If Ronda Rousey went out on Saturday night and armbarred Liz Carmouche in a mere matter of seconds, fans might have been hesitant to shell out $50 for her future fights.
If Carmouche had finished Rousey off with that early neck crank at the Honda Center, all the detractors -- those bigots and trolls who are so gloriously silent today -- would be calling the current UFC women's bantamweight champion a hype and a fraud.
Instead, the fans got a UFC 157 main event fight which was near-perfect in helping to establish women's fighting with the masses. By engaging in a competitive, back-and-forth matchup, Rousey and Carmouche signaled to the portion of the audience which was tuning in out of curiosity that they're the real deal.
More Coverage: UFC 157 Results | UFC news
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Carmouche, in an odd way, did Rousey a huge favor simply by showing the world the champion isn't flawless. She had Rousey in real trouble. If every Rousey fight was going to be a rout, fans would wise up quick. Why pay PPV money if there's no drama? Carmouche is a raw talent whose best attributes at this stage of her career are her toughness and relentless fighting spirit. When the public is introduced to the likes of Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, Julie Kedzie, Sara McMann, and more, they'll see bantamweights with the skills to give Rousey a challenge on any given night, which is only going to help the women's side of the sport grow.
But then there's the other half of the equation. Rousey showed tenacity under fire. Doesn't matter the gender, fans rally behind fighters with heart. When did Anderson Silva win more fans: When he toyed with Thales Leites, or when he withstood Chael Sonnen's assault for four rounds and then submitted him in the fifth? Rousey proved that she has poise to go along with her skills. That's the sort of thing that turns first-time curiosity viewers into regular buyers.
"It's 2013," said White. "I never expected such goofy backlash from people. What's awesome is the way the media handled this fight. The mainstream media was awesome. It got the respect it deserved. SportsCenter was tweeting all night about the fight. They've never done that before. It was on the front page of CNN, Sports Illustrated, the way the media treated this fight was amazing and those two went in and delivered tonight."
UFC 157 quotes
"From the sound of what the crowd was like tonight, it seemed like everyone was really happy and really liked the show. Critics are are going to criticize regardless. That's why they call them critics. All the people who had a good time tonight, I'm happy you were entertained." -- Rousey addresses her haters.
"This is a monumental mark in history, and to participate in that is, words can't even explain. ... I'm looking forward to coming back to reclaim myself." -- Carmouche, on participating in UFC 157.
"Everyone was saying Henderson-Machida should have been the main event. Nothing against those two, that would have stunk the place out. Imagine if that was the last fight of the night? People would have left here pissed. You're always going to have idiots on the internet who say stupid s---." -- Dana White.
Stock up: Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice
A question for everyone who criticized the UFC's cuts this week: What got you into mixed martial arts to begin with?Was it Jacob Volkmann dry-humping his way to win after sleep-inducing win? Was it Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski staring at each other for 25 minutes during their third fight? Or was it battles like the first Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight and Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia?
If Dana White deliberately lit a fire underneath his fighters with his roster cuts and threats of more, and the end result was a fight like Bermudez vs. Grice, well, good. (Side note to those who suddenly decided this week that they're huge fans of Jon Fitch, the one fighter in that batch whose cut was questionable: Maybe if you didn't spend the last several years tweeting and blogging about how much you think Fitch sucks every time he fought, he wouldn't have gotten cut).
Back to Bermudez and Grice. This was an early contender for Fight of the Year. Are they necessarily the most skilled fighters out there? No. But both guys fought with the intensity that attracted most of us to this sport to begin with. The third round was one of the most disbelief-inducing since the final stanza of Jung-Garcia, as Grice seemed to defy most laws of science by staying on his feet despite Bermudez's onslaught.
I personally had the fight a draw, with Grice winning the first two rounds 10-9, and Bermudez winning round three 10-8. But as White himself said, there are no losers in fights like this.
"That's one of those fights where there is no loser," White said. "There is no loser in this fight. When you turn on your TV set and you put down your money or you buy a ticket, that's what you expect to show up and see. As a fight fan, those are the fights you want to watch. And those are the kind of fights, guys won't get cut."
Stock down: Lyoto Machida
Yeah, I know, someone's stock can only go down so far if they beat a fighter the caliber of Dan Henderson and get promised a light heavyweight title shot. But there's part of me that wonders if White is pulling a Machiavellian move here in presenting Machida as the next title contender. Jon Jones wasn't particularly enthused with the idea of giving Machida a rematch the last time Machida was in line. And that was with Machida coming off an exciting knockout of Ryan Bader. Maybe by putting forward a contender Jones has already beaten and doesn't really want to rematch, White is subtly nudging Jones in the direction of a superfight with Silva.
Either way, when you win a fight to become number-one contender and get booed so loud for your performance that your post-fight interview can't be heard, and your boss calls the fight a stinker afterwards, that's a reasonable indication the public probably doesn't want to see you fight for the title.
To the best referee in the business, Herb Dean, who proved why by not making a call in the first round of Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice. Grice tagged Bermudez and dropped him late in the first round. When Bermudez hit the mat, he looked knocked out. It was the type of moment which could have caused other referees to step in and stop the fight. But Dean was in perfect position, saw that Bermudez was alert and could go on, and let the fight continue. The bout then developed into one that will be mentioned in the list of Fights of the Year when December rolls around. That's why Herb Dean is Herb Dean.
There was nothing particularly egregious Saturday night. The scoring of Dan Henderson-Lyoto Machida was all over the map. Derek Bell gave Machida rounds one and two, Derek Clearly saw two and three for Machida, and Cecil Peoples gave Henderson one and three. But any night where we don't get, say, a judge calling Melvin Guillard 30-27 over Jamie Varner, has to be taken as a little victory.
Fight I'd like to see next
While last night was filled with interesting results, there was little which demands an obvious next fight. We're getting Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida (umm ... if Jones beats Chael Sonnen), but does that really excite you? Rousey against the winner of Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano, and Carmouche against the loser both make sense. What do you do with Urijah Faber? Are you ready for another Faber title fight? If Dominick Cruz is going to be out awhile and Renan Barao needs to defend the interim bantamweight belt again, well, Faber is pretty much established as the No. 3 guy in the division. Then there's Robbie Lawler. I can't lie, after seeing Lawler drop some vintage Robbie Lawler bombs on Josh Koscheck, the evil part of me wants to see him matched up with another welterweight heavy hitter, like, say, Jake Ellenberger, just to watch the carnage unfold.