Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann: Why McMann Could Make It a Competitive Bout

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Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann: Why McMann Could Make It a Competitive Bout
Associated Press
Whether or not former Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann defeats UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, she will make this bout competitive.

Every world champion in MMA, past or present, possesses a quality that makes his title reign one to pay attention to or one to remember.

Some champions destroyed their opponents and broke their wills in one fell swoop during title defenses, while others took to showcasing something new in every bout by either dominating their opponent in their own realm or forcing their opponent's foot off the gas as the bout progressed.

A select few even represented themselves not only as unstoppable forces who accumulated lengthy winning streaks but also as enigmas who nobody figured out for years.

These days, the term "enigma" seems to suit UFC women's bantamweight champion "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, yet at this point, everyone knows her modus operandi. She wants to impose her strength, implement her judo, dominate on the ground and work her way to the armbar.

On paper, it sounds easy to either take Rousey down and control her on the ground or avoid the ground game altogether, but fights don't always play out that way.

This may explain why Rousey holds the favorite over fellow undefeated Olympian and top title contender Sara McMann, who challenges for the title on Saturday night at UFC 170.

Much like Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, McMann's edge on paper comes if she can force Rousey out of her element by using her wrestling game to nullify Rousey's judo and her persistent control in all aspects of the grappling game.

McMann's top control, if implemented in a similar way to how she controlled Sheila Gaff, would force Rousey to seek a different way to work her game plan—knowing that McMann would pose an answer to the champ's various armbar attempts from any and every position possible.

It all works well until you realize the difference between claiming that McMann can control Rousey on the ground and McMann actually doing it. The challenger stands a chance, but so did Carmouche, Tate and former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman.

Heck, just about every fighter in the UFC's women's bantamweight class who is on a winning streak can claim to have a chance against the champion, but once the cage door closes, it becomes a different battle altogether.

Rousey performs on a much different level than Gaff or any other woman in the game at 135 pounds.

Still, do not sleep on the undefeated silver medalist. While Rousey knows how to hook armbars in ways most fans don't, McMann's true edge may come mentally, and to understand why that might hold the key toward her success, we must recall Rousey's road to this point.

Sure, we could beat it to the ground that every past opponent thought she would be the one to snap the champ's streak, but remember that almost every MMA fan in the world, at one time or another, felt that one Rousey opponent would emerge as "the one." She used that to push herself to become the top women's bantamweight in the world, and it showed when she submitted Tate in their UFC 168 rematch.

Remember that fight? Some in the MMA world thought that if Tate pushed Rousey past the first round, the champ's supposed lack of cardio would show and Tate would prevail. She pushed Rousey hard for three rounds, but someone forgot to tell Rousey that she needed to slow down and gas out.

As a result, Rousey took control, earning the first third-round submission win of her career.

Now, no one questions whether or not McMann can go beyond the first round. Three of the first six fights of McMann's career ended in unanimous-decision wins, and when it comes to submissions, she possesses skills of her own as well. Still, she holds the underdog status because seven women have tried and failed against Rousey.

So what makes McMann think she'll even last five minutes, let alone five rounds, with the champ?

Maybe that's just the reason why she'll compete harder than any oddsmaker, fan or expert expects her to. Nobody expects her to compete with Rousey—just like nobody thought Rousey would beat Tate the first time.

Just like nobody thought Rousey would be the reason why women's MMA would make it to the UFC, and just like nobody anticipates her getting the "former champion" tag on her name unless she vacates the belt or retires undefeated.

When the critics entered Rousey's mind, it motivated the champ to prove them all wrong. What would stop McMann from shocking the world if she took the same approach on Saturday night?

If McMann can say or do anything about it, nothing will stop her from at least making a fight out of it, whether anyone saw it coming or not.

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