This Saturday will be the five year anniversary of the death of Karl Gotch, a catch wrestling legend. It is only fitting that the on the same day Shayna Baszler, a practitioner of catch wrestling under the tutelage of Josh Barnett, will main event the biggest MMA show of the weekend.
Invicta FC CEO Shannon Knapp and matchmaker Janet Martin have done a superb job with constructing the Invicta FC 2 card. Loaded with exciting fighters, promising prospects and grizzled veterans, the Invicta FC 2 card may be the best in the history of women's MMA.
A great MMA card must have a great main event fight, and you can check that box for Invicta FC 2 as the bantamweight bout between Sara McMann and Shayna Baszler features two of the top fighters in that weight class.
It's easy to draw comparisons between Sara McMann and Ronda Rousey because both of them have an Olympic background, but their fighting styles are quite different. McMann has a more conservative approach with her wrestling while Rousey looks for the finish the second the initial horn sounds to begin fighting.
Ironically, Shayna Baszler's fighting style is more similar to Rousey's than McMann's. Like Rousey, Baszler is an uber-aggressive grappler that never stops looking for submissions. Baszler has utilized many unorthodox holds to finish her opponents such as kneebars, twisters, and even her self-invented "shwing" (a chicken wing-esque submission).
Both fighters are well-versed in the ground game which makes it unlikely that the fight will be played out on the feet. If it does, then it won't be pretty. McMann's stand-up has shown progression the with the inclusion of kicks, but she still is a bit too hesitant and awkward. Baszler has a nice offensive game, but she tends to leave her hands a bit low which ultimately lead to her suffering a lot of damage against a capable striker.
When the bout begins, they will likely test each other out on the feet, but it is only a matter of time before McMann shoots in for a take-down. A few things can happen once McMann shoots in.
The sheer power McMann used to take down Hitomi Akano won't work against Baszler, who is a much bigger fighter than Akano. Baszler also has great balance and strong hips, so McMann will have to be meticulous with her shot. McMann, a crafty wrestler, will have to shoot with a power shot when Baszler's level isn't down, and she should eventually be able to work Baszler down with her superior technique.
On the ground, Baszler will keep McMann honest and active. Undoubtedly, Baszler will relentlessly pursue for submissions against McMann throughout the fight. The Olympian has been able to thwart submissions from her previous opponents, but she has never faced a fighter that has a higher submission win to total fights percentage than Baszler (65%).
That is why the main event of Invicta FC 2 is so great. McMann's game has a stereotype of being boring because of her wrestling background, but Baszler will prevent that blandness because of her submission prowess on the ground.
Conditioning may also come into play during the fight. The never-ending submission attempts of Baszler have left her dead tired in the latter rounds of fights. Baszler also hasn't competed in MMA for nearly two years which could affect her cardio. No matter how much cardiovascular work is done prior to a fight, nothing can replicate the adrenaline dump that happens during a break in an MMA bout.
As we come full circle to who I think will the fight, I will make one guarantee. The winner of the bout will be 31 years old, female, and American.
In all seriousness, the safe prediction and the one that I'm making is that Sara McMann will be able to takedown Shayna Baszler, control her from the top position, evade submissions, and win the fight on the judge's scorecards.
Despite my prediction that McMann will win, I still wouldn't mind watching Shayna Baszler use her catch wrestling experience to win a fight on a day that will remember one of the great catch wrestlers of all time.