UFC 170 will be an interesting test balloon of the value of the Women's Bantamweight Championship Ronda Rousey's drawing ability. While the concept of an Olympian vs Olympian match with Sara McMann sounded great, there really wasn't a big marketing push for this fight in the same way there was for Ronda's first two fights in the UFC.
There wasn't any really inventive marketing behind this card - the UFC pushed it with the same generic soundtrack of metal and screaming over highlights and really only went on the marketing push for about a week, waiting till after last weekend's Fight Night card. So what ever number comes back for this will be a good baseline of what can be expected of Ronda fights just based purely by her name being on the poster.
Marketing seemed to be the order of the night as the entire production seemed to be in hard sell mode. Selling Sara McMann as the toughest fight of Ronda's career; selling Pat Cummins as legitimate challenge for Daniel Cormier; mentioning how Mike Pyle might be the greatest in-gym fighter ever; and even taking time after the fights ended to talk about how hard Glover Teixeira hits pads to sell his title match at Jon Jones. It was a painful process as a consumer to be bombarded with a large amount hyperbole and exaggeration, even by UFC standards. They made so much of the supposed forty fights Cummins has had cancelled on him it makes me wonder if things have really changed at all since the single digit UFC events where fighters were able to come claiming records of 350-0 (300 KO) in bare knuckle fighting.
On to thoughts about the fights:
- Ronda Rousey continues to grow as fighter. Many wanted to see what it looked like when she got stuck on her feet and that has been answered to a degree as she finished Sarah McMann with a knee to the liver. Rousey is still hittable on the the feet and her boxing doesn't look great, but she can clearly take a shot and she gave the rest of the UFC Women's 135-lb division to think about with the pretty intense body work she put in on McMann.
- While Herb Dean's stoppage was a touch early, it was not the atrocity many made it out to be. McMann completely released Ronda from her clinch, collapsed on to all fours, and made no effort to defend herself, sending a clear signal to Dean that she was done fighting. Could he have held off and allowed Rousey to land a few more punches just for the outcome to be a little more clear? Sure. But it wasn't totally necessary, McMann was already out of the fight. The outrage caused by that is likely more a result of feelings against Rousey that actual reaction to the stoppage.
- McMann still could be a great challenger for Rousey, she just needs a bit more time and polish to get there. The biggest threat left to Ronda currently is Cat Zingano, and the long layoff from knee injury is making it seem like things are lining up nicely for Ronda to continue to keep the title for a while.
- Daniel Cormier put a quick beating on Pat Cummins and really nobody should have expected anything less. The biggest takeaway from this fight is that Cormier can make the cut to 205. Not much else. It's hard to tell where he fits in the Light Heavyweight division after that fight.
- Rory MacDonald looked back in his old, violent form after spending 2013 as an extremly cautious fighter. MacDonald came out in a low stance and seemed to have no problem throwing strikes at Demian Maia. MacDonald even survived a full round with Maia mounted on him and then came back to maul Maia on the feet. The full variety of MacDonald's striking array was back with body kicks, front kicks, ax kicks, knees, straight punches, upper cuts and heavy hooks. It was a very encouraging performance from a kid who has the talent to be a title contender.
- Maia had a very rough fight after that first round. His wrestling is extremely strong but not very diverse as he dove on single legs without much set up and MacDonald was able to stop them fairly easily. And Maia began to show his age a bit as he slowed mightily in the second round. Maia is 36, he has made his run in two weightclasses, at this point it can't be about championships for Maia anymore as a title run is likely out of the picture for him.
- Mike Pyle kept the gates of the Welterweight divisions as he turned away young challenger T.J. Waldburger. Pyle is too old to be making a title run realistically. Waldburger is coming up on ten years of a pro career despite being very young, so this he is at the point where should be starting to put together his skills, which didn't appear to be happening in the cage last night.
- Stephen Thompson looked very good with some sharp and accurate striking to win against Robert Whittaker, and put down the Australian. Thompson looks good, but pump the brakes on the idea of him being a threat at Welterweight as the UFC has carefully kept his path clear of wrestlers or other high level grapplers. Thompson received a schooling on the ground from Matt Brown about two years ago and Thompson is going to have prove at some point that is a hole in his skill set he has closed up.
- Jessica Eye got jobbed by the judges in a fight that inexplicably went to a split decision against her. In rounds one and three Eye countered Alexis Davis with sharp and hard punches on the feet, flurried hard in the clinch, and generally bulled Davis around. Eye is still a pretty raw talent, but she has a lot of strength and as she adds skills.
- Davis is still a very good fighter. She is one of the best ground fighters in the division and is solid on the feet, she was just overwhelmed by the strength and aggression of Eye.
- Pedro Munhoz came into this fight with a fair amount of hype as a prospect, but unfortunately for him he went against Raphael Assuncao who was a pretty touted prospect himself back in 2010. A loss to Urijah Faber in the WEC took the shine off Assuncao and he has quietly developed into a pretty complete and dangerous fighter. Assuanco clearly was the superior boxer and worked some heavy ground striking from the open guard.
- Munhoz did show some skills, particularity on the ground with some excellent open guard retention, stuffing all of Assuanco's attempts to pass and then scrambling to his feet really well.
- Aljamain Sterling and Cody Gibson put on a helluva fight as prospects from two different coasts clashed in a very entertaining bout. Both showed off why they are considered to be good talents as they showed good good grappling, wrestling, striking, and athleticism. Sterling was very impressive that he took this fight on short notice and got stronger in the third round, were the fight was on the line, and took victory.
- On a side note as a grappler, I really wonder when we are going to see a guy go for footlocks when he has his back taken. Sterling was crossing his feet very low, which is fairly common in MMA, but in grappling tournaments warrants an almost instant footlock attempt. Many are low risk, require only the legs and don't expose the neck to a choke, and yet nobody makes use of them and I wonder when that will change.
- Zach Makovsky looked fantastic and it was a shame he was buried on the undercard. He continues to one of the best phase shifters in MMA and an elite single leg finisher. Makovsky continued to show off that the strides he has made in the striking game since his Bellator games are very much for real. Makosky looked like a top contender in his dispatching of Josh Sampo, even showing off his ability to use the half guard to stand up. Makovsky's next fight should either be a Flyweight title fight or title eliminator.
- Erik Koch looked fantastic in what really was a squash match against Rafaello Oliveira, but it is a positive sign that Koch went out made it a squash match. Koch is returning to Lightweight after a run at Featherweight, and many are down on him, but he is still just 25 years old. Koch should be hitting his stride as a fighter at this point, and he has the skills to turn into a Lightweight contender.
- Ernest Chavez ground down Yosenis Cedeno with a combination of leg kicks, cage clinching, and ground grappling. Cedeno showed early why he is a considered to be a prospect - he is very athletic with fast and dynamic and versatile striking. Chavez also showed that Cedeno's grappling from the bottom is not up to par and was able to use that tired Cedeno out, take away his dynamism on the feet, and win the fight.