ANAHEIM, Calif. » Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche made history just by stepping into the UFC cage. When Rousey recorded another savage victory with her signature move, she demonstrated why she could be a trailblazer in women’s sports for years to come.
Rousey won the UFC’s first women’s bout Saturday night, beating Carmouche on an armbar with 11 seconds left in the first round of their bantamweight title fight at UFC 157.
Rousey (7-0) defended her belt with her seemingly inevitable move, forcing Carmouche to tap out after bending back her arm. Rousey raised both arms in victory while flat on the canvas after the longest fight of the mixed martial artist’s ascendant career.
"Is this real life right now? I’m not sure," said Rousey, a former judo star with just two years of pro MMA experience.
Former UFC champion Lyoto Machida counterpunched his way to a split decision over Dan Henderson on the undercard at Honda Center, and bantamweight Urijah Faber beat Ivan Menjivar with an acrobatic rear naked choke late in the first round.
But the sellout crowd largely showed up to see Rousey, whose unique combination of star power, athleticism and skill singlehandedly ended UFC President Dana White’s long-standing disinterest in women’s MMA. White even put Rousey and Carmouche in the main event of a pay-per-view show by the sport’s dominant promotion.
Rousey was awarded the equivalent of the bantamweight belt she won in the now-defunct Strikeforce before her first UFC fight, but quickly showed she deserved it.
"I was actually less nervous walking out than I was for some of my earlier fights," Rousey said. "I felt like the UFC champion, and I know how hard I am working. This was a wild ride, and I can’t wait to get back in the octagon."
Rousey and Carmouche didn’t disappoint in their pressure-packed debuts. Although Rousey was heavily favored, Carmouche (7-3) actually had Rousey in trouble early, nearly landing a rear naked choke while clinging to Rousey’s back in the opening two minutes.
Rousey, who had never been seriously threatened in any previous bout, barely escaped the chokehold by getting her chin and mouth underneath Carmouche’s arm. Rousey gradually imposed her will on the former Marine after that, rolling her across the canvas and finally getting side control on Carmouche before patiently separating her arms to land an armbar.
"That was the most vulnerable a position I’ve been in so far in my career," Rousey said. "That was pretty tight, that neck crank, and I was very happy to get out of it. She had the choke across my mouth and … her forearm was pushing against my teeth. That can’t have been any more fun for her than it was for me. Crazy sport we’re in, huh?"
Rousey has won all seven of her professional MMA bouts and three amateur fights by armbar, a judo move that has dislocated at least two prior opponents’ elbows.
"I had to learn to take my time in MMA, and I was just able to keep a clear head," said Rousey, who became the first American woman to win an Olympic judo medal in Beijing.
Rousey dealt with constant attention from media and fans in recent weeks, a function of her rising stardom in the UFC and the larger sports world. She said the pressure wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle.
"There’s no amount of press that can save these girls from me," she said.
Carmouche earned a huge ovation from the sellout crowd for giving Rousey more trouble than she had ever faced.
"I thought I had it," said Carmouche, who served three tours of duty in Iraq. "Like everything else, you make a mistake, and it turns around."
Machida (19-3), the former light heavyweight champion, had lost three of his previous five bouts before edging Henderson (29-9) in a slow, technical fight. Machida used his typical elusiveness and unorthodox, karate-based techniques to pick away at Henderson.
Both fighters raised their arms in victory after the final horn, but Machida landed 68 percent of the fight’s significant strikes, with a 23-8 advantage in head strikes.
Two judges favored Machida 29-28, while the third had Henderson winning 29-28.
"He’s a very great opponent for me, and I have a lot of respect for him," Machida said while fans booed. "My strategy was to keep the fight standup, and I think I got it. I think I completely dominated the first round, second round, third round."
Faber (28-6) got his career back on track with an impressive victory over Menjivar (25-11). With his home-state crowd behind him, Faber took early control on the ground and then finished Menjivar by clinging to his back and wrapping both legs around his standing opponent, forcing Menjivar to tap out while on his feet with 26 seconds left in the opening round.
"Ivan is a very crafty veteran," Faber said. "I just attacked the neck. He let me hold on too long, and that was that."
Although Faber has a huge fan following for his years of success in other promotions, he was just 2-2 since moving to the UFC two years ago, dropping narrow decisions to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao.
Robbie Lawler stopped Josh Koscheck with 1:03 left in the first round with a series of strikes, earning the knockout of the night award in his first UFC fight since October 2004. Court McGee also beat Josh Neer by unanimous decision in his welterweight debut.