It was a historic night in Anaheim, as Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche became the first women to compete in the UFC Octagon.
It was a milestone that didn't escape notice. Rather than bury the bout on the undercard, the UFC decided to go all in, putting the two women in the main event in a fight for the UFC women's bantamweight title.
Combined with Danica Patrick's success at the Daytona 500 qualifying, there was a ready-made narrative about women in sports right there for the taking.
And the mainstream media responded in a major way. From CNN.com to ESPN's SportsCenter, the two women and UFC president Dana White faced an unprecedented media gauntlet, often with outlets that wouldn't normally cover an MMA fight.
This was arguably the most discussed bout in MMA history, and the two fighters delivered on the very high expectations. Carmouche threatened Rousey early with a rear-naked choke, shocking, well, pretty much everyone.
But Rousey rallied, and in the end, the bout ended just as all six of her previous contests have ended—by armbar in the very first round.
Rousey, of course, wasn't the night's only winner. MMA is a funny sport. Sometimes, a fighter can lose even in victory, especially if that win is a snoozer that turns off fans and promoters. Likewise, a fighter like Carmouche can raise her standing in defeat with a valiant effort.
So, who were the real winners and losers at UFC 157? Click on to find out.
There were many people holding their breath cage-side early in the Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche bout. After months of promoting Rousey in every form of media known to man, it seemed like the impossible was going to happen. Carmouche, the ultimate underdog, was about to upset the UFC's new princess.
Carmouche was fighting hard for a standing rear-naked choke, the same choke Urijah Faber had used to win an earlier bout against Ivan Menjivar. Rousey, in trouble for the first time in her career, fought through the pain and the pressure to escape.
From there, it was vintage Rousey, if you can call something vintage when it has only happened on six previous occasions. Rousey went from side control to the inevitable armbar, once again winning her fight in the first round.
Just last year, Dan Henderson was scheduled for a title fight with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. A knee injury forced him to pull out of that bout. Former teammate Chael Sonnen ended up in a spot Henderson believed was rightfully his.
That's not winning.
Things, of course, went from bad to worse for the 42-year-old legend when he dropped a split decision to Lyoto Machida. Not much happened in the fight, but when the day was done, Machida walked away with the win.
Four times in the last four years, Urijah Faber has lost a title fight. Three times, he's won just a single fight following that loss. And three times, he's been rewarded for that lone win with another world-title fight.
Guess what, bantamweights?
Urijah Faber just won a fight.
Worse still, if you are a top 135-pounder looking for a chance at gold, he won in impressive fashion, finishing Ivan Menjivar with a standing rear-naked choke.
Will a title shot follow? I don't even need to shake the Magic 8-Ball to know that "signs point to yes."
A lot of retired fighters would say to themselves, "Self, you are 43 years old. You're no longer a cage fighter. It's time to let the Mohawk go and get a government haircut."
Luckily, Chuck Liddell is not that kind of fool. The Mohawk is his thing. You might as well ask him to have the tattoo on his head removed. Or bar him from dating hot blondes. Why not tell him he can no longer have a look on his face like a bad smell wafted in every time you mention Tito Ortiz's name?
That look is Chuck Liddell!
Chuck is a Mohawk man. It's part of who he is. He'll be rocking that 'do well into his 70s. As it should be. Shine on you crazy, Mohawked diamond.
So he's never going to live up to the nickname "the white Mike Tyson."
That was how UFC president Dana White referred to Robbie Lawler, his favorite fighter in the early 2000s. Obviously, that nickname was a bit premature. Only 20 when he made his UFC debut, Lawler needed a bit more seasoning. After consecutive losses, he was cut back in 2004.
More than eight years and seven promotions later, Lawler finally made his long-awaited return to the Octagon. Many expected he'd be easy picking for wrestler Josh Koscheck. Instead, he used his preferred sprawl-and-brawl style to leave The Ultimate Fighter veteran on the canvas.
I wouldn't want to be Josh Koscheck right about now. He's an expensive veteran coming off consecutive losses at a time when the UFC is looking to trim payroll by cutting up to 100 fighters.
