Another edition of Strikeforce Challengers graces our TV screens this weekend, and though the event is headlined by a match between jiu-jitsu ace-turned-slugger wannabe Jorge Gurgel and the gritty Joe Duarte, the real reason to tune in is to watch someone who may very well be the future of the women’s 145-pound division (caveat: if the division has a future).  I am, of course, talking about Ronda Rousey, who, though only stepping into her third pro bout on Friday night, has got BJ Penn-level hype propelling her along.  Where did this hype come from and why is her competing such a big deal?  I’m glad you asked!

-Rousey’s got a judo background.  But not just any judo background, you see.  At the 2008 Olympics inBeijing, she became the first American female to medal in the sport (she got a bronze) at that level.  Prior to that, Rousey racked up world title after world title, smoking international competition like it was salmon for her bagel.  As for credentials, when all is said and done, she’s got a fourth degree black belt in judo – which is a pretty badass thing on its own.

-Rousey’s had three amateur MMA bouts and two pro, and she’s won them all via armbar in less than a minute.  Granted, the biggest “name” opponent she fought was Ediane Gomes (maybe a top fifteen fighter at best), but still, that’s an impressive string of victories.  The “less than a minute” part tells us that she’s pretty damn aggressive.  Also, very good at armbars.

-For American fans of female MMA, she’s something of a “great white hope” in a sparse division ruled by Brazilian Cris “Cyborg”Santos.  With Gina Carano still in limbo (and Amanda Nunes a Brazilian through and through), who else could possibly challenge the fierce and deadly champion for her belt further down the line?  Who else can we root for?

-It’s a sad state of affairs when it seems like every female bout that comes our way has the fate of that half of the sport resting upon its shoulders.  But truly, that’s the case here.  If Rousey comes out Friday night and stinks up the joint – by losing, by getting opponent Sarah D’Alelio down and simply laying on her, by getting stage fright and hiding in her dressing room – that’s a blow that could for sure sound the death knell for the fairer sex’s version of cagefighting.  However, if Rousey comes out and thrills us in breathtakingly-exciting fashion – by wowing us with a judo throw, by cutting through D’Alelio like a hot knife through butter, by making us say “Great Jigoro Kano’s ghost!” – well, that could be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing division. 

So there you have it.  Thanks to her high-level judo accomplishments, Rousey could be the next big thing, or at least the shot in the arm female MMA needs.  Now are you going to watch Strikeforce Challengers on Friday night?