Ronda Rousey and the UFC are finally married to one another. The proverbial glass ceiling has shattered, and women will make their UFC debut in 2013.
Rousey will automatically become the UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion. The question now begs: Who will be her counterpart in the first ever women's UFC title fight?
The options may seem plentiful, but they quickly get whittled down.
Many fans and pundits may want that first fight to be the much sought after bout against Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. There are two problems with this match-up: She will be coming off of a suspension for testing positive for stanozolol, and she is not a bantamweight.
It is tough to have a title fight when one participant is not in that weight class. Cyborg is not an option for the first bout.
So, who are the other women who could conceivably challenge Rousey?
Sarah Kaufman's name would hit the top of the list as one of the top five in the division, but she just challenged Rousey and was quickly defeated. She will need a couple more wins before trying to dethrone the champion again.
Alexis Davis and Shayna Baszler are coming off of victories at Invicta Fighting Championships, but they are scheduled to meet each other at Invicta FC 4 in January.
Another potential fight would be with Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann. The problem with that fight is that not many know who McMann is. In spite of signing a Strikeforce deal she never had the opportunity to fight for the organization.
Who Should Rousey's First Opponent Be?
The field of women seeking that title shot should come down to three: Liz Carmouche, Marloes Coenen, and Miesha Tate.
Some may bemoan the inclusion of Tate due to her brutal loss to Rousey in early 2012, but the hatred between the two women will be a nice selling point for the UFC audience who did not follow their first encounter.
It is a fight that has instant heat and would do well on a FOX or FX telecast.
Carmouche and Coenen are other viable options. While Coenen went back to 145 for a fight in Invicta, she could still return as a top contender to the bantamweight division, and Carmouche is one of the division's top fighters without a fight lined up.
None of these ladies are a bad option, but Tate is the optimal solution.
There has been a consistent growing buzz around Rousey, and her first fight should have a little spice to it. A second meeting between the two would offer the UFC audience a chance to be privy to their exchanges in and out of the cage.
It would draw the most interest out of the gate. Something that Rousey, and women's MMA, needs in this foray in the UFC.
Making Tate the first challenger will also give the other women in the division a chance to make their case for the next shot. Should their fight also be telecast on free television it will help the second defense of the title.
A Rousey-Tate rematch is the right way to go. The UFC should take advantage of the rivalry that is already ongoing and use it to their advantage in promoting the introduction of Rousey to the UFC audience. It is a win for everyone.