UFC 170: Can Sara McMann Put Ronda Rousey on Her Back?

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2014

Sara McMann celebrates her win over Sheila Gaff after their UFC 159 Mixed Martial Arts bout in Newark, NJ, Saturday, April 27,2013.  McMann won via first round TKO. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

UFC 170 features the first UFC main event between two Olympic medalists. Undefeated bantamweights Ronda Rousey (8-0) and Sara McMann (7-0) meet at long last.

The two fighters have been linked since entering MMA around roughly the same time. It was a fight that made a lot of sense. Two incredible athletes with Olympic backgrounds—Rousey in judo, and McMann in wrestling.

As they vaulted up the ranks, and took separate career paths, the anticipation has built to a crescendo that will culminate at UFC 170 on Saturday.

Rousey is the favorite, and a large one at that. Why? Because she has been so viciously dominant. How is one to beat Rousey? For McMann, the thought is that she will utilize what brought her Olympic silver—wrestling.

Can she put Rousey on her back?

That seems like a silly question considering her credentials, but while anyone can say, “of course she can,” the question deserves a deeper look.

Women's wrestling, at the highest levels, is still relatively new. It does not have the history or depth that world judo has in the female ranks. That is not to discredit what McMann has done, but it does offer some perspective on the talent at the highest levels. There was a road filled with less depth to a medal for McMann than for Rousey.

The wrestling vs. judo arguments are what make this fight compelling. That argument has gone on for a long time, and it has seeped into MMA in recent years. More often than not, in male competition, wrestlers have gotten the better of the matchup. Will the same hold true at UFC 170? Does the difference in male & female physiology make a difference?

David Becker/Associated Press

McMann can take Rousey down. Rousey was Miesha Tate—a wrestler who is significantly less decorated than McMann. The question should be: is it smart to take Rousey down?

Rousey's grappling is impeccable, but there is one big difference between Tate and McMann—strength. McMann is powerful, and has a much stronger base than Tate. That could make a difference if she is able to take Rousey down in their fight on Saturday.

However, McMann's submission defense is a significant question mark.

McMann was nearly caught in submissions against Hitomi Akano, but she was able to power out on brute strength alone. Against Shayna Baszler, now a teammate of Rousey, McMann was once again in compromising positions. Although, she showed much better technical submission defense against “The Queen of Spades.”

That is what makes this fight immensely interesting. There are so many questions regarding these two female athletes that could be answered at UFC 170. And should we not get answers to our grappling questions that likely means that the grappling has canceled itself out and we get a stand-up war. To which, we have questions there as well.

McMann can put Rousey on her back, but she may have trouble defending against Rousey's submission attacks. Or Rousey could have trouble dealing with McMann's heavy base & pure strength.

Saturday we will have better insight to each of their games. It can't get here soon enough.