Before fighters like Ronda Rousey, Sarah Kaufman and Sara McMann were headlining MMA fight cards, Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos made history by being the first two women to headline a mixed martial arts event August 15, 2009 at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg.
The fight between these two superstars had been announced after Strikeforce had purchased the assets of Elite XC, which had ceased operations in October 2008. At the time Carano was sporting an undefeated record of 7-0 and known named the “Face of Women’s MMA” while Santos was regarded as the most dangerous female fighter in the world and riding a seven-fight win streak.
In addition to being the first women’s fight to main event a fight card, Strikeforce announced that the winner would be crowned the inaugural Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight champion.
In the opening seconds of the fight, Santos flew right at Carano, who was able to get the Cyborg on her back. Just as Carano was about to begin a ground and pound, Santos locked in a heel hook. As soon as Carano escaped, both fighters went back and forth, Santos with strikes and kicks to the body and face, and Carano with a vicious ground and pound. Carano stepped back, while Santos attempted to pull guard.
Although both fighters were continued to exchange strikes, Santos continued to bring the pressure, chasing Carano around the cage. Less than a minute left in the round, Santos brought Carano back down to the mat and delivered some strikes, followed by a kimura attempt. Cyborg would remain in control as she delivered a several head strikes until the referee interviewed at the very last second, stopping the fight and declaring Cyborg the winner and champion
Since Carano vs. Cyborg, Strikeforce would add the Women’s Welterweight championship. Both women’s titles would defended on numerous Strikeforce cards. Although the 145 pound title has been abandoned, the welterweight title, now currently known as the Women’s Bantamweight championship, continues to be defended and will be contested in Saturday’s main event at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman.
The Carano vs. Cyborg fight has also set a trend for women’s MMA. Several smaller promotions have featured women bouts, and Invicta Fighting Championships, a promotion that emerged in 2011, features entire cards comprised of women’s fights, has had two events and will feature a third fight card in October 2012.
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