Ronda Rousey remains the face of the UFC’s women’s division, even if she plans to keep her mug in seclusion for a bit.
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“For the next week, I’m going to fall entirely off the grid as much as I can,” Rousey said after defending her belt with a first-round submission of Liz Carmouche at Honda Center on Saturday. “If I see anyone, I’m not going to talk about me at all. There is no more talking about me for a whole week.”
Though challenged like she never had been as a pro, Rousey used her trademark arm bar to dispatch Carmouche in the first women’s bout in UFC history. The rest of the women’s division again falls in line behind her, much as they did as Rousey established herself in Strikeforce, a promotion since absorbed by the UFC.
The women’s division currently has 10 fighters, and UFC president Dana White said he expects it to swell to 15 in the coming weeks. Rousey has already beaten three of those 10: Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman and Miesha Tate.
No fighter yet has figured out how to avoid Rousey’s arm bar, the move that has forced all seven of her opponents to submit in the first round.
“The fact that everyone knows she’s going to arm bar them and she still does it, is impressive,” Tate told FOXSports.com. “You can’t deny that. It’s almost frustratingly impressive. It’s predictable at the same time.”
At 4 minutes, 49 seconds, Carmouche did last longer than any other fighter against Rousey. Carmouche even joked afterward that she would have let Rousey break her arm if she had known she was only 11 seconds from extending the fight to the second round.
Carmouche had Rousey in trouble early, first with a neck crank and then with a rear naked choke as she clung onto Rousey’s back.
“It kind of confirmed the suspicions I had about holes in her game,” Tate said. “I was able to take her back once in my fight, too. Maybe that’s a habit that’s hard for her to break. (Carmouche) took it to her and was (very) close to sinking that choke in.”
The only other women’s fight currently scheduled is Tate vs. Cat Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in April. White said it “makes sense” that the winner of that fight will get Rousey next.
One fight that won’t happen anytime soon, White said, would be a Rousey-Cris “Cyborg” Santos fight — no matter how much Santos’ manager, UFC legend Tito Ortiz, talked up the possibility over the weekend.
“Things are rolling here, and Cyborg isn’t a part of it,” White said. “She had the opportunity to sign with the UFC, and she chose not to. This was the most successful event in the history of women’s fighting. Cyborg missed the boat.
"You over-negotiate sometimes. They are gone. It’s over. The world isn’t going to (expletive) stop. The world doesn’t’ even know who Cyborg is. “
Santos signed a three-fight deal with Invicta, which, unlike the UFC, has a 145-pound division. (White said the UFC will stick with the single 135-pound welterweight division for the foreseeable future.) Santos last fought in December 2011, a bout against Hiroko Yamanaka.
Santos tested positive for the steroid Winstrol before that fight, although the results were not known until after she beat Yamanaka. Santos received a one-year ban, and the fight was changed to a no contest. She is slated to make her return against Ediane Gomes in April.
“Do I think UFC needs Cyborg?” Ortiz said. “The UFC doesn’t need anybody at all. The UFC is a brand that no other brand can mess with. Do MMA fans need Cris Cyborg? Yes. They need to see what a true fighter is. She’s not an Olympic judo champion (like Rousey). She’s a fighter.”
Ortiz said there were no out clauses in Santos’ Invicta contract, but said she could fight Rousey early next year — if either the UFC added a heavier division or Rousey agreed to split the difference and fight at 140 pounds in a non-title fight.
“For me it’s very difficult to get down to 135,” Santos told FOXSports.com. “I hope maybe coming to my weight or maybe 140 would be a super fight. I’m fighting in Invicta at my weight. “
White said he’d only see one scenario for a Rousey-Santos bout.
“If Ronda comes in one day and says she cleaned out the division and feels like she fought everybody (and) `I’ll move up to 140 and fight her,’ ” White said. “If Cyborg is still fighting at that time, we’ll see what happens.”
For now, Rousey has to wait. Her opponent Saturday will probably contemplate what could have been if she was able to get that choke into place.
“Nobody has done better than Liz (against Rousey),” Manolo Hernandez, Carmouche’s trainer, told FOXSports.com. “I don’t think anyone is going to do better than Liz. There’s no doubt in my mind that the opportunity will arise again.”
While the fight may not have lasted long, a sold-out arena, massive interest in the mainstream media and a strong pay-per view audience proved that the UFC women’s division won’t be a fad.
“Just like I always told you guys, when we go into a new market (expletive) just explodes,” White said. “That’s what’s going to happen. This 135-pound division is going to get pretty nasty, pretty quick.”