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Carano Vs. Cyborg: Women's MMA Hangs in the Balance

Darren WongSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2009

SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 13:  Martial artist Gina Carano attends Maxim's 10th Annual Hot 100 Celebration Presented by Dr Pepper Cherry, True Religion Brand Jeans, Stolichnaya Vodka and Corona held at Barker Hangar on May 13, 2009 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

There's a lot more on the line at Carano vs. Cyborg than a Strikeforce title.

When Gina Carano steps into the cage against Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, it will be the first time that two female fighters have headlined a major MMA event.

This is a big accomplishment for Strikeforce, as UFC parent company Zuffa had been pursuing Carano's services, yet did not embrace the idea of an entire women's division as Strikeforce has.

But the entire idea of a fight between two talented women isn't going to be marketable by itself.

Carano (pictured above) brings some obvious visual appeal for key male 18-35 demographic.  And the stark contrast between her, and her menacing foe, Cyborg is what makes this fight so appealing to the casual viewer.

However, all of that changes when the fight actually begins.

Once Carano and Cyborg start fighting, all marketing strategies go out the window, and it is all up to the fighters.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person most of the time, but I don't know if I'll be able to keep watching if Carano's pretty face starts to get pounded or cut open by the attacks of Cyborg.

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My gut feeling is that there are a lot of viewers who will feel the same way.

Seeing an attractive girl unleash some violence will fulfill some bizarre childish fantasy of mine, while seeing an attractive girl getting crushed mercilessly will be a nightmare, not only for me, but for Strikeforce.

Because as superficial as it sounds, women's MMA needs an attractive face to sell the sport.

The best possible outcome for Strikeforce is an exciting fight in which Carano emerges relatively unscathed and victorious.

As long as the fight is very competitive, and Carano looks okay afterward, Strikeforce will be okay with the result. Carano will still be marketable, and they can always push for a rematch down the line.

But if Carano gets beaten down and smashed by the woman who I am not attracted to, Strikeforce might have trouble continuing to market women's MMA, which will be bad for women's MMA in general.

It seems contradictory that the future of women's MMA may hinge on whether the prettier fighter can win, but I truly believe that may be the case.

So if you're a fan of women's MMA, cheer for Carano, if for no other reason than the fact that her presence promotes the sport.

Furthermore, if you're a fan of Strikeforce, you should probably cheer for Carano, too, because a Carano victory may be the last thing that can salvage an event that has been ravaged by injuries, missed drug tests, and almost everything else that could have happened barring biblical plagues and locusts.

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