The bout was breathtaking from the opening seconds, when Tate rushed Rousey, to the final moments as Rousey was attempting to break Tate's arm.
Tate showed her toughness by surviving that first arm bar. Tate managed to get Rousey's back, but Rousey found a way out. When Tate fired a combination at her, Rousey hip tossed her.
That set up the dramatic finish, as Rousey rolled to get in position for the arm bar. She locked it in and torqued as hard as she could. Tate fought it, but eventually had to tap and Rousey had her championship.
Telephone lines had to be burning during those four minutes, 27 seconds, as folks called their friends and urged them to tune in. A large percentage of those who were lukewarm or less toward MMA had to have been won over Saturday.
After the fight, Rousey didn't relent much. When it first ended, she said, "Yeah, I didn't talk my way into that one," a reference to Tate's pre-fight taunt that it was Rousey's trash talk, and not her performance, that earned her the title shot.
Later, she said she was angry by Tate's actions at the weigh-in on Friday. As they posed for photos together and were staring face-to-face, Tate leaned forward and placed her forehead on Rousey's. Rousey instantly responded, pushing her head forward and forcing officials to jump between them.
Later, Tate complained about it and her boyfriend, MMA fighter Bryan Caraway, made incredibly stupid comments on Twitter, which he eventually deleted.
One of the profoundly idiotic Tweets: "and if she wants to challenge a man I'll knock her teeth dwn her throat the break her arm!"
Everyone in Caraway's family has to be so proud of him for threatening to beat up a woman, though after what we saw from Rousey, it's no given that he could carry out his threat if they actually did fight.
Rousey was intimidated by none of it. She said she felt badly at first about trash talking Tate, but said the weigh-in incident had caused her negative feelings to return in a big way.
"I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt before, since I kind of started it, but after the weigh-in, when she got in my face and I pushed her back, she said I ought to be fined for head butting her," Rousey said. "I thought that was kind of … If you're going to act hard, just follow up with it. Don't pull back and be like, 'Oh, you should get a fine.' That was kind of messed up."
Rousey will next fight Sarah Kaufman, who beat Alexis Davis earlier in the card in a bout that will likely generate television ratings twice as high as Saturday's event.
With the word out about Rousey now, and her effort Saturday proving that she's not a fluke, viewership is only going to rise each time she fights. And she's going to lift the sport with her. She gives every indication of being a transcendent athlete.
Yeah, she needs to do it for a long time to become a Kobe, or a Michael, or a Brady or a Manning, but that's the kind of talent this woman possesses.
When Tiger Woods first burst into stardom on the PGA Tour, many of his peers resented him for all the attention he commanded. You can be sure that fighters of both sexes are going to resent the attention that Rousey is going to receive in the coming weeks, months and years.
Eventually, though, they'll learn, just as the world's best golfers learned about Woods: A star of that magnitude is great for the sport.
Ronda Rousey just made MMA a lot more exciting.
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- Ronda Rousey