Rousey vs. Carmouche: Fight at UFC 157 a Landmark Event for Women's Sports

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2013

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Ronda Rousey celebrates her UFC Bantamweight Title over Liz Carmouche at Honda Center on February 23, 2013 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche struck a major blow for women's sports everywhere when they entered the Octagon at UFC 157.

After previously holding strong to his stance that no women would fight in UFC, rather than being some sort of sexist bent on keeping women out of his men's club, Dana White looked at it from a perspective of how it could affect UFC's image. He didn't simply want to have a women's division only to attract more fans, like some sort of circus act. If it was going to happen, the fighters would have to earn their way in.

Carmouche and especially Rousey were carrying a ton of weight on their shoulders as their fight would affect the perception of women fighters everywhere. And it was Rousey who played the biggest role in turning White's position around with her violent submissions and general marketability.

There was the very real risk that Rousey would simply armbar Carmouche within seconds and make her opponent look like a scrub. It could have been fun to watch. A win like that would have been a major detriment as it would have made the division look like a joke, only set out to make Rousey look like a beast.

Instead, the two put on nearly five minutes of pure excitement. Early in the first round, it looked like Carmouche might get Rousey to submit, only for Rousey to shake her off and lock in her devastating armbar for the win.

There have also been plenty of times where women have excelled athletically. Women have fought in mixed martial arts before, but nothing anywhere close to a scale as big as UFC 157.

This fight was unlike any ever done because you had two women main event a major UFC pay-per-view. It says a lot about Rousey's drawing power that White had enough confidence to let her and Carmouche take top billing.

The comparison could be drawn between Rousey and the recent successes of the United States women's soccer team as examples of how popular women's sports is becoming.

Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe all became household names with their finals run in the 2011 Women's World Cup and gold medal in the 2012 Olympics. No matter what they do, though, their triumphs will always play second fiddle to the men's national team, MLS and the large European soccer leagues. There have been countless attempts at a women's soccer league in the U.S., and they've all folded.

In UFC, the women's division might be a separate entity, but it's not going to go out on its own. You'll continue to see high-profile women's fighters given plenty of attention side by side to their male counterparts.

If Rousey vs. Carmouche wasn't so successful, it might have led White to think that the future for the women's division wasn't as grand as he had planned. Watching them fight, it was almost as if they knew exactly what the significance of the night was and made a conscious decision to make their battle thrilling.

Here's to hoping UFC 157 was only the first of many times women will headline a major PPV.