Ronda Rousey has finished all eight of her fights via armbar. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
George St. Pierre is on hiatus. Anderson Silva is on the mend, as are Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis. After multiple re-bookings, Jon Jones will be back in April. With so many of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest names unavailable, it is Ronda Rousey to the rescue. The women’s bantamweight queen returns to the Octagon at UFC 170 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, approximately two months after her victory over Miesha Tate at UFC 168.
Awaiting the sport’s most notorious arm collector is Sara McMann, who knows a little something about podium glory herself. A silver medalist at the 2004 Summer Olympics, McMann will test her wrestling prowess against Rousey’s judo in the main event. If two world-class athletes going head-to-head was not enough, the card will also feature Daniel Cormier’s first light heavyweight appearance, as he squares off with intriguing short-notice adversary Patrick Cummins.
Here is a closer look at UFC 170 “Rousey vs. McMann,” with analysis and picks:
UFC Women’s Bantamweight ChampionshipRonda Rousey (8-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Sara McMann (7-0, 1-0 UFC)
The Matchup: For the first time in UFC history, two Olympic medalists will square off in the Octagon when Rousey, a 2008 bronze medalist in judo, defends her title against McMann, a 2004 silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. In one sense, the timing could not be more perfect, as the bout occurs just as the 2014 Winter Olympics are wrapping up. The promotion hopes that aspect of the pairing will reel in some new fans. Additionally, it is never a bad idea to keep one of your most marketable stars busy with fights, because Rousey’s Hollywood itinerary continues to grow.
For all her accolades, McMann is not very well known by the average fan. She has just one UFC appearance to her credit: a preliminary beatdown of Sheila Gaff at UFC 159. Miesha Tate, Rousey’s last foe, had the benefit of “The Ultimate Fighter” to build her as a popular foil for the champion. This will be a test to see just how much drawing power Rousey has on her own.
While it would have been nice to have some more time to build McMann, her skills might be better suited to defeating Rousey than anyone else who has faced the Olympic judoka thus far. Tate does have a background in wrestling, but Rousey was often able to capitalize on small technical errors made by her rival to execute her plethora of throws. Of course, Tate’s striking, while willing, was often wild enough to provide “Rowdy” with even more openings to drag the fight into her world.
McMann, even at 33 years old, is still in the developmental process. Her takedowns and top control provide the backbone for her game, but her overall offensive output leaves something to be desired. Gaff did not provide much of a test because she rushed forward while failing to respect McMann’s wrestling. The result was relatively easy takedowns for the South Carolinian. McMann is methodical with her ground-and-pound, but she does a nice job of staying busy from various positions. When McMann achieved a mounted crucifix against Gaff, she quickly upped the intensity of her attacks to earn a first-round stoppage.
Bouts outside the UFC against the likes of Shayna Baszler and Hitomi Akano likely give a better indication of how McMann will fare against Rousey. While neither woman is Rousey’s caliber as an athlete, both were able to threaten McMann with a variety of submissions. The Revolution MMA product displayed solid submission defense in both instances, although she did not elect to take down Baszler as often as one might have liked.
Instead of a wariness of Baszler’s ground game, some might say McMann simply wanted to test out her standup. On the feet, she appears much more composed than Tate but is limited to basic punching combinations and infrequent leg kicks. McMann will throw rapid fire punches in order to get inside, although her accuracy needs improvement. She is also vulnerable to counters when flurrying; Baszler rattled her with a counter late in the third round of their Invicta matchup.
McMann will be one of the physically stronger foes Rousey has encountered. Combined with her superior wrestling technique, that makes her a formidable challenge. However, no matter how well-versed McMann is in landing takedowns and controlling the clinch, Rousey’s judo background gives her a keen sense when it comes to timing opponent’s movements and momentum. The champion will make necessary in-fight adjustments based on McMann’s approach, and she has a variety of ways to set up her trademark armbar.
Distance does not figure to be a factor for long, as both women are most comfortable in close quarters, although McMann does a decent job of moving in and out when throwing one-two combinations. As talented as she is, another bout or two of seasoning would have been ideal for McMann.
The Pick: The variety of ways in which Rousey can counter McMann’s wrestling is astounding. She will have to be on top of her game, because the challenger has the potential to control her for extended periods of time on the mat. Still, Rousey’s ability to get the fight where she wants it is unmatched in the women’s division. She wins via armbar in round three or four.
Next Fight » Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins