Gina Carano was the face of women’s MMA at a time when women weren’t even part of the UFC. Her career is the reason fans started taking interest in female fights, and that was due to his style of fighting which led to exciting battles.
As well as, her good looks and charismatic personality which translated perfectly to her career and acting afterwards. A career that tends to overshadow her accomplishments in MMA nowadays.
So, how good was Gina Carano actually?
Hey, guys! It’s Kiiyon, and today; we’re gonna talk about Gina Carano. Gina’s career is the reason why many women got into fighting.
And although she didn’t popularize MMA like Ronda Rousey did, she was the first to bring it some momentum, and that’s what I want to highlight in this video.
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Now, let’s get to it! Prior to beginning MMA, Gina was a pro Muay Thai fighter who built a record of 12 wins, one loss and one draw. She became the first American woman to win a Muay Thai fighting title in Thailand.
She not only showcased her high-level striking where she threw combos at ease, but she also showed the toughness as she pressed forward in these fights, and wasn’t afraid to take hits.
These qualities were perfect for when she transitioned into MMA at the age of 24. She did that on June 10th 2006 when she fought Leiticia Pestova at a world extreme fighting event. An event that was held in Las Vegas which made this fight the first-ever female sanctioned MMA bout in Nevada.
Carano came out immediately as the aggressor with punches and kicks that forced Pestova to shoot for a takedown. Gina defended that attempt with ease and eventually found herself mounted on top of Leiticia.
She threw big elbows before finishing off Pestova with a barrage of punches the fight lasted 38 seconds. And it was the only one in her career that took place at Bantam weight.
Three months later, she fought Rosie Sexton, not actually, weight of 138 pounds. Sexton was a more experienced fighter with an undefeated record of five, and know going into the fight.
Gina was much bigger and immediately threw a leg kick that dropped Rosie, and this was followed with a kick to Sexton body. Rosie’s only hope was to shoot for a takedown.
But Carano defended that with these due to her size and the needs of the body. From this point on, it was all Gina who was throwing a bunch of combos that were left on the insert by Sexton.
It was only the opening-minute and it was already looking like a beat-down. Credited to Rosie for pressing forward and attempting to impose some sort of offence in this fight, but don’t wanted to take down the temps.
Gina got a hold of her back and look close to securing the rear naked choke. Unfortunately, Rosie shaked her off and ended up on top, where she finished around with ground-and-pound.
It was no longer a one-sided fight, and at the beginning of the second Sexton closed the distance early by clinching immediately. But Gina used her size to get out and create distance. It’s led to a bunch of punches I were left unanswered by Rosie.
And the same thing happened again Sexton attempted to clinch or take down the fight. Carano denied these attacks, and continued outclassing Rosie on the feet. All the takedowns in this fight were denied. After sections final takedown attempt before the end of round two, Gina connected with a big right hand that knocked her out cold.
Two months later, she made her strike force and featherweight debut against Elena Maxwell. Another thing to note was that the fight was contested at three two-minute rounds, which basically made this a one-round fight.
Not only was Elena similar in size to Carano, but she was throwing a bunch of kicks and punches early on due to her background in kickboxing. Gina responded with combos of her own which quickly made this a competitive battle on the feet.
Although Corona was pressing forward more early, Elena managed to catch her with counter shots. And near the end of the first round, she secured the takedown but, Gina managed to reverse the position, and remain on top until the bell rang.
After a few kicks from each woman to start round two, Maxwell took down Carano again but was immediately reversed. Carano threw some ground and pound before Elena got back up. The two Swank toe-to-toe before the end of the round.
In the beginning of the third, Gina connected with a big right hand before clinching up and securing the takedown. But while off her back, Maxwell secured a triangle choke that led to a reversal. She was immediately mounted on top of Carano, whose arms are also trapped.
Elena began throwing punches and the fight looked like it was about to be stopped, but somehow, Gina escaped and immediately mounted Maxwell. She threw down vicious
ground-and-pound until the end of the fight.
Regardless, of it being only six minutes; it was a really fun match. And Gina’s performance was enough to win by unanimous decision. After this win, Carano made her elite XC debut against Julie Kedzie at 140 pounds, which was the promotion’s featherweight division.
This marked the first female fight to be televised on the Showtime network. And it was contested of three three-minute rounds. The two were feeling each other out on the feet early with Gina connecting with some nice kicks.
