Ronda Rousey's first official title defense against Liz Carmouche marks the beginning of the UFC's foray into women's MMA. If Rousey lives up to the hype, it could be the beginning of a very successful division for the sport's biggest promotion.
It's no secret that Rousey was a huge reason that the division was brought into existence by the UFC. Dana White has spoken candidly about her role in the decision to bring women's MMA into the organization and it's clear that a women's division would not exist if it weren't for the success and marketability of Rousey.
As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports wrote about Tuesday, White had always been against bringing women's MMA to the UFC, citing an overall lack of depth and too few elite fighters. Then he met Rousey and saw a star in the making:
Then I met Ronda...Meeting her is the key to everything. This girl is for real. This girl is a fighter...There is no way you can meet Ronda Rousey and not be interested in seeing her fight...I never saw a Ronda Rousey coming
Obviously, White is sold on the viability of Rousey as a top star in the UFC and, in turn, the credibility of the women's division as a viable option. However, that could be quickly undone if Rousey were to be upset by Carmouche.
Hardcore fans won't be as easily sold on the idea of a woman headlining a pay-per-view card until they see her in action. As long as Rousey continues to dominate, as she has done in her previous bouts, she'll no longer have an issue convincing fans to buy her fights.
As fans, we love to tune in to see greatness. When a Anderson Silva, George St-Pierre or Jose Aldo fight, everyone tunes in even though the odds are always greatly in their favor. Why? Because we love to witness greatness.
For now, that's the greatest advantage that the women's division has going for it.
Rousey has only had one fight make it out of the first minute. She's won every single fight by first-round armbar and has never really been challenged by any competitor. There's an argument to be made that she is the most dominant pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
If Rousey can show off that dominance on the grand stage of headlining a pay-per-view, she will immediately become a top attraction. It's not compelling in terms of competitive fights, but it's intriguing to see if she can continue to win fights with the same technique and how she will adapt when someone eventually defends her submission attempts (if that ever happens).
An argument could be made that a win for Carmouche would prove that women's MMA is more deep than White originally thought. To an extent, that's true.
However, the beginning of the women's division has been hitched to the rising star of Rousey. At this early stage in the division's evolution, as Rousey goes, so does the popularity of the division.
An upset loss would break the momentum that the division currently has and the biggest trick up its sleeve—a mega-fight between Rousey and former Strikeforce champion Cris Cyborg. Although Cyborg fights in the featherweight division and is currently signed with Invicta, it remains the biggest fight that women's MMA could make.
The emergence of Rousey as a bona fide star in the sport should clear the way for other women to get their due as viable draws in the future. However, for that to happen, she has to deliver on the big stage at UFC 157.