MMA history will be made on Saturday night as, for the first time ever, two undefeated Olympians will clash inside the Octagon for a UFC championship.
UFC Women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will put her title on the line against silver-medal wrestler Sara McMann in the main event of UFC 170.
In 2008, Rousey became the first American woman to medal in the Olympics, winning a bronze medal at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Since transitioning into MMA, Rousey has thoroughly dominated every competitor thrown her way with eight consecutive armbar victories.
But she’s never fought anyone like McMann. In 2004, McMann became the first American woman to win a silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Like Rousey, she has gone undefeated since making the move to MMA, and she’s hungry to pull off the upset.
RedHotVegas.com’s Roni Taylor is back to help me break down this card. This time, Ms. Taylor and I are going head-to-head with our predictions. Let’s see who comes out on top!
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann
Ciccarelli: UFC President Dana White has been very vocal in his claims that Ronda Rousey is the "biggest PPV draw in the history of the UFC." As popular as Ronda is, that is an absurd statement to make without the numbers to back it up.
The UFC is also claiming in pre-fight video packages that Rousey is the "first woman to medal in the Olympics for Judo.” That is not true either. She was the first American to medal but far from being the first woman overall.
Do you feel like the UFC is going way over the top in its promotion of the UFC women's bantamweight champion?
Taylor: Let’s not forget what Dana White’s primary job is for the UFC: fight promotion. He is the P.T. Barnum of the 21st century, and while we may not agree with all that he says, he certainly is good at what he does. I, for one, happen to enjoy the hype that Dana whips into his media scrums and interviews.
I tend to only believe about 70 percent of what flies out of Dana’s mouth, so that way my head doesn’t explode when he spouts off something ridiculous. As far as the UFC promoting this upcoming fight, I am super happy that the women are getting the attention they deserve.
As a martial arts practitioner (a lowly white belt in BJJ), it brings me great pride to see female MMA fighters not only performing on the biggest stage in the world, but also getting top billing.
Ciccarelli: I wrote in the beginning of the year that McMann is Rousey's worst nightmare, and I'm sticking to that. As talented as Rousey is, I think she's going to be walking right into her kryptonite here with McMann. Maybe you feel differently, though: What's your take on the main event?
Taylor: While it is a true battle of the Olympians, I honestly don’t think this is going to be a fair fight. Wrestling and judo may both be grappling arts, but their differences outweigh their similarities. I don’t know if you noticed what happened when Miesha Tate tried to use her wrestling to take down Rousey in her last fight. It wasn’t pretty.
For the advanced MMA fan it was quite a display of judo beauty with a whole slew of throws like the harai goshi and uchi mata. I even think I saw a “Judo Chop!” (said in my best Austin Powers voice) in there somewhere. I see this fight going down very much like the Tate fight, with Ronda getting the better of the takedown battle, time and time again.
Rousey’s striking has continued to improve, and that added weapon really allows her to pick and choose her openings. I think McMann is going to get frustrated and try to rush in on Ronda. The end result will be an inside leg throw with Ronda landing on top in side control and of course….drum roll please…finishing with her trademarked armbar.
Taylor’s pick: Rousey by second-round submission (armbar)
Ciccarelli’s pick: McMann by unanimous decision
Daniel Cormier vs. Pat Cummins
Ciccarelli: In the co-main event, we have a bit of a Rocky story brewing here between another former Olympian in Daniel Cormier and UFC newcomer Pat Cummins. Cormier was originally slated to take on Rashad Evans in his debut at 205 pounds, but when Evans pulled out with an injury, the UFC called Cummins up from a coffee shop in Orange County. Literally.
Apparently, Cummins used to train with Cormier back in the day when "D.C." was training for the Olympics. He's been going around telling people that he used to make Cormier "cry" on the mats, and that isn’t sitting well with Cormier at all.
Cummins is 4-0 in his MMA career, all finishes thus far but do you really think he's as good as he claims to be or will Cormier cut through him like a knife through butter?
Taylor: I only recently watched a couple of Pat Cummins’ fights, and honestly, I was underwhelmed with his wrestling. I know he has a NCAA Division I pedigree to die for, but I truly think he will be outwrestled by Daniel Cormier and most certainly outstruck by him as well.
Cormier has already battled a who’s who of top names in the MMA world, and I think Cummins will crumble under DC’s fast, aggressive pressure. This fight will be a first-round TKO domination by the former Strikeforce Grand-Prix champ.
