Ronda Rousey answers the bell after a quick turnaround. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
UFC 170 “Rousey vs. McMann” gives television viewers -- at least those with $60 in expendable cash -- a break from the ice hockey, curling accidents and slope crashes of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Not to be outdone in the hardware department, a judo bronze medalist will battle a wrestling silver medalist for Ultimate Fighting Championship gold on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, all with running water and individual toilet stalls.
How We Got Here: Miesha Tate’s blood had hardly dried on Ronda Rousey’s fists before she was ushered into the UFC 168 post-fight press conference. An already-made poster displayed the champion’s next fight, opposite Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann. Rousey was given a mere 56 days between matches to prepare, a quick turnover for championship-level mixed martial artists ... Daniel Cormier, the third Olympian on the UFC 170 bill, enters Sin City on a pit stop in pursuit of Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title. His 205-pound debut was once reserved for former champion Rashad Evans, but “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 2 winner was forced off the lineup due to an injury. Despite a roster of nearly 30 light heavyweights -- and one eager Chael Sonnen -- matchmaker Joe Silva could not find a current UFC fighter to fill the Evans void in 10 days. As a result, he looked outside the company, tapping 4-0 Reign MMA member Patrick Cummins, Cormier’s old wrestling training partner ... Three welterweight bouts round out the pay-per-view portion of the card, highlighted by fringe contenders Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia.
Big City Lights: Rousey’s star is on the rise. She is not just at the top of the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division; she is the division. UFC President Dana White proclaimed her the company’s biggest star now that Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva are floating around in MMA purgatory. Hollywood has taken notice, as Rousey will soon appear in two lucrative international movie franchises: “Fast & Furious 7” and “The Expendables 3.” Even more opportunities will await once the dust settles at UFC 170. The 27-year-old has spent more than two decades training in one of the toughest Olympic sports and finally appears to be cashing in on the sweat with fame and money. Will she leave the training, weight cutting, bumps, bruises and cauliflower ears behind for the glitz and glamour of the silver screen?
Get There Early: The UFC’s last two events were back-to-back record-setters, but they were not the kinds of fight cards White proudly displays on his refrigerator. UFC 169 and UFC Fight Night 36 each resulted in 10 fights going to the judges. Decisions by themselves are not exclusively bad. Remember Jones-Alexander Gustafsson, Gilbert Melendez-Diego Sanchez, Antonio Silva-Mark Hunt and Michael Chandler- Eddie Alvarez in 2013? However, mostly forgettable fights were on display in Newark, N.J., and Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. UFC 170 boasts an excellent undercard with high potential for action. Erik Koch-Rafaello Oliveira, Zach Makovsky-Joshua Sampo, Raphael Assuncao-Pedro Munhoz and Alexis Davis-Jessica Eye are all worth clearing your afternoon schedule to check out.
Almost Famous: The world of professional sports provides a wealth of Athlete-A-Replaced-Athlete-B-to-Face-Otherworldly-Stud-Athlete-C stories. Cummins fits the mold. The NCAA All-American wrestler out of Penn State University was working the morning shift at a coffee shop when he put down the foamer to answer a call from White. At 4-0, “Durkin” is the least-experienced fighter at UFC 170, and he is challenging arguably the card’s best fighter in Cormier. A life of serving lattes to Orange County housewives was halted by an opportunity few will ever receive. The light heavyweight was stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to find fights because of his wrestling pedigree but short enough on experience that few big shows were ready to sign him. Cummins, 33, also served jail time for a burglary conviction in 2011. Try putting that on a resume. If Cummins even makes it competitive against the heavily favored Cormier on 10 days’ notice, he could easily become the feel-good story of 2014.
Tipped Scales: Lost in the Evans-to-Cummins shuffle is Cormier’s weight cut. The Oklahoma State University alum refuses to face American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight strap, so UFC 170 will mark the first time Cormier will weigh in at 205 pounds since his amateur wrestling days. Questions abound: Will the weight cut hurt his performance? Will he be a better fighter without the spare tire? How will Cajun restaurants in the San Jose, Calif., area survive without the Louisiana native’s business? The 34-year-old is among a tiny handful of fighters with the potential to dethrone Jones. Making weight and performing inside the light heavyweight division are the next steps for Cormier.
Useless Fact: All four combatants in the main event and co-main event are undefeated: Cormier (13-0), Cummins (4-0), McMann (7-0) and Rousey (8-0). In MMA, it is not a matter of if but when a zero in a fighter’s loss column goes away. Barring draws, two undefeated UFC fighters will walk out of the cage as one-loss combatants. Enjoy the random abnormality.
Awards Watch: First off, the Smartest Guy at the Bar lifts his glass in salute to the UFC’s new performance-bonus system. Two ambiguous “Performance of the Night” awards replace the traditional “Knockout of the Night” and “Submission of the Night” bonuses. Only “Fight of the Night” survived the change. This new system prevents underwhelming KOs and submissions from winning awards based solely on being the only KO or submission on any given night. It also helps dispel the notion that only fighters who finish put on good fights … Cormier and Cummins have history between them and White is a sucker for fun storylines, so the two light heavyweights have the inside track for “Fight of the Night” … Mike Pyle is just a little better at everything than T.J. Waldburger. The aggression of the man they call “Quicksand” will be awarded with a bonus … A Rousey armbar is due a post-fight performance bonus every time, right?