"Sara McMann is the toughest opponent of Ronda Rousey's career."
It is a variation on a regular tagline used by the UFC to promote championship fights, especially when the general public isn't giving the challenger much chance of actually winning the fight. Sometimes it is true, but more often than not, it's just a marketing line.
This is one of the instances where it is absolutely true.
McMann is the most difficult stylistic matchup of Rousey's career, and it's all because McMann's wrestling is the same world-class level as Rousey's judo game. Ideally, we will get the answer to an intriguing question: What happens when Olympic-caliber judokas and wrestlers face off in the Octagon?
The answer: Well, it's a little more complicated. McMann is an animal of a wrestler, and I expect her to stop at least two of Rousey's takedown attempts. I wouldn't be surprised to see her put the champion on her back, if only for a limited amount of time. She has the skills and the strength to do so.
The problem, as I suspect McMann will find out, is keeping Rousey where you want her. It has been impossible for the champ's seven previous professional opponents to keep her in a position where she is not immediately dangerous.
Miesha Tate thought she had Rousey in an advantageous position against the cage in their UFC 168 bout in December. Moments later, Tate was on her back with Rousey in full mount, seeking an armbar.
That's what makes the champion so dangerous. She's as finely tuned an athlete as we have in mixed martial arts, and the same obsessive-compulsive nature that led her to become one of the best judokas in the world has also given her an accelerated learning curve in mixed martial arts.
So while it may sound strange to claim that McMann is not ready for Rousey—the champion has just one more professional fight on her record than the challenger, after all—the simple truth is that she probably is not ready. Not at all. She'll avoid a few takedowns, and she might even get a few of her own. But at the end of the night, she'll face the same fate that eight other women have.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey by submission
The Play: The market (82.14 percent) hews fairly close to my own line (75 percent), so we'll stay away from a play on the money line. Instead, look at Rousey by submission (-160) in the prop department. If Rousey is winning this fight—and I believe she is—there's a good chance she will do so by submission, and -160 is a great value line.