Sara McMann, the top prospect in all of women’s mixed martial arts, picked up her fifth consecutive victory last night over veteran Hitomi Akano via unanimous decision. Going in to the fight I was hopeful that we would be able to see McMann stay on her feet and test her striking, and that was her original intent. From my perspective that would be the ideal outcome for her development as a fighter, and as a gameplan too, for this fight. Akano is a very skilled grappler but can not match the strength of McMann and posed no legitimate threat on the feet.
However, for the majority of the fight we saw McMann ragdoll Akano all over the ring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this even though I may sound disappointed. I merely wanted McMann to assert her striking offense and get some real-fight experience striking. After the bout things quickly turned to who McMann should fight next. Commonplace for prospects. And with a fighter relatively new one should look for two things: a fight that will push the fighter and/or a fight that will test the fighter in a particular area. Through the first four fights the latter has been done, but with obvious results.
Tonya Evinger is a wrestler, but McMann is an Olympic caliber wrestler. This could have been another fight where McMann tested her stand-up, but being only her third pro fight and Tonya’s more dangerous stand-up than say Akano’s it was the smart move to smother her and grind out the win. Winning is always the most important thing.
Raquel Pa’aluhi and Sara McMann put on the fight of the night at ProElite 2 in Hawaii. Pa’aluhi is a scrapper and really tested McMann. I thought this was an excellent fight for Sara in that we saw her stand-up and only when she needed to she used her strength and secured the win with a keylock in the third round. Personally, I think this may be her most important fight to date when talking about her development as a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
Enter Hitomi Akano. As mentioned above she posed no credible threat on the feet but with her skilled ground game this was the perfect fight to allow Sara to impose her striking game. Akano wasn’t strong enough on the ground to come close to any submission attempt and McMann pulled out another dominant victory. So where does this leave her and what’s next? She’s already turned down a Strikeforce deal.
Fans immediately took to Twitter and brought up Ronda Rousey. The storylines for that fight make it intriguing, but it’s not the perfect fight for Sara McMann right now. I believe that fight is with Marloes Coenen.
Looking at the landscape of WMMA right now I firmly believe that Coenen is the most dangerous fighter for McMann right now. I hesitate to put Rousey in that category currently because we haven’t really seen her stand-up game and in the epic battle of Judo vs. Wrestling it almost always favors the wrestler. And that’s not bringing up the point that McMann has fought tougher competition. But let’s put Rousey aside and focus on Coenen. Marloes has been inside the cage with all of the top women of today and faired well. She’s one of the slickest submission grapplers and probably the best striker in the division. Perfect for McMann at this stage.
Where Akano failed in the strength department Coenen most likely would not. That’s not to say Sara McMann would not be the favorite in the fight or wouldn’t hold that same advantage, but that gap is significantly smaller than with Akano. Also, Coenen would not worry about the strength advantage – remember that she went toe-to-toe with Cyborg, end of story. While McMann will undoubtedly take that fight to the ground, Marloes is very active from the bottom and has all the skills to challenge her there. And when standing McMann has to be very careful not to get tagged and hurt. I believe it’s the right match-up at the right time for all involved.
And from a business perspective it makes sense. Neither are under exclusive deals and it’s the biggest fight in women’s MMA outside of Tate-Rousey. INVICTA Fights should be on the phones this instant trying to put it together for one of their cards.
The match-making for Sara McMann has been impeccable thus far. But the stylistic match-ups have run their course and it’s time for her to fight a well-rounded fighter who can push her to the limit. Coenen is the right woman for the job and it will be beneficial to both fighters. We need to see this fight in 2012.
(Orginially posted on my blog: http://accbiggz.wordpress.com)