By Dan Walk
1 There are a number of things in this world that are overly hyped: Whether it be a championship sporting event, a blockbuster movie or that next big pandemic that’s supposed to wipe us all away. Then there’s Ronda Rousey versus Liz Carmouche, which was supposed to change the fighting world forever since it was the first time women were to fight in the mixed martial arts conglomerate UFC. And though it’s rare that such an event is as exciting as the buildup, in 4 minutes and 49 seconds of heart-pounding action, Rousey and Carmouche’s tussle lived up to the hype.
2 The first UFC women’s fight had a little bit of everything: An exciting exchange to start the fight, a gripping moment when it looked as if Rousey could be choked out, and a spectacular finish that many expected but were still delighted to see: Carmouche tapping out to an armbar. Rousey was already the champion, but this was truly her crowning — it was the first time the belt was wrapped around her waist after a victory in a UFC octagon. Rousey came incredibly close to a second round for the first time in her career but showed incredible grit after being threatened with a loss for the first time.
3 Rousey’s next opponent is likely the winner of April’s Miesha Tate-Cat Zingano fight. Rousey broke Tate’s arm last March, while Zingano is 7-0 with six finishes in her career. The hope is that Zingano wins, considering we already saw Rousey-Tate a year ago. Zingano has a tenacious style and quality Jiu Jitsu base that should be an even greater challenge for Rousey. Even though women’s fighting has been frowned upon in the past, the ever-entertaining Rousey has given us a reason to care about females in the octagon. I’m looking forward to her next fight, which will most likely take place in the late summer or early fall.
4 The UFC wasn’t the only sport over the weekend to have a woman compete in a supposed “men’s sport.” Danica Patrick was the fastest car in the Daytona 500 qualifying and became the first woman to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole sitter. Her triumph, however, isn’t that great if you really think about it. Patrick had the fastest car while driving the Daytona track all by herself. That’s the equivalent of hitting every shot during basketball warmups or slamming numerous home runs during batting practice. At the end of Sunday’s race, she finished eighth. In nearly 200 races between the Indy, Nationwide and NASCAR circuits, she has exactly one win.
5 Racing made its big headlines for a crash on Saturday that strew car parts into the stands and left 30-plus fans injured. Fans always look forward to “The Big One,” or the big wreck involving six-plus cars. It’s all fun and games until the fans become physically involved in the carnage. I still don’t understand what’s so interesting about watching cars drive in circles hundreds of times. Can someone please enlighten me on this? For a sport that’s predicated on who has the best car every week, why are people so interested?
6 My coworkers and I had some fun when the story came out that Pittsburgh was among the U.S. cities queried about hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. Maybe they could expand the events to the Bryce Jordan Center in State College for basketball while we’re here. And we have to find a way to include neighboring areas like Erie and Morgantown, W.Va. Pittsburgh isn’t large enough to handle an event of that magnitude. Over the past decade, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago have failed at securing Olympic bids. Why would Pittsburgh, easily the smallest of those four, even be considered?
7 The Spurs, Heat, Thunder and Clippers are the talk of the NBA and for a good reason: They have the league’s best records. But there are a pair of teams waiting in the wings as possible upset-makers. In the West is Golden State, which is no longer a team that relies on a 130-point effort to win. Since head coach Mark Jackson arrived two years ago, the focus was defense. Golden State doesn’t play the best “D” in the league, but the team has improved. Led by David Lee and one of the best rebounding groups in the league, plus sharp-shooting Stephen Curry, the 33-23 Warriors are a threat in the West for the first time in a while.
8 In the East, the Pacers have done pretty well for themselves, even without star scorer Danny Granger. At 35-21 and as the second-place Bulls play without Derrick Rose, the Pacers have led the Central Division for much of the season. The key to Indiana’s success is the emergence of second-year star Paul George and one of the stingiest defenses in the NBA. Granger was largely ineffective in his first game of the season Sunday, but the Pacers still beat lowly Detroit by 18. If its chemistry remains solid and Granger returns to being a dominant scorer, Indiana could be the second-best team in the East.
9 Dozens of media gathered around Manti Te’o last week in what was the first press conference for the ex-Notre Dame star since the whole “girlfriend hoax” ripped through our senses a month ago. Of course, the focus of the press conference was the hoax, but I’m sure that’s the least of NFL teams’ worries as the 2013 draft draws near. Te’o seems like the kind of guy who can move on from the hoax and live his life. What I’m wondering is what happened to the Heisman Trophy runner-up on Jan. 7 against Alabama. He looked like a shell of himself while consistently missing tackles during the Irish’s blowout defeat.
10 If you read this on a consistent basis, you can see that I’m not much of a hockey guy. But the Chicago Blackhawks’ season-opening brilliance has surely caught my eyes and ears. Chicago entered Monday’s action with a 15-0-3 record, which is the longest an NHL team has started a season without losing in regulation. The Hawks’ success has centered around its defense, which simply doesn’t give up many goals. Chicago’s power play kill is one of the best in the league and its goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have the second-best save percentage in the NHL. That’s helped the ’Hawks capture nine of their 15 wins by one goal.
The preceding was Walk Talk, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.