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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Nothing was more predictable, nor nearly as significant, as Ronda Rousey's arm bar victory over Liz Carmouche in the first round of their bantamweight title fight on Saturday.
The fight marked a monumental moment in sports history, a time when the women stood above the men in every way.
For one, Rousey and Carmouche saved UFC 157 after a stinker of a co-main event between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson. When the Rousey-Carmouche fight was announced as the main event in December, a small but very vocal portion of the UFC fan base howled in protest.
Of course, they simply showed themselves as clueless bigots because there was no doubt who everybody had come to see Saturday.
All 15,525 fans who jammed the Honda Center and paid a $1.4 million gate were there to see if Rousey could stretch her incredible run of first-round arm bars to 10 in 10 amateur and professional fights.
When Machida won a sleep-inducing split decision in the co-main event, Rousey and Carmouche went out and put on a dynamic show that brought down the house. Rousey got a hero's welcome from the crowd from the moment she entered the arena. It hit a crescendo as she stepped into the cage, men and women, boys and girls, standing and screaming for her in a full-throated roar.
The reception made those who had angrily said they wouldn't buy a ticket or watch the show because the UFC was somehow disrespecting Machida and Henderson look awfully small.
"Imagine how this place would have been had [Machida-Henderson] been the main event," UFC president Dana White said. "Everyone would have left here [angry] and it would have ruined the show."
Rousey and Carmouche also carried the show on the promotional end. White said early estimates are that the results will be far higher than anticipated, squelching concerns in some corners that it might flop.
They were witty, colorful and passionate in telling their stories and the public bought in.
This was a moment comparable to the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. That match squashed the outdated notion that women were somehow a weaker sex and couldn't compete with men.
King-Riggs was an exhibition though; Rousey-Carmouche was very much the real deal.
They proved that women could compete on a show featuring men and still be the star attractions. Too often, women's sports are given secondary roles.
The majority of television, print and online coverage of sports is about men. This might be the night that nudges the pendulum closer to the center.
Rousey and Carmouche competed on a card filled with men and looked perfectly at home in the main event.
The pressure on Rousey was enormous. She carried an unprecedented promotional load, for months filling every waking moment that she wasn't training with interviews.
Not only was there intense pressure on her to win, but it was specifically to win by first-round arm bar. Anything less would have been perceived as a disappointment.
She's ready to hide now after running on fumes for weeks.
"For the next week, I'm probably going to fall totally off the grid as much as I can," she said, grinning. "If I see anyone, I'm not going to talk about me at all. No more talking about me for a whole week."
Others, though, will be talking about her for a long time after Saturday's win. She survived a near-submission when Carmouche hopped onto her back early and first caught her in a rear naked choke and then a neck crank.
It looked for a time that Rousey's unbeaten streak would end and that the former Marine, the first openly gay fighter in the UFC, would wrest the title from her.
Carmouche knew that Rousey wouldn't go quietly, and she didn't.
"Neck cranks are hard to pull off and if the person has a lot of heart, she can fight through it, which she did," Carmouche said of Rousey.
Carmouche had Rousey's teeth marks on her arm after, the result of knocking Rousey's mouthpiece out and Rousey's upper teeth coming down on her forearm.
When the news conference ended, Rousey walked over to Carmouche and said, "Sorry, dude. Definitely not intentional," and the two combatants embraced. Both were beaming, and though Carmouche had come up a loser in her biggest fight, it seemed appropriate.
They'd accomplished something together that was far bigger than themselves, and Rousey clearly pulled alongside fighters such as Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva as one of the UFC's biggest draws.
"Ronda is a big star, man, and people want to see her," White said afterward.
The duo did much more, though, for women who have been denied opportunity or not given equal access solely because of their gender. They stood up to the scrutiny and the grind and the pressure and delivered a scintillating performance.
"I thought it was a great fight and I thought it lived up to all of the hype around it, the fact the place was going nuts," Rousey said. "I'm glad it was a full house. I'm honored to be part of it. It might take a while to sink in."
The ramifications of Saturday's show are potentially significant, not only for MMA but women's sports. A day after Rousey and Carmouche put on a show, Danica Patrick will start on the pole in the Daytona 500.
It's a new world and Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche played a significant role in shaping it.
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