First there was the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which empowered the women of the United States with the right to vote. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s followed, providing them with birth control and shifting values, and liberating them from the social constraints of a rigid society. Then came Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos, which showed that when you put two well-trained ladies in a cage and pay them to fight, they can really beat the crap out of each other (or at least one can thoroughly whoop the other).
Yes, great strides have been made in equality for the fairer sex, and thanks to the likes of Carano and Cyborg, this equality has stretched into the realm of mixed martial arts. Now, there are impending all-female tournaments scheduled for Strikeforce and Bellator, and Sarah Kaufman’s recent violent KO over Roxanne Modafferi made ESPN’s “SportCenter”. Whether you love it or hate it, the female version of limited-rules combat is here to stay. So here’s a look back at some of the greatest moments in MMA herstory. (Get it? “His-story”, “her-story”? Yuk-yuk.)
Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young, EliteXC: “Primetime”
On May 31, 2008, EliteXC broke the live network-television seal with “Primetime”, a CBS-broadcast event that saw Kimbo Slice smash James Thompson’s ear, Robbie Lawler poke Scott Smith in the eye, and an overweight Carano batter a smaller Kaitlin Young. Overweight? That’s right, for the first-ever female bout on free TV, ultra-popular fighter and former American Gladiator Carano failed to make the contracted 140-pound weight limit, coming in instead at 144.5 pounds. This wasn’t the first time the “Face of Women’s MMA” had failed to make weight. In fact, EliteXC had tailor-made the 140-pound division for her because making the standard 135-pound limit would’ve required too much cardio and crystal meth. To ensure that she didn’t miss weight at her next fight, which was a pairing in Miami against Kelly Kobold, Carano stepped on the scale buck naked. Thankfully, the towel held up by her father to conceal her nude form from the crowd only slipped once.
Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos, Strikeforce: “Carano vs. Cyborg”
EliteXC crapped the bed before they could see this eagerly-anticipated bout come to fruition, so Strikeforce wisely scooped it up and put it on one of their Showtime cards. The result: the most-watched MMA event on Showtime ever, and almost five straight minutes of Cyborg ruthlessly beating on Carano like Carano had stolen her purse. The referee stepped in before the bell to waive the bout off, making Cyborg the Strikeforce 145-pound champ and sending Carano into a downward career-spiral of Pepsi commercials and starring roles in Steven Soderbergh movies.
As per the Unified Rules, male competitors in championship bouts have five five-minute rounds to do the dance. But this rule didn’t hold true for those of the opposite gender, who were sometimes allocated three three-minute rounds (possible reasons include no one believing women could last that long in a fight, or that women needed to get home in time to make dinner). Enter the dying BodogFIGHT organization, which, in July 2007, pitted New Jersey native Tara LaRosa against the Minnesota-based Kobold in a five-round scrap for the 135-pound belt. LaRosa needed just three and a half rounds (over 17 minutes) to tap Kobold out with an armbar, but her win proved that women could fight for the same duration as men and not collapse.
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