The Ultimate Fighting Championship presents a history-making card on Saturday night as UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche takes place at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
In the main event, the first female bout in UFC history is set to take place as Ronda Rousey defends the inaugural UFC women’s bantamweight championship against hungry contender Liz Carmouche.
Meanwhile, a potential light heavyweight title eliminator pits the legendary Dan Henderson against former torchbearer Lyoto Machida.
Here’s a closer look at what to expect:
Main Card (PPV):
Ronda Rousey (6-0) vs. Liz Carmouche (8-2) – women’s bantamweight title
Rousey carries the weight of female mixed martial arts on her shoulders as she prepares to defend the UFC women’s title for the very first time against the former US Marine Carmouche.
Rousey, 26, a 4th dan black belt judoka, is one of the most accomplished judo practitioners, male or female, in the sport.
After earning a judo bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, an unprecedented feat for an American athlete, Rousey transitioned to mixed martial arts, making her debut in August 2010.
The California native submitted her first three amateur opponents with armbars before making her professional debut in March 2011. She took off right where she left off, submitting every single victim with her signature armbar, all in the first round.
Rousey forced Miesha Tate to tap out in March 2012 as she claimed the Strikeforce female bantamweight title. She successfully defended her belt against Sarah Kaufman last August.
After UFC president Dana White claimed females would never compete in the Octagon, Rousey single-handedly changed his tune, entering the promotion as the inaugural women’s champion this past November.
In recent interviews, White has expressed his admiration for Rousey and what she’s capable of. As the UFC prepares to introduce a new division, White admitted this is indeed the "Ronda Rousey show."
Which begs the question, where does the division go from here if Carmouche pulls off the miraculous upset? There may be a few more fights, but the long-term plans will likely be scrapped.
As she prepares to embark on her journey in the organization, taking part in the first female bout in promotional history, Saturday’s result could determine how long the UFC’s female division will last.
Criticisms of where female fights belong on the show are not far-fetched. There’s no question that females deserve a platform to compete if they so desire, but not all MMA fans are interested in seeing two women covered in blood fighting in a cage.
The UFC is taking a great risk. A market certainly exists for female mixed martial arts, but the UFC is positioning these fights on a major pay-per-view platform and presenting them to the audience as an equivalent exhibition of mixed martial arts compared to their male counterparts.
There are no other mainstream professional sports in which males and females are presented on a level playing field. After questioning whether there’s a place for them in the UFC, White is now giving them the greatest gift of all in the form of a headlining slot. The move is sure to garner some short-term media attention for the company, but the long-term impact remains to be seen.
After all, Holly Holm, Cecilia Braekhus and Anne-Sophie Mathis are some of the premier female boxers in the world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find them in featured fights on an HBO or Showtime broadcast.
The pressure is higher than ever for the Hayastan Studio product Rousey, who continues to amaze audiences with a blend of good looks and remarkable abilities inside the cage.
Carmouche, 29, has the opportunity of a lifetime as she competes opposite Rousey in the most important female fight in history.
A former helicopter electrician during her three tours of duty for the US Marine Corps, the Louisiana native made her professional debut in 2010.
After a pair of Strikeforce setbacks against Marloes Coenen and Kaufman in 2011, Carmouche bounced back with successive finishes of Ashleigh Curry and Kaitlin Young under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner last year.
In an effort to further showcase these two female competitors, the UFC produced a three-part "Primetime" series.
A proud lesbian, Carmouche is the only openly gay fighter on the UFC roster. Her story has added some intrigue to an otherwise run-of-the-mill Rousey fight, which is typically expected to end via first-round armbar.
During the "Primetime" show, we’ve seen glimpses of Rousey’s improving hands. Already the most dangerous female grappler in the sport by a large margin, Rousey will become an even more menacing force as she develops her striking. She brought in unbeaten kickboxing and boxing standout Lucia Rijker to help her prepare, demonstrating a commitment to rounding out her game.
Carmouche, meanwhile, is primarily a wrestler. She lacks the technique to expose any glaring holes in Rousey’s stand-up game, which means we could be in for more of the same from the dominant champion.
