In the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first fight featuring women, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the first female mixed marital arts bantamweight champion, aims to continue her six-fight winning streak against newcomer Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche.
In the co-main event, Dan Henderson hopes to clear the path for a title shot against Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones by knocking out another former light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida.
Rousey vs Carmouche
Rousey has dominated the bantamweight division since her debut in Strikeforce in 2011. Her six career fights have all lasted under nine minutes and each has ended in a first round armbar submission.
Before Carmouche, Brazilian fighter Cris “Cyborg” Santos was considered the first contender in the new women’s division, but contract negotiations between the UFC and her manager, UFC hall-of-famer Tito Ortiz, broke down because he claimed Santos could not cut down to 135 lbs.
While Carmouche has lost two of her nine fights in MMA, the former marine’s grit and determination could pose a challenge for Rousey. Heading into the bout as a 12-to-1 underdog, Carmouche wants to defeat Rousey and pull off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.
In order to prepare for her bout with Carmouche, Rousey has been improving her boxing skills every day and shadow boxes in her home. Rousey has said she is prepared to go all five rounds with Carmouche.
Carmouche, who had openly volunteered to fight Rousey, has said she is training every day to defend against Rousey’s dangerous armbars. But the training may not be enough against the Olympic judo champion, whose signature move tapped out Strikeforce title contender Sarah Kaufman last summer.
Prediction: Rousey wins in the second round by armbar.
Henderson vs Machida
After emerging victorious during an epic battle with Maurico “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139 in November 2011, Henderson solidified his spot in the light heavyweight division.
Henderson lasted three intense five minute rounds with Shogun and won by unanimous decision, which earned him a title shot with Jones.
But in September 2012, when Henderson was slated to fight Jones, a knee injury forced him to drop out on short notice. Jones refused to fight any new challengers, which led to the first fight cancellation in UFC history.
Now Henderson will have to watch Chael Sonnen, whom Jones initially refused to fight in September, try for the title sometime in mid-April at The Ultimate Fighter season finale.
If Henderson wants another shot at the title, he cannot let the decision go to the judges. He must finish the fight by knockout or technical knockout. But Machida’s elusive karate style could be hard to neutralize, which could frustrate the knock-out artist.
“The Dragon,” Machida’s nickname, played out the most effective defense against Jones, who has a long reach and is also known for his elusive style. Machida was able to show a weakness in Jones’ striking.
In a phone press conference on Feb. 12, Henderson said he expects Machida to be a huge challenge and plans to focus all his energy on the bout.
Henderson may not be able to find Machida’s chin until the second round, but one jab or uppercut from Henderson could end the fight. As Shogun showed at UFC 113, Machida can be knocked out if his opponent lands a punch right.
Machida has strong take down defense and this could also be a problem for Henderson, even with his wrestling background.
But if Henderson could get Machida on the floor, he could win the fight because Machida has yet to show a strong ground game. Oh, and Henderson has not lost a light heavyweight bout since 2007.
Prediction: Henderson wins by TKO in Round 2.