Taylor’s pick: Cormier by first-round TKO
Ciccarelli’s pick: Cormier by second-round TKO
Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia
Ciccarelli: Up next, in the welterweight division, we have Tristar phenom Rory MacDonald going up against jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia. MacDonald dropped a decision to Robbie Lawler back at UFC 167, but he’s still considered a future champion by many of the sport’s top analysts.
Maia’s run toward a welterweight title shot was temporarily halted in his last fight with Jake Shields, but a win over MacDonald could bump the Brazilian right back where he was. How do you see this one playing out?
Taylor: This is a tough one for me. I really like the poise and well-rounded game that Rory brings to the Octagon, but Demian Maia has been on a tear at welterweight. Both men are coming off of split-decision losses and will be hungry to get back in the win column.
While his striking has improved markedly over the past few years, I don’t think Demian will be able to use it well enough to stifle Rory’s outside striking capabilities. I think Rory will use his crisp kick boxing to pick apart the jiu-jitsu specialist long enough to earn a decision victory.
Sadly, this one will probably end up being a boring battle of two guys trying to not lose two in a row.
Taylor’s pick: MacDonald by unanimous decision
Ciccarelli’s pick: MacDonald by unanimous decision
Mike Pyle vs. TJ Waldburger
Ciccarelli: Speaking of welterweights, we have two more 170-pounders squaring off here who are coming off losses. Mike Pyle was riding an impressive four-fight win streak before Matt Brown made quick work of him at UFC Fight Night 26.
Pyle will be looking to get back in the win column against TJ Waldburger on the live pay-per-view portion of the card. Do you see “Quicksand” getting back on track or will Waldburger surprise us?
Taylor: I’m excited to watch my fellow Las Vegas resident, Mike Pyle, smash out another W on his record. Mike has only lost two of his last nine fights. I know he has been diligently working on his stand-up game to go along with his amazing grappling.
While TJ is no slouch in the grappling department, I give the edge to Pyle if it hits the ground. I don’t think it will make it that far, though. I see Mike Pyle pushing himself into the UFC’s top 10 welterweights with a first-round TKO.
Taylor’s pick: Pyle by first-round TKO
Ciccarelli’s pick: Pyle by first-round submission (guillotine choke)
Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker
Ciccarelli: South Carolina native Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will be making his PPV debut against TUF: The Smashes winner, Robert Whittaker. “Wonderboy” is riding a two-fight win streak and has a lot of hype surrounding him. What’s your prediction here?
Taylor: Ever since I first heard about “Wonderboy,” I have been excited to see him live up to the accolades he was paid by a lot of the top guys in the MMA world. There is no doubt he is an elite striker, but when it comes to grappling, Matt Brown found him out real quickly back at UFC 145.
Whittaker doesn’t bring anything special as far as striking is concerned into this fight, so as long as Wonderboy has continued to hone his takedown defense, it’s going to be a rough night for Whittaker.
I’d love to see Thompson open up with some of his flashy kicking and give us all something to cheer about with a huge KO in the first round.
Taylor’s pick: Thompson by first-round TKO
Ciccarelli’s pick: Thompson by unanimous decision
Alexis Davis vs. Jessica Eye
Ciccarelli: While not technically on the PPV main card, I still wanted to talk about the other women’s matchup on the card. Alexis Davis has been on fire, long before she made her debut in the UFC. The Cesar Gracie product is riding a four-fight win streak, including submission wins over Hitomi Akano and Shayna Baszler.
Eye has been under a lot of criticism lately, but I’m not here to harp on that. She is an extremely talented fighter despite being one of the smaller women in her division. Her decision victory over former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman at UFC 166 was changed to a no-contest, but a win over Davis will catapult her way up the rankings.
How do you see this fight playing out?
Taylor: This is another great women’s fight that will be a classic matchup. Eye likes to throw the jab out there and asserts herself with her striking skills, while Davis likes to bully people around in the clinch game.
Unless the fighter is a world-class striker, I tend to go with the better grappler, and in this matchup, I’m picking Davis to win by TKO in the third. I think she is going to close the distance, push Eye up against the cage and wear her down, finally getting the ref to stop the fight with some nasty ground-and-pound.
Taylor’s pick: Davis by third-round TKO
Ciccarelli’s pick: Davis by unanimous decision
Mitch Ciccarelli is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and co-host of Alchemist Radio. He is also a United States Airman. Follow him on Twitter @MitchCiccarelli.
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