Rousey’s chin has yet to be tested in the cage, so that should be Carmouche’s game plan. But Rousey’s ability to close the distance and execute one of her patented throws is second to none.
Carmouche will likely let her hands go early, but Rousey will be well-prepared for what the challenger dishes out. It will be a matter of time until Rousey wraps her up and tosses her to the mat.
Once Rousey gets her there, it’s her world. Carmouche defends well and she’s an incredibly durable female combatant, but Rousey’s armbar really is that good. Carmouche will fight it off for as long as she can, but once Rousey gets the arm fully extended, tapping out is the only escape.
Verdict: Rousey via Submission, Round 1
Lyoto Machida (18-3) vs. Dan Henderson (29-8)
A pivotal light heavyweight co-main event could determine the next challenger for Jon Jones. Perhaps the biggest disappointment associated with the historic female main event is the fact this featured attraction has been relegated to a three-round affair.
Machida, 34, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, came up short in his bid to dethrone Jones at UFC 140 in December 2011.
The Brazilian karate specialist rebounded with a second-round knockout of Ryan Bader last August.
An unorthodox 3rd dan Shotokan karate black belt and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Machida made his UFC debut in February 2007 after earning some key wins over B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar overseas.
Machida amassed a six-fight winning streak, including victories over Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva, which earned him a shot at then-champion Rashad Evans at UFC 98. Machida captured the title with a second-round knockout.
UFC announcer Joe Rogan declared the beginning of the "Machida era," but it was short-lived. After barely escaping with his title in a contentious five-round decision win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104, Machida suffered his first career loss as he was knocked unconscious in the first round of the subsequent rematch. In his next bout, Machida dropped a controversial split decision to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 123.
Machida never quite regained the momentum he had after knocking out Evans, but a jumping front kick knockout of Randy Couture at UFC 129 put him back into highlight reels.
In his title bout with Jones, Machida was fairly successful in the first round, landing crisp counterstrikes. However, Jones simply overpowered him in the second round before choking him out with a standing guillotine.
Machida is a multifaceted competitor with strong foundations in all the aspects that encompass mixed martial arts. An elusive striking style has been his trademark weapon as Machida utilizes exceptional footwork to anticipate bursts of offense and he makes adversaries pay with sharp counters.
Machida is armed with great knockout power and finishing abilities, but he’s also comfortable going the distance and outpointing his opponents.
Henderson, 42, a former two-division Pride champion and Strikeforce kingpin, is one of the most successful fighters in the history of the sport.
Since his June 1997 professional debut, the former NCAA Division I and Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler has amassed a list of victories over a who’s who of notables, including Carlos Newton, Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Renzo Gracie, Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping and Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante.
Despite getting up there in age, Henderson’s last two wins have arguably been his most impressive performances as he knocked out legendary Russian icon Fedor Emelianenko in the first round of their July 2011 Strikeforce superfight before a hard-fought decision over "Shogun" at UFC 139, a thrilling scrap widely regarded as one of the best fights in UFC history.
The Team Quest co-founder possesses devastating one-punch knockout power with an overhand right that has been dubbed the "H Bomb." Additionally, the California native is a strong wrestler with an uncanny ability to mix it up anywhere.
In 37 professional bouts, Henderson has never been knocked unconscious, a testament to his granite chin.
Although many prospects are coming up in the 205-pound division, Henderson is still disappointed about not getting his planned UFC 151 title bout with Jones after suffering a knee injury in training. In Henderson’s mind, there’s no doubt he’s still the No. 1 contender.
At age 42, Henderson’s reflexes and speed are not what they once were. Machida is the quintessential fighter to expose these particular flaws as he’ll anticipate Henderson’s loaded right hand, while mixing up his strikes and scoring points. Machida would like nothing more than to make history by knocking Henderson out, but the incredibly durable American slugger is unlikely to stay down.
Machida keeps his hands low, so Henderson will look to test his chin early and often. A single overhand right could spell the end, but we should anticipate a hard-fought 15 minutes.
The Brazilian should implement a customary game plan as he looks to absorb as little damage as possible, while scoring every time he sees an opening.
