The UFC recently announced the signing of Strikeforce 135 pound female champion Rhonda Rousey to the UFC. Dana White’s biggest problem with having women in the UFC has always been the same, dating back to the days when there were cries for Gina Carano to be signed into the WEC. He always contended that for a division to exist in the UFC, it must house more than just a single champion and a few contenders or it would be a waste of Zuffa’s time and money. When he officially announced that Strikeforce Champion Rousey was UFC-bound he surprised many fans, but it seems that the timing of this may be just right.
In Rousey, pictured at left, Dana still has an extremely marketable champion. She is an Olympic bronze medalist and holder of a yet unblemished MMA record, having rattled off 6 straight first round armbars in 6 professional fights. Five of those victories, including her most recent blitzing of consensus #2 ranked Sarah Kaufman, have come within the first minute. Her super aggressive punch-to-clinch, throw and armbar style has quickly made her a fan favorite. Of course that isn’t the only thing that has made her a favorite of MMA fans. Her ability to talk trash has earned her monikers such as “The Female Sonnen”, she hangs out with the Diaz brothers and the notoriously talented and wild Armenian Judokas Manvel “The Anvil” Gamburyan and Karo “The Heat” Parisyan, and she is often accompanied in cage by martial arts living legend “Judo” Gene Lebell. She isn’t afraid to talk smack about the most talented female fighters like Cyborg Santos and Meisha Tate, and so far has backed it up in the cage by leaving a trail of broken limbs in the Strikeforce cage. She does the right press; she says provocative things on Jim Rome’s show, she talks lunacy with Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan on Rogan’s popular podcast, and she gives in depth looks into her personal history on Sherdog’s long forum “Rewind” program. Plus, playing the part of a pretty 20-something blonde Cali girl really doesn’t hurt her ability to sell fights.
Like Dana has always said though, you cannot make a division simply because you have a single talented and marketable fighter, or else we probably would have seen Carano vs Cyborg on PPV instead of on ShowTime. The 135 pound division houses a number of marketable and extremely talented ladies. Perhaps chief among them is Meisha “Takedown” Tate, former champion and the better half of UFC lightweight Bryan Caraway. Tate is a very talented wrestler with a solid top game including both excelltent ground and pound and submissions. Dutch fighter Marloes Coenen, a representative of Hollands infamous Golden Glory gym, brings a very interesting mix of an offensive guard and the distinctive Dutch Muay Thai style that only a disciple of GG can. Another former champion, Canadian Sarah Kaufman, brings a gritty kickboxing based sprawl and brawl style to the division. Talented BJJ competitor Alexis Davis earned a ton of fans when she gutted out two rounds of standing exchanges with Kaufman before running a grappling clinic on the Canuck in the third frame of their Strikeforce encounter en route to a majority decision loss in which most fans thought she deserved a draw with a 10-8 third round. Shayna Baszler, a disciple of catch wrestling master Josh Barnett, also brings a super aggressive and creative style to the cage. She also holds the distinction of being one of the first to ever successfully pull off a twister inside of the cage, three years before Chan Sung Jung tapped Leonard Garcie and brought it to the MMA masses. Perhaps the most threatening to the throne of Rousey however is Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann, who brings a level of amateur wrestling into the WMMA world that simply cannot be matched by any of her contemporaries.
Not only does the promise of a 135 pound division bring to mind all these fighters, but there are two other juggernauts lurking in the distance. First is former 145 pound Strikeforce champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos. The violent Brazilian brings the legendary unrelenting Chute Boxe Muay Thai attack that Wanderlei Silva unleashed on Pride in the early 2000’s to the female side of things, leaving a wake of bloody and battered foes in her rear-view mirror. Add in the fact that she has exchanged incendiary comments back and forth with Rousey after her failed drug test last year, which cost her her Strikeforce title, only serves to make her a valuable asset to Zuffa if she can make 135. Also outside the division but one of the most interesting possible competitors in the division is champion of the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling Championship gold medalist and member of a legendary lineage, Kyra Gracie (at right in pink). Could Gracie make a similarly quick transition into MMA and sub her way to UFC gold the way Rousey has? Who knows, but you can bet that Rousey wouldn’t be armbarring her in less than 60 seconds and dismissing her the way she has others.
With a deep division at their disposal and no signs of the well of talent drying up anytime soon, it seems that now is as good a time as any for the UFC to get into the business of WMMA.
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