ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ronda Rousey’s pursuit of her dream career was fulfilled dramatically Saturday, the first female to ever win an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout doing so in nearly five full minutes of riveting action.
Rousey survived a strong rear naked chokehold attempt with challenger and former Marine Liz Carmouche draped across her back, escaping the position just as Carmouche appeared to have seized a defining moment in the main event of UFC 157 at Honda Center.
Instead, Rousey rid herself of Carmouche’s grip, perhaps appropriately adjusting her slipping top in the unladylike brawl while standing up as Carmouche kicked toward Rousey’s face.
Rousey, 26, of Venice, Calif., a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo for the U.S., then stayed atop Carmouche (7-3), delivering some left-handed punches to the head before finding herself back in her element — poised to achieve a seventh armbar submission in her seventh professional mixed-martial-arts fight.
Atop Carmouche on the canvas, Rousey pulled mightily on the challenger’s right arm, forcing her to surrender by tapping out with 11 seconds left in the first round of the women’s bantamweight title fight.
“One thing I’ve learned in MMA is patience, to get to my judo,” Rousey said in the octagon afterward.
Rousey had watched a male bantamweight, Urijah Faber, win a fight earlier Saturday in the fashion Carmouche attempted and said she thought as the hold tightened, “No way it’s going down twice.”
Rousey, 26, was declared the UFC’s first women’s bantamweight champion in December without ever having fought in the organization, the result of her impressive run of six first-round victories by armbar.
She entered the arena to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” glaring ahead and walking briskly toward the octagon for her historic bout with a sellout crowd cheering.
UFC President Dana White said he opted to bring women’s fighting into the organization because of his admiration of Rousey’s domination and spirit, and then later because of an appreciation of other women fighters.
“It’s the right thing to do,” White said earlier this week. “I did my homework and watched these women fight, and they were very good fights.”
Saturday’s main event was no exception.
Carmouche, from San Diego, promised to deliver a more varied attack against Rousey, a strategy that would include spinning kicks and elbows.
Her fight plan instead was based on seeking a submission hold, first by the chokehold attempt from the back, then with a flip, working to get her legs around Rousey’s neck.
It didn’t work, but it entertained, and with Rousey retaining her new belt, that’s exactly what the UFC needed.
Earlier, Lyoto Machida again mostly backed away from confrontation, pawing at his opponent and landing just enough scoring blows to defeat 42-year-old Dan Henderson by split decision in the co-main event.
Machida (19-3) was given scores of 29-28 by two judges with the other scoring it 29-28 in favor of Henderson.
White said the winner would earn a light-heavyweight title shot against the winner of the April 27 Jon Jones-Chael Sonnen title fight.