Machida’s output combined with superior speed and combinations should be the difference-makers as he comes away with a pivotal decision on judges’ scorecards to set up a rematch with the champ.
Verdict: Machida via Decision
Urijah Faber (26-6) vs. Ivan Menjivar (25-9)
Speaking of rematches, top 10 bantamweights will face off as the 33-year-old Faber battles the 30-year-old Menjivar in a rematch from TKO 24 in January 2006.
When they first met in Quebec, the bout was erroneously ruled a disqualification as the referee awarded Faber the win due to a cut. He made his decision on the basis that Menjivar landed a kick to the head of a grounded opponent. The kick actually grazed Faber’s arm, so the result was somewhat controversial.
Seven years later, Faber is a former WEC featherweight champion, while Menjivar re-emerged as a bona fide bantamweight force in 2010 after four years of inactivity.
A former poster boy for the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting, Faber is coming off a unanimous decision loss to interim beltholder Renan Barao last July.
Since dropping to bantamweight, Faber lost a razor-thin decision in his July 2011 rematch with titleholder Dominick Cruz, while racking up impressive victories over Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland and Brian Bowles.
Throughout his WEC run in the featherweight division, Faber earned a number of marquee wins, including submissions of Cruz, Jeff Curran, Jens Pulver and Raphael Assuncao, all of whom now compete at 135 pounds.
The Team Alpha Male standout is a former NCAA Division I wrestler with a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A strong grappler who has enlisted the help of Duane Ludwig as a striking coach, Faber is one of the sport’s most dynamic bantamweight contenders.
Menjivar, also a BJJ brown belt, last saw action at UFC 154 in November, submitting newcomer Azamat Gashimov with a nasty first-round armbar.
The Salvadoran-Canadian’s roots in the sport can be traced back to 2001. Competing way out of his natural weight class, Menjivar suffered his first professional loss against future Tristar Gym teammate Georges St-Pierre. Menjivar also fought Matt Serra at UFC 48, coming out on the losing end of a decision.
After a four-year hiatus, Menjivar returned to form in 2010, dropping bouts to Brad Pickett and Mike Easton, while defeating Charlie Valencia, Nick Pace and John Albert.
Menjivar is a crafty veteran with an assortment of weapons. Faber is equally experienced and he’ll need to return to the win column in hopes of maintaining title contention in the increasingly stacked division.
Faber’s footwork and takedowns will be integral. One of the strongest fighters at 135 pounds, Faber should control the positional game, while surprising Menjivar with quick combinations as he ekes out a competitive decision.
Verdict: Faber via Decision
Court McGee (14-3) vs. Josh Neer (33-12-1)
In a welterweight bout that seems oddly out of place on the pay-per-view broadcast, McGee tries to revive his career as he drops to 170 pounds against the scrappy veteran Neer.
With the UFC recently cutting over 15 fighters from its roster, this is likely a must-win scenario for both men.
McGee, 28, dropped decisions to middleweights Nick Ring and Constantinos Philippou in his last two appearances.
Prior to his recent drought, McGee defeated Kris McCray to win the 11th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," followed by wins over Ryan Jensen and Dongi Yang.
A former heroin addict, McGee was declared clinically dead in 2005 after an overdose. The well-rounded southpaw has since turned his life around, but another unsuccessful outing could cost him his UFC contract.
Neer, 29, suffered first-round losses against Justin Edwards and Mike Pyle last year.
An active competitor since 2003, Neer has compiled quality wins over Melvin Guillard, Joe Stevenson, T.J. Waldburger, Din Thomas, Mac Danzig and Duane Ludwig.
A longtime representative of Miletich Fighting Systems, Neer now trains with the Diaz brothers, both former opponents, at Cesar Gracie Fight Team in California.
The Iowa native is a BJJ brown belt, but he’s equally dangerous on his feet, flustering foes with a high volume striking game and sharp elbows.
Neer may simply be undersized for the 170-pound class, having competed at lightweight for most of his career.
McGee should benefit from a size, strength and reach advantage, finding his range to land strikes and mixing up his offense with takedowns.
Neer will be dangerous throughout, but McGee should score critical points to come out on top after three rounds.
