Sara McMann and Ronda Rousey couldn’t be any more different, yet their paths to UFC 170 are mirror images of each other.
Rousey (8-0) is an outspoken sex symbol that Dana White declared “the biggest star we’ve ever had.” She graces magazine covers, visits talk shows and acts alongside Hollywood’s biggest names. Rousey isn’t just the face of the women’s mixed martial arts. She is sports’ next superstar.
Meanwhile, McMann (7-0), the mild-mannered bantamweight who has been relatively quiet leading up to UFC 170, faces speculation as to whether she deserves a title shot. The No. 4 ranked bantamweight in the UFC doesn’t have the endorsement deals or media attention Rousey receives, but what she does have is experience beating the best athletes in the world.
Rousey and McMann’s road to UFC 170 began with the Summer Olympics. McMann became the first American woman to receive a silver medal in Olympic wrestling when she placed second at the Athens Games. Four years later, Rousey became the first American woman to win a medal in Judo, earning Bronze at the Beijing Olympics. The two women subsequently left their respective sports to focus on MMA and have been linked to one another since.
On June 17, 2011, Rousey and McMann each competed and won their fights via submission, albeit for different promotions. Since then, McMann has countered every Rousey victory with a victory of her own, and vice versa.
When McMann defeated Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 2, Rousey followed suit a month later defending the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship against Sarah Kaufman. And when Rousey made her UFC debut with an armbar submission victory over Liz Carmouche at UFC 157, McMann did the same knocking out Sheila Gaff at UFC 159.
This is why UFC 170 is about more than the UFC Bantamweight Championship, or the women’s attempt to remain undefeated. Saturday night’s main event will be between polar opposites with similar styles who have carved parallel paths to MMA success.
Both women have a superior ground game that stems from their wrestling and judo backgrounds, respectively. When it gets to this point, Rousey will have an advantage. McMann’s submission defense needs works as she realized in near-losses to Baszler and Hitomi Akano. The match could very well begin and end with Rousey’s armbar, which stopped all of her previous fights and left Miesha Tate with a dislocated elbow.
McMann holds a power advantage that benefits the silver medalist if they stand and trade. Rousey isn’t one to get into brawls and would rather get into a clinch, and don’t be surprised if McMann unloads on Rousey as she did on Gaff.
The key to McMann’s success is in stopping Rousey’s attack before it begins. She mustn’t leave any openings for Rousey to take advantage of while being very selective about her own advances. If McMann mounts Rousey, she must strike accurately and with patience. Given a sliver of hope, Rousey can turn McMann’s attack into another submission victory.
In all likelihood, the bantamweight title will be decided on the ground. McMann plans on it and Rousey wouldn’t have it any other way. The only question is whether McMann can shock the world and beat her fellow Olympian.