Ronda Rousey was in wholly unfamiliar waters. After completely dominating six professional mixed martial arts fights, Rousey faced the bitter taste of adversity for the first time. And it tasted a lot like opponent Liz Carmouche's forearm.
Carmouche had escaped Rousey on the ground. Worse for the UFC champion? Despite rising to her feet, Carmouche was on her back like a determined spider monkey.
Worse still? She was cranking the heck out of her face. That's what popped Rousey's mouthpiece in her mouth loose, and that's when Carmouche's arm popped right in its stead.
"I felt fine with her on my back," Rousey told Fuel TV after the fight. "I was more concerned with my sports bra staying on while she was choking me because I felt safe and in control. She squeezed across my face and my mouth, and she almost forced my mouth guard out. I didn't try to bite her. She put her hand in my mouth. Sorry."
It was a scary moment for Rousey fans and for the UFC, I'm sure. After all, the company had just devoted months to a marketing blitz unlike anything this sport has ever seen. Rousey was supposed to roll.
And here was Carmouche, scrappily making a fight out of it.
“This was back and forth, and it was so exciting," Fuel analyst Chael Sonnen said after the bout. "Liz gets after it. I can assure you that Ronda has never been in that position when Liz gets on her back. Ronda stayed calm, and she worked through it and overcame the adversity.”
In the end, Rousey was right where she wanted to be. From there, she methodically worked for the hold that everyone in the arena knew was coming, including Carmouche. Sometimes in sports, you know exactly what your opponent intends.
That doesn't, however, mean you're capable of stopping it.
For a brief moment, it looked like Carmouche would survive the first round, a feat no Rousey challenger had ever managed. She was fighting off the armbar valiantly. And then Rousey adjusted her strategy just enough to secure the hold and the win.
"She was working on the elbow for a while, but then grabbed the wrist and pulled back and that’s what made it work," Sonnen's fellow Fuel analyst, Rashad Evans, said.
"She was business-minded. She was intense. She’s a fighter inside her. People like to see champs win, but they like to see them overcome challenges and win. She did it for women’s MMA, but she did it for all of us. To see a woman do it, she’s good looking and smart, and she’s doing it for the whole sport.”
Carmouche impressed everyone with her effort and ability, but no one more than Rousey. For the first time in her career, the bantamweight champion knew she had been in a fight.
"I knew she was tough and I was expecting to go five rounds," Rousey told Fuel TV. "Ten seconds difference and it could have gone a different way and we would have been in round two. Much respect to her.”
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