A silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Sara McMann quickly transitioned into a pioneer of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s women’s bantamweight division in its early beginnings.
McMann has fought the biggest names in the division, including Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate. Never quite getting over the hump to score an upset over the elite in the division, McMann’s UFC career has had unexpected ups and downs for a fighter who came in with a 6-0 professional record and a win in a Invicta Fighting Championships title eliminator in advance of her Octagon debut.
Before McMann looks to get back on track following a loss to Ketlen Vieria at UFC 215 in a clash with Marion Reneau at UFC on Fox 28, we examine the defining moments of her career.
1. 2004 Olympic silver medalist
Like many successful mixed martial artists before her, McMann began her career on the mat as an accomplished wrestler. She put together a successful stint that ultimately earned her a spot on Team USA for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. McMann had an excellent run to the gold medal match where she faced Kaori Icho of Japan. Unfortunately for McMann, she fell to Icho on points in a 3-2 defeat to settle for a silver medal. It was McMann’s lone appearance in the Olympics, although she holds a silver and bronze at the World Wrestling Championships.
2. Invicta FC bantamweight title eliminator win
McMann’s first high profile MMA bout came at Invicta FC 2, where she was the card’s headliner in a bantamweight championship title eliminator against Shayna Baszler. The fight served as McMann’s coming out party, as the former wrestler showcased her all-around skills in a unanimous decision victory. McMann also won fight of the night accolades in a performance that elevated her from an intriguing prospect with an Olympic wrestling background to one of the elite fighters at bantamweight.
3. Successful UFC debut
After winning the Invicta title eliminator, McMann instead jumped to the UFC and had a successful debut against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159. Fighting on the prelims of a card headlined by Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, McMann made an instant impact in making quick work of Gaff. McMann’s first-round knockout of Gaff was enough to earn her a title opportunity and a spot in the main event of a UFC pay-per-view card against Rousey.
4. Loss to peak Ronda Rousey
In the UFC 170 headliner, McMann’s previously undefeated record came to a quick halt as the Rousey era was at its zenith on that night. Rousey quickly scored a TKO victory with a violent knee to the body that halted McMann in her tracks. The loss was bitter for McMann, who was one of the first women to headline a UFC PPV. Early in her career, McMann already established herself as a big name despite the fact her moment in the spotlight was in defeat to Rousey, who at that moment had insane hype and a reputation as one of the best fighters in the world.
5. First UFC performance bonus at TUF: Tournament of Champions Finale
Following the loss to Rousey, McMann began to languish in a series of losses against high-level opponents. UFC 183 brought a majority decision loss to Miesha Tate before McMann was a victim of a first-round, rear-naked choke against Amanda Nunes at UFC Fight Night 73 to give her three losses in her last four. Needing to bounce back, McMann defeated Jessica Eye at UFC Fight Night 88. Still, despite the win, McMann needed to make a further impact to silence the critics after failing to hold her own against the best fighters. McMann did exactly that in a main card appearance at “TUF: Tournament of Champions Finale.” Up against fellow Rousey opponent Alexis Davis, McMann earned her first ever performance bonus with an excellent arm-triangle choke in the second round. It was the highlight reel finish against a top opponent McMann needed at the time and pushed her to a winning record in the UFC.