Verdict: McGee via Decision
Josh Koscheck (17-6) vs. Robbie Lawler (19-9)
An intriguing welterweight clash will kick off the main card as the former title challenger Koscheck squares off with the returning power puncher Lawler.
Significantly improved since his stint on the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Koscheck’s UFC campaign has seen him notch wins over the likes of Diego Sanchez, Chris Lytle, Anthony Johnson, Paul Daley, Matt Hughes and Mike Pierce.
Most recently, the 35-year-old Koscheck dropped a split decision to Johny Hendricks in a closely contested bout last May.
A former NCAA Division I All-American at Edinboro University, wrestling has been the foundation of Koscheck’s offense, but he’s come a long way as a striker and submission player, earning a Guerrilla BJJ black belt under Dave Camarillo.
Koscheck has severed ties with his former team at the American Kickboxing Academy, now training out of Dethrone Base Camp in Fresno, Calif.
The Pennsylvania native has all the tools to make another run for the top, but he shouldn’t overlook the heavy-handed Lawler.
The 30-year-old Lawler returns to the welterweight division for the first time since his original UFC run in 2004.
Since his last Octagon appearance, Lawler has been competing for Elite Xtreme Combat and Strikeforce, beating notables such as Murilo "Ninja" Rua, Scott Smith, Melvin Manhoef and Matt Lindland.
The H.I.T. Squad product, a longtime training partner of Matt Hughes, has fallen on harder times as of late, dropping three of his past four fights against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Tim Kennedy and Lorenz Larkin.
The San Diego native is a hard-hitting southpaw with a solid wrestling base. He’s typically struggled against superior wrestlers and larger opponents, so the return to welterweight could be a blessing.
Evidenced by his memorable one-punch knockout of Manhoef in January 2010, Lawler can end the fight with a single power shot.
Koscheck should anticipate what Lawler will dish out as he avoids big punches and closes the distance to administer damage in the clinch. Koscheck will also seize any opportunities to secure takedowns, taking advantage of valuable positions Lawler surrenders on the mat.
With a vastly improved submission game, Koscheck should capitalize on Lawler’s openings before sinking in a fight-ending choke.
Verdict: Koscheck via Submission, Round 2
Preliminary Card (FX):
Brendan Schaub (8-3) vs. Lavar Johnson (17-6)
Heavyweight knockout artists are on a collision course as "The Ultimate Fighter 10" finalist Schaub faces two-time "Knockout of the Night" winner Johnson.
With the UFC not hesitating to clear roster space, Schaub desperately needs to rebound from back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
After getting knocked out by Roy Nelson in the "TUF 10" final, Schaub racked up four straight wins over Chase Gormley, Chris Tuchscherer, Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
Most recently, Schaub suffered knockout losses against Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Anchored at Jackson’s MMA and Grudge Training Center, the Colorado native has made a sublime transition from the NFL football field to the Octagon, yet he still leaves himself open to big counters.
Johnson, a product of San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy, is 2-1 since joining the UFC last January, which includes a pair of knockout wins over Joey Beltran and Pat Barry.
In his last bout, Johnson succumbed to a first-round armbar against Dutchman Stefan Struve.
Johnson has always struggled with submission defense, but he possesses the heavy hands to test even the most sturdy of chins.
On paper, Schaub has more ways to win this fight as the BJJ brown belt could threaten on the ground. Throughout his career, however, Schaub has typically engaged in kickboxing affairs, which could be a fatal proposition against Johnson.
If Schaub treats Johnson to a stand-up brawl, his UFC run could come to a screeching halt.
Verdict: Johnson via KO, Round 1
Michael Chiesa (8-0) vs. Anton Kuivanen (17-5)
"The Ultimate Fighter 15" winner Chiesa competes for the first time since winning the reality show as he battles the Finnish prospect Kuivanen.
Chiesa, 25, is still undefeated in his career as the Team Alpha Male member submitted Al Iaquinta to win a six-figure UFC contract.
The Colorado native uses his wrestling to set up takedowns. Submissions are Chiesa’s specialty, as he’s finished six victims by way of tapout.
Kuivanen, 28, has trained at American Top Team in preparation for his third UFC bout.
