UFC 170 is on tap for this coming weekend in Las Vegas and with the February 22nd date, fans will see bantamweight champion Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey face her most formidable challenge to date.
Stepping into the cage that night to face Rousey will be Sara McMann. McMann is an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and, like the champion herself, unbeaten in her professional fighting career; 7 – 0.
McMann is a powerhouse of a fighter and she brings to the table a great deal more than just tremendous wrestling skills and a solid base. McMann also has the cardio, toughness, ground-and-pound, stand-up skills and relentless, in your face pace, to make and take maximum advantage of her wrestling prowess. Beyond that ‘SM’ is mentally tough and like Rousey, not apt to be broken in a fight. In short, and in comparing styles, this fight is likely to be akin to two freight trains rushing headlong into one another and exploding.
As it stands, odds are good that the pair will immediately collide in the center of the Octagon, with each looking to take the other down. As such, it will be Rousey’s judo against McMann’s wrestling.
From McMann’s point-of-view she probably figures that the key to victory lays in putting the champ on her back, staying heavy on her and pounding out the win. However, that’s a dangerous game to play with Rousey. As Rowdy has a decent Jiu Jitsu game and is active off of her back, she’s not going passively allow McMann to have her way with her. As such and in going to the mat with Rousey, be it by McMann’s choice or not, she’s invariably feeding into the champ’s strength, which is ground fighting. As Rousey has culled all eight of her professional victories by way of armbar submission and gotten all of her fights to the ground via throws and a clinch game, McMann would be well advised to avoid both the clinch and a fight on the ground.
In considering it, McMann is probably better off using her wrestling in reverse and in an effort to keep the fight standing.
Looking to engage the champ in boxing match, but not a brawl, McMann might be better served by keeping Rousey at distance and attempting to pick her apart over the rounds. Rousey has proven all day long that she can fight on the ground and McMann would be wise to not contest the issue. However, Rousey has yet to prove that she can really do anything else other than clinch, throw and armbar. As such, McMann should look to put Rousey to the test and make the champ prove her bona fides on the feet.
McMann can win this fight and she might even be able to win it on the ground, but a ground fight with Rousey is a treacherous path to walk and no fighter that’s taken the stroll has ever succeeded. No, a better option for McMann might be to keep the fight standing and test Rousey’s mettle on the feet. If she’s successful, then she’s successful. If not, then she always has the option of trying to take the fight to the ground. However, to start out with a strategy of taking Rousey down probably helps out the champ more than it hurts her and more than likely, something that Rowdy is quite comfortable with happening.
Again, the clinch and the mat are Rousey’s world and she’s queen of the realm. However, her dominion over the kingdom of stand-up is still very much an open debate and as such, McMann would be wise to engage her in the argument. But in doing so, she needs to keep it out of the ‘phone booth’ and at range. If not and she elects to turn it into a brawl, it would be a good guess that she McMann will be thrown for a ride, put on her back and submitted by armbar.
In review of McMann's powerful style, here's her one and only fight in the UFC, a first round (crucifix) TKO stoppage of Sheila Graff at UFC 159.