There’s a fine line between fear and intensity. Sometimes those characteristics look the same.
When Sara McMann refused to look Ronda Rousey in the eyes during the referee’s pre-fight directions, was it fear or just extreme intensity?
Was she afraid to stare into Rousey’s eyes for fear of getting intimidated or was McMann just in the center of her own universe and focused?
Some believe the big fight with Rousey seemed to come too soon for McMann. According to those pundits she simply was not ready.
It may not have helped her fans perception since she kept a very low profile leading up to fight. She said she was comfortable letting Rousey take the spotlight but some may now interpret that as an unwillingness to confront her opponent. Few outside of her training camp know what she was doing to prepare for Rousey and the real question is, with this loss will anyone still care?
McMann was definitely caught in a bad position before the stoppage and she may never get an opportunity to fight for the title again. While it is debatable how much more she had in her the best she can probably do is to become more active in the PR circuit to try and sell herself as a viable opponent for the Bantam weight champion.
Some have speculated that her performance reflected a lack of will, perhaps even a sense of defeat before the fight even began. We cannot conclude whether these opinions hold any merit but we can certainly look back on similar situations with other champions and challengers.
During Anderson Silva’s historic title defense run, he beat a ton of guys just on his reputation alone.
Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen (the second time) were all guys who appeared to many to be defeated before ever entering the cage. What happened when Chris Weidman actually fought Anderson Silva? He was very hesitant but took the initiative that landed him the lucky punch that won him the fight. The second time Weidman faced Silva, he was new new middle weight champion. It was clear from his performance that he had a new found confidence. His movements were solid, secure and even if Silva had not broken his leg there are many who speculate he would have defeated Silva again.
Weidman removed the aura of perfection that surrounded Silva. Since her initial UFC victory over Liz Carmouche Rousey has seemed untouchable. It wast until Meisha Tate began to break her down mentally that she was able to go more than one round with the champ. Had Tate decided to stand her ground and box instead of grapple with an Olympic Judo athlete she might have stood a good chance of lasting longer, if not even winning that fight. This would have been possible because she was in Rousey’s head and Rousey was definitely a bit sloppier in the first round than she usually was.
When Mike Tyson was in his prime, knocking out fighters in the first round, most of those guys were defeated before the opening bell. When Tyson fought Buster Douglas, Douglas fought him. He wasn’t afraid. He didn’t back up. He stood there and boxed with him — and knocked him out. When Evander Holyfield stood and traded with Tyson, Tyson was so frustrated he bit Holyfield’s ear.
McMann traded some punches with Rousey, but with even the slightest opportunity Rousey was confident and determined to take her down. Which she did with a good knee to the liver. We can’t be certain that hit alone was enough to end the fight but the referee certainly seemed to think so. What many do believe is that if McMann had been more active to battle with Rousey on a mental level she might have had a better chance at taking her down and keeping her down. Certainly McMann possesses the necessary athleticism and striking talent.
The fighter who beats Rousey one day will need to look her in the eye and show no fear. They will need to make the this unbeaten champion feel like there is a chance they could lose and that alone could be enough to sway the fight in their favor.
Championship opportunities don’t come often and when they do, you have to be ready to seize the day. Let’s hope the next time McMann can seize that moment!