UFC 170: Keys to Victory for Sara McMann

Clinton BullockFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

Sara McMann at UFC 159
Sara McMann at UFC 159Gregory Payan/Associated Press

At UFC 170, mixed martial arts fighter Sara McMann will attempt to wrest away the bantamweight title from the biggest star the Ultimate Fighting Championship has ever acquired in Ronda Rousey.

Rousey is undefeated and has beaten opponent after opponent with her signature armbar. At 27 years old, the Olympic judo medalist is at the top of her game and plans on retiring as the UFC’s bantamweight champion. According to Eric Holden of Examiner.com, in a 2013 MMA Junkie post, Rousey stated, “I am the best [expletive] fighter in the world, and I truly believe that…”

However, on Saturday, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Rousey will take on her greatest challenge yet in McMann. Rousey’s opponent at UFC 170 is an Olympic silver medalist herself. She is also undefeated at 7-0. Although a 10-1 underdog heading into her first championship bout, McMann’s world-class wrestling base, accompanied by Rousey’s suspect stand-up skills, may grant the North Carolina native her first world championship.



McMann’s elite wrestling game will more than likely come into play during her matchup against Rousey. Most of the 33-year-old’s wins have come by virtue of her ability to control her opponent on the ground. On Saturday, it would behoove McMann to place Rousey on her back and work from the champion’s guard. In this fashion, she could neutralize Rousey’s legs while implementing some ground and pound at the same time—grinding out the win, Georges St-Pierre style.

Sara McMann goes for the takedown against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159
Sara McMann goes for the takedown against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, Ultimate Fighter 18 winner Julianna Pena believes that McMann’s chances of beating Rousey are high. According to Damon Martin of Fox Sports, the “Venezuelan Vixen” stated:

Wrestling beats Judo every single time. If there was a wrestler out there to do it, Sara McMann is the one to be able to put it into motion. She's a silver medalist in the Olympics and she's as good a wrestler as you're going to get, and she's as worthy a competitor and ready for this competition as anybody.  If anybody stands a chance at winning, it's Sara McMann because of her wrestling background.

However, to implement her own game plan, McMann must first avoid being judo tossed to her back and submitted soon thereafter. The latter is easier said than done, as Rousey has literally built a career off manhandling her opponents and defeating them, usually within the first round.



Sara McMann at UFC 159
Sara McMann at UFC 159Gregory Payan/Associated Press

McMann may, in fact, attempt to implement a strategy that no other fighter has sought to execute—out strike the champion.

For one reason or another, many fighters have chosen to grapple with Rousey, which has led to their demise. In that, adopting a Lyoto Machida-esque, stick-and-move type style may throw the champion off her game. If McMann keeps herself elusive, this would force the fight to remain on its feet. A five-round slugfest would definitely represent an “out-of-the-box” matchup for Rousey, given her affinity for heavy grappling.

In addition, a stand-up battle would grant McMann the opportunity to test Rousey’s chin. The champion has rarely taken a clean shot to the face, due to her eagerness to grapple with her opponent. If McMann is able to avoid Rousey’s vicious judo takedowns and physically insist that the matchup remain standing, this would more than likely increase the challenger’s chances of securing the bantamweight title at UFC 170.