UFC 170: Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann preview and the prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Ronda Rousey defends her bantamweight belt against fellow Olympian in the first Octagon match between two medalists at UFC 170 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Will Rousey once again find the armbar finish, or will McMann take the belt in dramatic upset fashion?

Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann Women's Bantamweight

When we last left our heroes...Regardless of whether PPV numbers or general sentiment really validate Dana's claim that Rousey is the UFC's biggest star, it's hard to argue how important she is to the MMA discussion boards around the world. She's one of the most (if not the most) polarizing figures in the sport.

What I personally like about Rousey is that unlike other polarizing figures, the stories that surround her seem to wander into random territory. Right now I have the twilight zone count at three. First there's the UFC's persistent way of incorrectly interpreting her achievements. Then there's a discussion about marijuana thrown in here for good measure. And let's not forget her comments alluding to wanting a Bobby Riggs moment with UFC HW champion Cain Velasquez.

Everything that has been said about Rousey has already been covered, so I don't have to break out the soapbox thankfully. She's a brash young woman who wants to be the loudest representative in MMA.

Rousey is the Sharon Stone to McMann's Molly Ringwald.

The UFC has correctly avoided calling McMann the first woman to compete in the Olympics, or something. But she is the first American woman to receive a silver medal in wrestling, which she accomplished in 2004. And she's a legitimate challenge to Rousey's throne.

For a change of pace, here's some video analysis of the final three fights on the UFC 170 card by our own Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Ruebusch. They dive deep into Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann, Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins, and Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia.

McMann is a very gifted fighter, but the real question is whether or not this fight is happening too early. I understand that the female division isn't as deep. But a fighter with 7 pro fights who debuted in May of 2011?

The argument that there's no one else doesn't hold much weight. I would argue that McMann should have had a fight with a common opponent first (Carmouche, Kaufman, or Tate) to give the bout more promotional weight (in addition to its ability to sell itself as a battle between two Olympians). But here we are anyway, so there's no point whining about it at this point.

I'd like to get the analysis out of the way by saying that McMann can win. I'll even go one step further. I think she flat out beats Rousey. How could I reach such a preposterous conclusion you ask?

What both women can do: McMann's style of wrestling will more than prepare her for this bout. When you watch some of her pure wrestling matches, you notice the little things first. In addition to having incredible balance, her effectiveness comes from the rate at which she circles her opponent. This is how she often finds herself in the wrestling equivalent of back control, and is also a way of moving she applied against Shayna Baszler.

Watch the sequence from 14:08-14:12. McMann finds her way into the clinch with Shayna who immediately positions herself for a hip throw. Before Baszler even has a chance to rearrange her grip, McMann has her right leg inside of Shayna's right thigh which she uses to drag Baszler down.

The point here is that many fans and observers think McMann's wrestling will play into Rousey's Judo game. I'd argue that this is a simplistic way of looking at things; wrestling is like grappling just like grappling is like striking...though we often use them as broad descriptions, they are more than adjectives, but labels for a wide variety of styles and techniques. Rousey is facing every bit the grappling technician that she is.

Ronda is still the best in the business when it comes to scoping out that submission. Her armbar victories over Sarah Kaufman and Julie Budd are picture perfect examples of her brilliance. In both fights she gets into position for the submission with seamless transitions. But why the armbar all the time?

Because Ronda has an intuitive understanding of the submission game; it's not that the armbar is the simplest submission. It's that the armbar statistically favors you. It's a submission available to you at pretty much every position you can find yourself in. Rousey understands this, has perfected it, and profited from it.

Her striking isn't great, but she's doing a much better job at using her striking to support her submission prowess. As Connor documents so wonderfully, she's learning how to throw strikes that aren't desperate. However, that's not to say it's particularly good.

What both women can't do: Again plagiarizing Connor's insight, Rousey is a flat footed striker, and is dramatically prone to the left hook. Whether or not McMann can take advantage of that is another issue.

Sara is the better striker, but some of her habits won't serve her well in this event. For one, though she's less of a plodding forward moving brawler, her movement isn't as useful against Rousey like it is against others. McMann likes to shift her weight up and down to keep her opponent guessing for the takedown, but it's always a back and forth rather than a side to side movement. Lateral movement would be much more beneficial here.

The less equipped McMann is to deal with Rousey's attempts to get inside, the better. Nonetheless, I'm picking Sara because of her movement in close. Rousey wants to clinch to switch to the takedown so that she ends up on the ground. What McMann does on the feet that I suspect will counter Rousey's attacks is she throws quick combinations and quickly moves out. Yes, Sara throws a predictable right hand to get inside. But she always follows it up with a left hook and sometimes more.

I believe this is the most critical element of the fight, and one that favors McMann. McMann is further along in her striking game than Rousey is, but I don't think Rousey is that much further along in her grappling than McMann is. As in, submissions are only one aspect of grappling overall, and for as brilliant at Rousey is at finding the joint lock finish, I think McMann is better at her overall positioning from the neutral position.

X-Factor: Rousey's chin. It seemed alright against Tate, but I don't think Tate punches harder than McMann, and Rousey seemed rattled a bit at times. How does Rousey respond to being forced to fight on the feet?

In-Fight Soundtrack: Because Outshined seems fitting for my pick.

Prediction: Sara McMann by TKO, round 3.

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