On top of that, the fighter he lost to, Robbie Lawler, was himself considered past his prime. That doesn't speak highly of Koscheck's prospects of building himself back up to title contention.
Add in the fact that UFC president Dana White is no fan of Kos, and he's going to be plenty nervous for a couple of weeks waiting for that devastating phone call that ends his UFC run.
My editor may have said it best in this mock headline from G-chat:
"Brendan Schaub Robs Us of Seeing Lavar Johnson Knock Him Out."
Yes, it was smart for Brendan Schaub to lay his body on top of Lavar Johnson for a unanimous-decision win. It would have been crazy for Schaub to do anything else. Trading leather with one of the most powerful punchers in all of MMA is akin to signing a suicide note on national TV.
But darn it, Brendan—we wanted our carnage.
Before the bout, announcer Mike Goldberg promised this one wouldn't go the distance. The distance it surely went. Mike Goldberg owes me an apology!
I've seen a lot of fights over the years. When I was writing The MMA Encyclopedia, we literally went back and watched every UFC, Pride, Pancrase and Rings fight. Thousands and thousands of fights.
I say that so you know this is not something I'd type lightly: The third round of the Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice fight in the UFC 157 prelims was one of the craziest rounds I've ever seen. The amount of leather thrown cost a whole herd of cows their lives.
Bermudez was technically the winner by split decision. But in this fight, there were hundreds of thousands of winners—everyone watching live around the world.
If UFC announcer Joe Rogan doesn't know what to call a submission maneuver, you know you've pulled off something pretty unique. After all, with years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu experience and more than 100 UFC broadcasts under his belt, if you can choke it, torque it or snap it, he's seen it.
I guess he didn't scout Kenny Robertson videos from when he was in college at Eastern Illinois University. Robertson told Rogan that's where he invented a submission hold that looks like a modified kneebar, but that actually stretches the hamstring near snapping rather than damaging the joint.
It was likely a new experience, not just for Rogan, but for Brock Jardine, too. It happened so fast he had to scream "tap, tap, tap" just to make it stop. All it needs now is an official name. Former Bleacher Report writer Rob Tatum and ESPN's Josh Gross both had great suggestions on Twitter:
@mmaencyclopedia the "Kennybar?"— Rob Tatum (@RobTatumMMA) February 24, 2013
@mmaencyclopedia I like the "Hamstretcher."— Josh Gross (@JoshGrossESPN) February 24, 2013
You don't always expect a lot from the first fight of the night. The crowd usually hasn't arrived in force, preventing any big-fight feel. The fighters are also typically newcomers with all the accompanying "new-guy" jitters. So desperate not to lose, neither man usually remembers to try to win.
That wasn't the case for Yuri Villefort and Nah-Shon Burrell. They came to fight, and the resulting battle was one of the very best bouts of the night. Burrell was able to survive on the ground. Standing, he battered the Blackzilians fighter.
The fight came down to the final round, where Villefort went for a leg lock, looking to take advantage of his opponent's grappling deficits. Instead, Burrell made him pay for the attempt, landing punch after punch as Villefort used both hands to try to crank a leg lock. That left a total of zero hands to defend his face, and I believe that made all the difference on the judges' scorecards.
Ronda Rousey defeats Liz Carmouche via armbar at 4:49 of Round 1
Lyoto Machida defeats Dan Henderson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Urijah Faber defeats Ivan Menjivar via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:34 of Round 1
Court McGee defeats Josh Neer via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Robbie Lawler defeats Josh Koscheck via TKO (strikes) at 3:57 of Round 1
Brendan Schaub defeats Lavar Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Mike Chiesa defeats Anton Kuivanen via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:29 of Round 2
Dennis Bermudez defeats Matt Grice via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Sam Stout defeats Caros Fodor via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Kenny Robertson defeats Brock Jardine via submission (kneebar) at 2:57 of Round 1
Neil Magny defeats Jon Manley via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Nah-Shon Burrell defeats Yuri Villefort via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)