To those who follow mixed martial arts without regard for the sex of the fighters, it was no surprise Friday in Worcester, Mass., that Modafferi and LaRosa stole the show with what easily was the most memorable fight on the Moosin: God of Martial Arts card.
Forget that former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia beat former World's Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski in the card's headlining match. They might have been the attraction that brought in most of the crowd, but they exited remembering the women.
The details are that Modefferi won a split decision, handing LaRosa her first defeat in nearly seven years and just the second of her incredible career in 20 fights. It was a victorious rematch for Modafferi, who lost a decision to LaRosa in March 2006.
The fight was contested at a catch weight of 130 pounds, with Modafferi (15-5) coming down from her usual 135 and LaRosa moving up from 125, where she has fought for most of the past three years.
This was a war, with both fighters landing stiff punches that dropped the other.
With a fast pace throughout, neither could finish the other after their big strikes landed. LaRosa scrambled on the ground after hitting the mat in the first round, while Modefferi used a triangle choke attempt to get out of trouble after LaRosa decked her in the third.
Modafferi, who lives in Japan, has won eight of her last nine fights, starting in 2007. Her only loss in that span came at 145 pounds, against Marloes Coenen.
She had been pining for a rematch for a long time, never failing to let LaRosa forget she was there, be it in person, on The Underground forums or on Rear Naked Choke Radio.
"Now we're even," Modafferi said in the cage after the fight.
For the die hard fan of the women's side of MMA, this was the most anticipated fight in recent memory. Forget Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg -- this was the real deal: A pair of seasoned top-five fighters who know each other well and have fought before. It was a great matchup, the kind that has been lacking since Strikeforce took up the distaff divisions. There was history in this meeting.
LaRosa, because of her drop in weight class, had been lost in the shuffle despite being ranked at or near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.
Years back, the former Bodog champion and Woodstown, N.J. native cleaned out the 135-pound class.
LaRosa subsequently dropped to her natural 125 pounds and remained unbeatable. But she also lacked opponents in Modafferi's class, the paydays that come with televised fights and, thus, the sponsorship dollars that full-time fighters need to stay afloat.
Her 15-fight winning streak now history, how did LaRosa react in the cage?
With genuine happiness for her opponent. It was stunning to those not in the know, but almost expected from those that are followers.
A strong embrace of Modaferri by LaRosa after a decision that easily could have -- maybe should have -- gone her way showed a class well above above normal sportsmanship, one more central to the "martial arts" part of MMA.
But that is something that makes it special when women fight.
The pair then knelt on the mat dead-center in the cage and bowed to one another, holding hands.
Of course, they had gone out to dinner together after weigh-ins. LaRosa even bought her ex-patriot pal a box of Wheat Thins, which are unavailable in Japan, to devour after tipping the scales.
The friends wanted and expected nothing more than to beat the pulp out of one another. They freely talked about it online, in chats, on the boards, on radio. And the in person. But there was no pushing, shoving or grandstanding behind their hype, just pure thirst for athletic competition, the chance to test yourself at the highest level.
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