Carmouche exposes weakness in Rousey

February, 24, 2013
2/24/13
1:13
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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The end came as most expected Saturday night: with UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey defending her title with a first-round armbar submission of Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif.

It’s the way Rousey has finished every one of her mixed martial arts opponents and appearing in the Octagon for the first time proved no different. But Carmouche did something no other fighter had ever done -- give Rousey a scare.

For a brief moment, Carmouche got Rousey’s back in a standing position and attempted a rear-naked choke. Carmouche twisted Rousey’s neck, and it appeared that maybe, just maybe, one of the biggest upsets (betting-wise) in sports history was unfolding.

Rousey, however, remained cool and eventually freed herself from Carmouche’s grip. Shortly thereafter, Rousey would get Carmouche to the ground and submit her at the 4:49 mark.

There would be no upset this evening in the first women’s bout in UFC history. Rousey, who refused to accept being called UFC women’s 135-pound champion until she won a fight inside the Octagon, can finally breathe easily. She's still the bantamweight titleholder, and she has still not seen the second round. And she still has not been tested in a striking battle.

But Rousey did have to fight extra hard this time. Her takedown attempts didn’t come easily, and Carmouche proved that Rousey is very much beatable.

As a result, there is no doubt that the women who refused to accept this fight when UFC officials first offered it -- according to promotion president Dana White, Carmouche was the only fighter to sign on -- will line up for a shot at Rousey now.
[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey and Liz Carmouche
Ed Mulholland for ESPNRonda Rousey eventually secured an armbar, but not before fending off a few of Liz Carmouche's submission attempts.

And the promotion can thank Carmouche for that. The UFC can also thank Carmouche for giving Rousey all she could handle.

This fight didn’t last long, as is the case with all fights involving Rousey thus far, but it was entertaining and suspenseful.

“It was a great fight,” Carmouche said after falling to 7-3. “I thought I had it. Like everything, you make a mistake, and it turns around.”

Carmouche will surely learn from this experience and come back a much better mixed martial artist. But so will Rousey. She must know that every woman who competes in the UFC gained a bit more confidence after seeing her barely escape a very vulnerable situation.

This was only Rousey’s seventh professional fight, and during her short career, she’s proven to be a quick study. She will examine tapes of this fight and address any flaw that pops out.

"I was saying, 'No way am I going down,'" Rousey said of being in that rear-naked choke. “That’s one thing I had to learn in MMA is to take my time.”

Now that every woman fighter has seen the look of concern on her face inside the cage, they will come after her with less hesitancy. And that’s great for women’s MMA.

Rousey is skilled enough to reign for a very long time, but when she enters the cage again no one will consider her a sure thing. Fans might even get to see what she can do standing.

And if she’s extended into the second or third rounds, her cardio will be tested.

The true test of a champion is the way he or she handles adversity. Rousey passed Saturday night’s test, but there are many more to come.

Carmouche made that point very clear.

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