Julie attempted to bring the fight into the clinch. A Carano size was too much, as it helped her separate and connect with punches. Kedzie attempted to take the fight down but all were denied in at one point.
Gina found herself on top landing ground-and-pound. But once the fight got back up, Carano began to pick apart Julie on the feet. It was combo after combo before the bell rang.
The same thing happened in the beginning of round 2, Gina was pressing forward, then was the aggressor and the stand up. Then, she ended up on top after a failed takedown attempt by Kedzie.
The thing was that while on the ground, Carano wasn’t doing much. So, she opted to stand back up. And it was a good idea as she began connecting with kicks to the head and body of Julie, as well as, some nice punches.
Kedzie attempted another takedown but it was no use as Gina was able to bully her way back up. Credit to Julie for surviving this onslaught. She even made a big right hand that dropped her, but she popped back up immediately and secured her first takedown to the fight before the end of the round.
And that short burst of momentum continued early in the third when Kedzie secured the takedown. She almost got a hold of a choke before Carano was slipped out and stood back up. The fight ended with the two swinging back and forth. It was a very good fight that saw Gina win by unanimous decision.
In September of 2007, Carano fought Anya Avenger. She weighed in at 141 pounds. Gina opened up the fight with kicks before being taken down. Anya almost got ahold of a guillotine choke but lost it and ended up on her back.
Carano was landing some ground-and-pound before securing the rear naked choke before the end of the round. Making this her first and only win by submission.
She returned in May of 2008 to fight Kaitlyn Young. It was at the catch weight of 144 pounds after Gina missed the 140-pound weight limit. But she was the aggressor on the feet early before tripping Kaitlyn to the mat.
And although the two got back up immediately, it was still Carano’s fight, as she continued to connect with her striking. Until Kaitlyn secured two takedowns of her own.
But once again, the two got back up and began trading until the end of the round, with Gina winning the final exchange. In round two, Kaitlyn began to find her rhythm on the feet and was finally connecting with some combos.
Carano retaliated with strikes of her own. The fight was quickly becoming a war, until the momentum shifted towards Gina who connected with a punch to Kaitlyn’s nose.
She realized that her opponent was hurt and began pressing forward with heavy punches. And Kaitlyn was eating all of these shots without going down, until Carano landed the front kick that sent her to the floor.
She got a hold of Kaitlyn’s back, and sunk in the rear naked choke. Unfortunately, she was saved by the bell. As both women went back to their corners, the doctors checked up on the cut under Kaitlyn’s eye and decided to stop the fight because of it.
Going into our next fight against Kelly Kobold. Gina faced controversy on whether she was going to make weight. And after missing it initially, she finally made 141 pounds on her third attempt.
Carano began to fight by connecting with the right hand. But Kelly immediately closed the distance by clenching with her. She tried hard to take the fight to the ground but Gina was able to defend it and separate.
From there, she pressed forward and showcased good head movement before connecting with punches and knees. Hoping to clinched up with Carano again, hoping to secure at least one takedown before the end of the round, but she was unsuccessful.
Early in round 2, Gina connected with the right hand before throwing a flurry of punches that forced Kelly to clinch up. At this point, Carano was against the cage and eating some punches, but the takedown was still ineffective against her.
They separated, then Gina continued to pick a part cold on the feet until Kelly finally took her down and threw some ground-and-pound. But the round ended before any significant damage could be made.
For the first half in round 3, Kelly was using all her energy to secure the takedown. Even when the ref separated the two Kobalt continued pressing forward. But in the process, she ate so many punches and knees.
And while in the clinch Carano locked up a rear naked choke when Kelly attempted a takedown. Kobalt slipped out and the two stood back up until the end of the fight, where Gina connected with a bunch of nice kicks.
Her performance was more than enough to win the fight by unanimous decision. So, at this point, Carano was huge in the world of MMA and that in itself was a wild statement to make as women weren’t even fighting in the UFC.
But finally, with the help of Gina’s star power both inside and outside of the cage, women’s MMA was finally getting some recognition. And that recognition grew even more in her next fight against Chris Cyborg, the 7 and 1 Brazilian Muay Thai fighter.
Similar to Carano, Cyborg was one of the bigger female fighters in women’s MMA. And even though she had one defeat, she was on the seven-fight win streak.
