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Ronda Rousey rises to stardom at UFC 157

Ronda Rousey celebrates defeating Liz Carmouche after their

Ronda Rousey celebrates defeating Liz Carmouche after their UFC 157 women's bantamweight championship fight in Anaheim, Calif. Rousey won the first women's bout in UFC history, forcing Carmouche to tap out in the first round. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: AP

Ronda Rousey's star power -- a mix of talent, personality, outspokenness and, yes, looks -- created this night.

There was a new buzz at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night. An excitement with a slightly higher octave as Rousey headlined UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche, the first women's MMA fight in the promotion's 20-year existence.

And this first UFC women's fight ended the way every Ronda Rousey fight ends -- a first-round submission victory via armbar. Carmouche took the fight to Rousey and nearly had a submission of her own, but Rousey secured the win with 11 seconds left in the first round and successfully defended her UFC bantamweight title.

"She had the choke across my mouth and the angle pushed my mouth-guard out of my mouth," Rousey said.  "Her forearm was pushing against my teeth and that can’t have been any more fun for her than it was for me… crazy sport we’re in, huh?"

For years, as women competed in MMA bouts in Strikeforce and far lesser known promotions, the UFC remained steadfast in keeping its company male-oriented. UFC president Dana White once said women would "never" be in the UFC. He then amended that statement in recent years, saying there weren't enough good female fighters to create an entire division.

Then came Rousey.

White never shied away from his opinions then, and has been clear and consistent with why women now fight in the octagon and attach MMA's biggest acronym to their name -- Rousey.

The media attention heaped upon Rousey (7-0) in the past month would be enough to wear down even the most seasoned athlete, let alone a 26-year-old California girl who used to work three jobs after becoming the first American woman to medal in judo in the Olympics. (She won bronze in 2008 in the Beijing Games.)

HBO's "Real Sports" came calling on Rousey. Then there was "UFC Primetime," a three-week documentary style series chronicling her and Carmouche's preparations for the fight. Then there was ESPN's SportsCenter, conference calls, dozens of one-on-one phone interviews with newspapers, websites and magazines.

"They wear you out," Rousey said about those long interview sessions with TV media, once of which led to her most revealing moment.

Rousey's father committed suicide after years of pain and anguish from an earlier accident. Rousey broke down on camera as she talked about that moment.

Rousey said that would be the last time she talked about that moment, an extremely emotional one for any daughter. Instead, she wanted to focus on the happier moments in the eight years she spent with her father.

“I like remembering things a lot, and talking about little things he used to do all the time, just to keep him memory alive and not just prentending like he never existed," Rousey told Newsday. "Those are the kind of things I don’t mind talking about, the cool things that he would do, like when we would go out hunting. He showed me how to shoot a gun when I was 6.”

As she carried such weight upon her shoulders into the cage Saturday night at the Honda Center -- nicknamed the "Ronda Center" by some this past week -- Rousey delivered.

Rousey got a takedown early and went to side control with headlock. Carmouche mananged to roll over and get Rousey's back. As Rousey climbed to her feet, Carmouche maintained her back control  and went for the rear naked choke. 

Carmouche (7-3) couldn't get her arm completely under the chin to complete the submission, though. Rousey eventually got free and brought the fight back to the ground with 2:45 left in the round. Rousey got side control with a headlock and landed dozens of short punches to Carmouche's face.

“That was the most vulnerable a position I’ve been in so far in my career," Rousey said. "That was pretty tight, that neck crank, and I was very happy to get out of it."

Rousey transitioned to top control and then immediately went for the armbar. Carmouche used all her strength to keep her hands together, but Rousey was too strong. She pried Carmouche's arms free and got the armbar with 11 seconds left. Carmouche immediately tapped.

"I didn't know how much time I had left," Carmouche said. "Otherwise, I probably would have let it break just to go into the second round"

The night was promoted with gender at the forefront. The fight itself required no gender qualifier.

New York Sports