Before Chris “Cyborg” Santos became known for leveling women with the savagery of a wrecking ball to a papier-mache house, and before Ronda Rousey’s stunning look and ferocious armbar caught the world by surprise, Gina Carano was the face of women’s MMA.
This mind numbingly gorgeous woman burst onto the scene in 2006, rattled off seven consecutive victories, secured a position as an American Gladiator and had men across the globe drooling at her faultless features and tenacity as an athlete.
Mainstream media took major notice and within two years Carano was a bona fide star who’d managed to aid in the growth of WMMA like none prior. She had it all: the looks, the charm, the charisma and the skill.
And then she ran into Chris “Cyborg” Santos in August of 2009 and the whole house came crumbling down on Carano’s head. Cyborg punished the former top-ranked female fighter, abusing her with vicious strikes before forcing a halt to the bout with one second remaining in the first round.
Most expected Carano to nurse her wounds, and return to form, perched near the top of the mountain, where she’d grown comfortable prior to her meeting with the monstrous Brazilian. But Carano did not return to the world of mixed martial arts.
American Gladiators was suddenly (but not surprisingly) axed, and it appeared Carano may fall completely from the limelight. After a handful of B-movie appearances however, her career took another interesting turn, as she landed the lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, starring opposite Hollywood heavyweights like Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and rising star Channing Tatum.
While most predicted Carano’s A-list Hollywood efforts to be one-and-done, she hasn’t departed the cinematic world just yet. In fact, Carano’s got a few new film projects already in the can, including a role in the forthcoming Fast & Furious 6.
If Carano continues to secure roles in films of this magnitude, there’s remarkably little chance we’ll ever see her set foot in a cage, prepared to battle another woman, again. The money Hollywood offers far eclipses any payday Carano could hope for inside a cage, and physically, it’s significantly less demanding.
It’s impossible to fault Carano for the decision to make a career adjustment. It’s also just about impossible to avoid pondering a potential clash with today’s Queen of WMMA, Ronda Rousey.
As a fighter Carano was a diverse competitor, capable of finishing fights with fists, or submissions. During her incredibly brief run as a mixed martial artist she overwhelmed some quality competition, knocking out Rosi Sexton, decisioning Julie Kedzie, submitting Tonya Evinger and cruising past the highly touted Kelly Kobold, who today sports a highly impressive 18-3 record.
Carano wasn’t just a pretty face, she was extremely skilled.
Having lost but once in her career, to an imposing power puncher, it’s easy to play hypothetical scenarios out in the mind. Had Carano returned to action, would she have rebounded, returning to her dominant ways?
Better yet, how would a Carano/Rousey clash play out? Carano’s been tested by a few solid submission practitioners and avoided any fight ending locks or chokes. However, she’s never faced a grappler with as potent an offense as that owned by Rousey.
“Rowdy” puts her opponents on the ground, cranks on the arm and the fight is over. She’s done it six times over, and she’s eliminated some fine challenges along the way herself. Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman and Sarah D'Alelio are legit opponents.
Ronda made them appear amateurish in every sense.
I like Carano’s chances of surviving beyond the first frame against Rousey. I think she’s a savvy enough fighter to keep as much distance between Rousey and herself as possible while attempting to wear on the UFC’s first female champion’s gas tank.
I do not however see her escaping two rounds with the rowdy one.
This is little more than a dream fight these days, but were Carano and Rousey to meet in the center of the octagon today, Rousey puts her away early in round two. The end comes after Carano’s take-down defense fails her and an arm is ensnared.
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