On Saturday night, Sara McMann will step into the Octagon and look to accomplish two things that have never been done in professional mixed martial arts. The first, avoid the armbar of UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. The second, defeat the unbeaten Rousey and claim the UFC title.
The fight, the main event of UFC 170, will be the first time that two Olympic medalists have stepped into the Octagon to face each other. Rousey (8-0) claimed her medal at the 2008 Olympics, earning a bronze in Judo. McMann (7-0) earned a silver medal in wrestling at the 2004 Olympic games.
McMann sees significance in the fact that two Olympic medal winners will be headlining the pay per view card. Speaking after Wednesday's open workouts, McMann said, "It means that now, women's MMA is having the best athletes in the world entering the sport and being successful. I think that for quite a few years the men have been drawing upon more and more high level athletes to enter into men's MMA and make very deep divisions. I think that you're seeing the beginning of that for women."
Rousey's judo background has come into play in all eight of her professional fights, submitting all eight of her opponents via armbar. However, the UFC champion does not believe that she is a one trick pony. Rousey recently said that she believes that she has the best striking "in the game." When asked about that statement, McMann smiled and remarked, "She also said she thinks she can beat Cain Velasquez, so I don't know. I don't really take comments where people are assessing themselves very seriously."
McMann did give her own valuation of Rousey's striking game, noticing that it has grown. Where once Rousey was content to use her jab to set up her throws, she is now using a more varied arsenal, and she is using her striking as more than just a setup for her judo.
According to McMann the way Rousey has gone about incorporating her striking into her overall MMA game is not ideal, "I just always felt that I wanted to expand my striking on the way up, rather than be at the top," McMann said. "Bringing something in untested to a title fight is a dangerous thing to do, I think."
In addition to preparing for Rousey's developing striking, McMann will need to avoid the fate that has befallen all those that came before her: Rousey's armbar. If by chance Rousey does get one of her trademark submission holds locked on, don't expect McMann to try and prove her mettle by letting her arm snap, "One of my qualities is toughness. I feel like the object of the sport is to not get to those situations, that's when you win, but if someone catches you, and they get the better of you I don't feel like there's any need to be an idiot. There's no use of losing and being injured. I don't look at it as oh, someone's so brave and tough that they now have to get a surgery, and they lost. There's toughness and there's foolishness."
With that statement hanging in the air, McMann, who said she has been training to fight Rousey specifically since Rousey became the Strikeforce champion in 2012, added, "My training has been to not get caught in that position."