After dropping a decision to Justin Salas in his February 2012 promotional debut, Kuivanen notched a split decision over Mitch Clarke at UFC 149 last July.
The well-rounded native of Estonia should have his hands full against Chiesa, who will waste little time closing the distance to set up a submission.
Verdict: Chiesa via Submission, Round 1
Sam Stout (18-8-1) vs. Caros Fodor (7-2)
The former Shawn Tompkins protégé Stout takes on the Strikeforce import Fodor in a lightweight tilt.
A highly technical kickboxer, Stout has trained under Kru Mark DellaGrotte since the untimely passing of his coach, Tompkins.
Stout has been inconsistent throughout his UFC career, notching some quality wins over Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon and Yves Edwards, while dropping fights against John Makdessi, Thiago Tavares, Jeremy Stephens and Terry Etim.
Nicknamed "Hands of Stone," 10 of Stout’s past 11 fights have gone the distance, so he would love nothing more than to record another knockout reminiscent of his left hook finish of Edwards in June 2011.
Fodor, a pupil of Matt Hume at AMC Pankration, recorded five wins in a row under the Strikeforce banner before falling short against Pat Healy last March.
In his most memorable career performance, the Washington native starched standout wrestler Justin Wilcox in just 13 seconds.
The biggest criticism of Stout is his failure to turn his offense into second gear. He’s technically sound from start to finish, but he rarely does anything convincing enough to cement a clear-cut win.
Fodor will frustrate Stout by overpowering him in the clinch and flurrying with quick combinations. It should be another close decision with Stout once again failing to get his hand raised.
Verdict: Fodor via Decision
Dennis Bermudez (9-3) vs. Matt Grice (15-4)
Featherweight wrestlers will kick off the prelims on FX.
Bermudez, 26, is riding a two-fight winning streak over Pablo Garza and Tommy Hayden.
The former NCAA Division I wrestler competed on the 14th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," succumbing to Diego Brandao by submission in the final.
Grice, 31, returned to the UFC in June 2011. He rebounded from a first-round TKO loss to Ricardo Lamas with a unanimous decision over Leonard Garcia last June.
In a showcase of similar styles, Bermudez should be favored to outwork Grice over three rounds.
Verdict: Bermudez via Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook):
Kenny Robertson (11-2) vs. Brock Jardine (9-2)
The 29-year-old Robertson and 27-year-old Jardine meet in a welterweight contest.
Robertson is coming off a decision loss to Aaron Simpson, while Jardine tries to rebound from a decision loss to Rick Story.
With the loser likely facing a pink slip, both fighters should let it all hang out in the cage. With no obvious favorite, it’s anyone’s fight, but Robertson could have a slight edge.
Verdict: Robertson via Decision
Neil Magny (7-1) vs. Jon Manley (7-1)
Welterweight cast members from the 16th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" will collide as the 25-year-old Magny faces the 26-year-old Manley.
With rhyming names, the same professional record and the same "TUF" record, this fight is about as close as it gets.
Magny, a former sergeant in the Army National Guard, was knocked out by Mike Ricci in his semifinal bout, while Manley fell to eventual season winner Colton Smith.
Manley is mostly a one-dimensional wrestler. Meanwhile, Magny may have a few extra tricks up his sleeve, which could ultimately determine the outcome if it goes the distance.
Verdict: Magny via Decision
Nah-Shon Burrell (8-2) vs. Yuri Villefort (6-1)
A pair of young prospects from Strikeforce are making their UFC debuts in the first fight of the night as the 23-year-old Burrell looks to return to the win column against the 21-year-old Villefort.
The Fight Firm member Burrell is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Chris Spang last May. Conversely, the Blackzilians product Villefort dropped a split decision to Quinn Mulhern on the same card.
Villefort, the brother of UFC veteran Danillo Villefort, is now the second youngest fighter on the roster.
Both men are proven finishers with Burrell possessing an advantage standing and Villefort excelling on the mat.
Another closely contested bout should sway in favor of the fighter who successfully implements his game plan. Villefort trains with a more accomplished team and he comes from a fighting family, so he may have the slight edge.