COMMENTARY | On February 23, 2013, UFC 157 will be nothing less than historic. Current UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will face former marine Liz Carmouche. This event will mark the first time that a female match-up will headline a UFC pay-per-view event. In fact, it will also represent the first time that a female bout takes place in the UFC...period. Irrespective of the outcome, women's mixed martial arts has made its way to the UFC, and will foster in a new wave of aspiring female fighters in the process.
The co-main event will feature former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida against the last Pride light heavyweight champion, Dan Henderson. The following highlights some keys to victory for said combatants, and underscores the significance of each match-up:
Ronda Rousey: The former Olympian's grappling game is bar none. She is a world-class judoka, having been the first American woman to ever medal in Judo at an Olympic Games. Since then, Rousey has expanded her arsenal, which includes wrestling and high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Given that, the California native is undefeated and has submitted every one of her opponents via armbar. As the old adage states: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Rousey will benefit from making this a grappling match, taking Carmouche down, only to submit her thereafter.
It is difficult to imagine that Rousey's game plan will be any different from that of her past. The former Strikeforce champion's victories are predicated upon her elite grappling skills, the likes of which other female competitors have yet to emulate. If the past is of any indication, and if Rousey is allowed to impose her will upon Carmouche, it will be a very short and disappointing night for the challenger.
Liz Carmouche: The former U.S. Marine Sergeant is a legitimate opponent and threat to Rousey's championship belt. She has defeated half of her opponents by knockout and enjoys the stand-up game significantly. Avoiding the takedown and delivering strikes from the outside may lead Carmouche to victory. She is a game opponent. The usage of her speed and technical striking will aid Carmouche in her quest to derail the current face of women's mixed martial arts.
Historical Significance: A win for Rousey will solidify her status as the UFC's legitimate bantamweight champion. Her star power and presence at the helm of the division will more than likely usher in more female talent and opportunities, not only for herself, but for women who aspire to fight in the UFC.
For Carmouche, a victory at UFC 157 would almost certainly catapult her to stardom. Dethroning a famous, undefeated champion is significant; especially one who has brought a tremendous amount of attention to women's mixed martial arts and to the UFC.
Lyoto Machida: The former UFC light heavyweight champion is on a mission to regain his title. He became champion in 2009 by remaining elusive and counter-striking in his matches. Machida's unorthodox style of fighting would prove beneficial to him against his opponent at UFC 157. Henderson sports heavy hands and has the ability to knockout anyone he faces. Therefore, Machida's "touch and go" style may present problems for his 42 year-old opponent.
However, Machida's key to victory may actually be found in his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In Henderson's last two losses, he was controlled on the ground. When he fought Anderson Silva at UFC 82, he was dominated on the ground and eventually submitted. In his bout against Jake Shields at Strikeforce: Nashville, he was completely overwhelmed by Shield's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling skills, having spent much of the fight mounted and playing defense. Even though he won his bout against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139, again, he spent rounds four and five mounted, facing submission at any given moment. Therefore, Machida may wish to test Henderson's stamina in the later rounds and exploit his takedown defense.
Dan Henderson: The California native enjoys the benefits of his heavy hands. He has made a career out of winning championships by knocking out opponents, such as Fedor Emelianenko, Renato Sobral, Michael Bisping, and Wanderlei Silva, in the process. Machida can be knocked out, as was proven in his UFC 113 fight against Rua. The Brazilian will have to implement an excellent game plan and avoid being hit by a Henderson haymaker at any point in the match-up this Saturday night. If his laundry list of knockout victims is of any indication, keeping the fight standing and landing one of his patented "H-bombs" would serve Henderson well in quest to emerge a victor at UFC 157.
Title Shot Implications: Dana White stated in a recent interview that should Alexander Gustafsson beat Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9: Gustafsson vs. Mousasi, he would be in line for a title shot. Believing that a win at UFC 157 yielded a title shot, Machida stated: "I believe, out of this fight, whoever wins should definitely be the contender for the title. If we're number one and number two then the title shot should definitely be on the line in this fight."
However, Henderson is currently more focused on Machida than on any future title shot. In an interview, he stated, "Just like any fight nowadays, there's a lot on the line, and he's definitely going to be a huge challenge. I'm not really looking past it. I just want to make sure my game plan is there, my mind is in this fight, and we'll see what happens after that."
Title shot or not, a match-up between two former world champions is bound to evoke excitement and result in one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the year.
Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! News. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.
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