Raul Roa Staff Photographer

UFC women's champion Ronda Rousey defended her title twice in 2013 in the first-ever UFC women's bout and the last of the year. (Raul Roa Staff Photographer / January 1, 2014)

1) Ronda Rousey becomes UFC women’s pioneer — When 2013 was in its dawn, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey was just under two months away from making history at UFC 157.

Three days before 2013 ended, Rousey put a resounding exclamation point on the year with a victory at UFC 168 that was riveting, dramatic, dominant and controversial. In many ways, it was emblematic of Rousey, as she’s long been regarded as a complete package; possessing the phenomenal skills and athleticism, beauty and intellect and the brashness to be not just an Ultimate Fighting Championship titlist, but a mainstream star.

In between defeating Liz Carmouche on Feb. 23 and Miesha Tate on Saturday in two highly anticipated UFC women’s bantamweight title matches, Rousey put together a year like no other.

Having become the first woman to sign a contract with the UFC as a fighter, Rousey was subsequently crowned the first-ever UFC women’s 135-pound champion. The road to her first defense against Carmouche in the first-ever women’s bout in company history saw Rousey take on more media than any fighter — male or female — before. From HBO to Time Magazine, everybody wanted an interview with Rousey and she obliged. As fight time rolled around, many wondered if all the distractions would hinder Rousey, but the Glendale Fighting Club-trained grappler emerged still undefeated with a first-round armbar win over Carmouche. And history had been made.

Not long after, Rousey would coach opposite archrival Tate on “The Ultimate Fighter,” marking the first time in the show’s history that it would feature female coaches, in addition to female fighters. Not long after taping of the show concluded, Rousey was off to film “The Expendables 3” alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham and then went on to film “Fast and Furious 7” with Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker. All this while trying to stay in fighting shape for an impending bout with Tate.

That bout came and went on Saturday night, with Rousey winning via third-round armbar. Though it was the first time an opponent had extended Rousey past the first round, it was still a dominant performance. Throughout much of the fight, the fans had clearly sided with Tate, thanks in large part to how the two were perceived during “The Ultimate Fighter.” But boos for Rousey were deafening when she refused to shake Tate’s hand after the bout.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Rousey, at the post fight press conference, of the boos. “I’m aware of the role I was in.”

It was also announced on Saturday that Rousey already has her next opponent in line, as she’ll face Sara McMann, who is also undefeated and also a former Olympian, on Feb. 22 back in Las Vegas.

“I’m in the best shape of my life now, so it’d be the perfect time,” said Rousey, a former United States Olympic bronze medalist in judo who now has an 8-0 mixed martial arts record. “This is what I love to do.

“This is what I love to do, I’m meant to do it. I feel like I could fight again tonight.”

Whether she’s wearing a black hat or a white one, it’s clear Rousey’s star continues to rise and, though it might be hard to fathom that 2014 could be bigger than 2013, she has most certainly made a name for herself by overcoming obstacles and conquering new challenges.

“Yeah, going and doing those movies did make it much more difficult, which I did on purpose,” Rousey said. “I don’t do this for a living to do things that are easy. I need to keep finding ways to challenge myself. And that’s what I needed to do to make this more of a challenge for me.”

2)Championship drought quenched by Nitros — Glendale High boys' water polo was on the wrong end of history in 2012. The 2013 Nitros wrote themselves into not only program but school lore when they snapped a historic championship drought and captured the school’s first CIF title since 1989.

A year after dropping a three-goal, fourth-quarter lead and watching a Pasadena Poly program celebrate its first championship in three tries, Glendale found redemption in a 13-11 victory over Los Altos in the CIF Southern Section Division V title game on Nov. 23 in Irvine.

The Nitros found themselves in the driver's seat to start the year and never relinquished their place atop the division. While fifth-year Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook relied on the dominating presence of senior big man Arman Momdzhyan again, what put the Nitros over the top was their balance at both ends of the pool.

While Momdzhyan scored a game-high six goals in the CIF title bout versus Los Altos, junior Manuk Piloyan had the biggest tally of the match. Two of Piloyan's four goals came in the fourth quarter, including the final goal of the game with 1:04 to play. Defensively, Daniel Sarkissian continued to anchor the Nitros in goal, with 12 saves, in the championship-clinching win.

Momdzhyan was named the CIF Southern Section Division V Player of the Year and Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player, as he led the area with 169 goals. The Nitros finished 22-8 and 8-0 in league for their third straight undefeated league title.

3) Dramatic turnaround at St. Francis – Coming off one of its most trying seasons, St. Francis High’s football team produced one of its most successful years in 2013: starting on an eight-game winning streak, taking third in the Mission League and finishing at 10-3, 3-2 in league.

The Golden Knights advanced to the CIF Southern Section Western Division semifinals for the first time in eight years and stacked up well against some of the best competition in state, with all three of their losses coming against Western Division finalists Chaminade and Gardena Serra in league and in the postseason.