Sara McMann: Does She Deserve the Title Shot at UFC 170?

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2014

Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Sara McMann (black shorts)  celebrates defeating Sheila Gaff (not pictured) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sara McMann will meet UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey at UFC 170.

The matchup in Las Vegas will be the first between two Olympic medalists inside the Octagon. It is a matchup that most have been waiting to see, myself included. The two Olympians have been linked since their amateur careers, and the stylistic matchup will be an intriguing storyline leading into their fight.

However, one must ask—does McMann deserve the title shot?

Cat Zingano is the No. 1 contender in the division, but her injury will keep her sidelined. The UFC needed to find Rousey another opponent, and in such a shallow division there were not a lot of options.

When looking at potential fights for Rousey there were only three names that jumped off the page: McMann, Alexis Davis and Jessica Eye.

McMann had only one previous fight inside the Octagon. It was a dominant victory over natural flyweight Sheila Gaff. After the victory she was scheduled for a fight against Sarah Kaufman. At the time of the scheduled bout Kaufman was ranked No. 2 and McMann No. 4.

McMann dropped out of the bout due to undisclosed reasons, and Kaufman went on to fight former top ranked flyweight Jessica Eye at UFC 166.

Oct 18, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Jessica Eye during the weigh-in for UFC 166 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

In a closely contested battle, Eye got a split-decision win over the No. 2-ranked fighter in the division. It ran her win streak up to eight. While the win itself was a contentious decision it still goes down in the record books as a win. And, objectively, it is a much more impressive victory than McMann's.

Eye's eight straight wins is more than McMann's entire career (7-0). The UFC would have been justified in giving Eye the nod.

One of the most overlooked fighters in the division is Alexis Davis.

Davis dropped a decision to Kaufman in March of 2012, on the same night Rousey won the Strikeforce Bantamweight Championship. Since that date she has gone 4-0 with four quality wins.

Davis moved over to Invicta FC for two fights against submission specialists Hitomi Akano and Shayna Baszler. She submitted both. Then she had her Octagon debut against former top-ranked flyweight, and longtime MMA veteran, Rosi Sexton.

It was an unimpressive performance, but one that was one-sided. The victory kept her streak going, and earned her a match against Liz Carmouche on the UFC Fight for the Troops 3 card.

Nov 6, 2013; Fort Campbell, KY, USA; Alexis Davis (blue gloves) fights Liz Carmouche (red gloves) in the women's bantamweight bout during UFC Fight for the Troops at Fort Campbell. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Davis took Carmouche completely out of the fight, and had one of her most impressive performances to date. The win moved her above McMann on the UFC's official rankings. So, why did she not get the fight?

Based on resume alone McMann should be third of these three women. Yes, she is undefeated, but MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” sport. Both Davis and Eye have done more lately. Luckily for McMann, this is the promotion business.

The Olympic medalist vs. Olympic medalist matchup is a much better storyline. It is an easier sell in an Olympic year. It is likely no coincidence that this fight will take place while the Sochi Olympics are underway.

A combat sport purest would want title fights based on merit more than promotion. This is the real world, and fans do not pay for fights based on merit alone.

Does McMann deserve the title shot? Yes. Is she more deserving than others? That's debatable.

The bottom line is that she does deserve this fight, and it is by far the most compelling UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship fight the company could put on for UFC 170. It is the easiest decision for the UFC brass, and one the fans will be glad that was made come February 22nd.

Rousey vs. McMann is the right fight. We will be treated to a fantastic fight in a little over a month.