The fight went down in August of 2009. It was held by Strikeforce after they purchased a lead XE and all their assets, which included Gina and cyborg. They believed in this fight so much that they placed it as the main event.
Which was a first for women’s MMA, which meant the fight was contested for five five-minute rounds a first for both.
From the start Cyborg was the aggressor on the feet, and Carano was getting picked apart unlike any of her previous fights. Cyborg attempted to suplex Gina to the mat, but ended up on her back instead.
But Cyborg also had excellent grappling skills and she showcased that by locking up a heel hook. Carano managed to get out only to get her back take him by Cyborg, who threw down some ground-and-pound, but the two got back up and the same sequence happened again.
Cyborg was picking apart Gina on the feet before attempting a suplex that had her on her back. But this time, Carano mounted her and began throwing ground-and-pound. She was in a dominant position, but for some reason decided to stand back up.
And that was a bad decision, as Gina had no answer for Cyborg striking. And to make matters worse, Carano looked like she was fading. She was in survival mode with two minutes left in their own. Cyborg secured another takedown and was close to locking in the Americana.
But Gina continued to show heart and escape. In the final 15 seconds of the round, Cyborg was on top throwing heavy ground-and-pound. Carano was no longer defending and with one second left before the bell, the ref stepped in and stopped the fight.
This marked Gina’s first and only defeat, as it was also the last fight in her MMA career.
She has never officially retired, which created anticipation for a potential return. she was scheduled to fight in June of 2011, but pulled out due to a concussion that was sustained during training with Julie Kedzie.
There were also talks of her coming back in December of 2014 to fight Ronda Rousey. But that’s who never materialized due to the UFC being impatient with Gina going at her pace on making a comeback.
As of now, it has been over ten years since she last fought. And with all the success, she found in acting. I don’t see her returning to fighting anytime soon.
So, after going 7 and 1 in MMA, how good was Gina Carano actually?
So, the biggest thing to point out in Gina’s MMA career was that; all her fights were exciting and I get that she’s only had 8 pro fights. But I can genuinely say; they were all enjoyable to watch and most of that was because of Carano.
She was one of the more elite strikers in women’s MMA early on. Her combinations of punches knees and kicks were too much for most of her opponents. She didn’t have that consistent one punch knockout power, but her volume made up for it and was the reason; why her fights could last long and still be very entertaining.
She wanted to go toe-to-toe with her opponents and trade shots, because she knew she was better. Even if she did get hit, she continued to press forward.
I mean she allowed Cyborg to stand back up even though she mounted her. That’s how much she wanted the fight to be on the feet. And as much as decisions like those weren’t the smartest, they were respected by many because most casual fans enjoy a battle of striking than grappling.
And that’s what Carano did; the best. She appealed to many MMA viewers due to her fighting style, personality and looks. Which is the reason why; she became the face of women’s MMA
And that star power was growing quickly. Had she won her fight against Cyborg, could have seen her reaching Ronda Rousey levels of stardom.
In fact, if she fought Ronda, I think she would have won. These are all what-ifs that could have made Gina an even bigger star in MMA. But after her loss to Cyborg, she got a call to play the lead in the 2011 film (Haywire).
And from there, she caught the acting bug and slowly began to commit to that career. A decision that; I personally think was smart, as I’m always in support for fighters making money without taking damage.
And with roles in Fast and the Furious, Deadpool, and the Mandalorian, Carano really found success after fighting which is something many former fighters can’t say.
I would give Gina’s MMA career an 8 out of 10. I do think her size helped her in a lot of her wins. But if you thought there was a lack of female featherweight fighters today, they were almost non-existent when Carano was around.
But the biggest thing to take away from Gina’s career was her impact on the sport. No, she didn’t popularize women’s MMA but she was the first to let everyone know that; women were able to put on exciting fights just like the man.
And because of this initial breakthrough not only were more women beginning to enter the sport, but now they had more confidence to join MMA gyms unlike before. Even Ronda Rousey credits Carano as a reason for becoming an MMA fighter.
So, if there was no Gina, there would be no Ronda. which would have altered the entire history of women’s MMA. And that to me is what makes Gina Carano a certified legend.
My name is Kiiyon, and this is my take on; “How good Gina Carano actually?” was.
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