Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in women's MMA with no other fighter registering on the radar as a comparison. UFC President Dana White has gone so far as to say the women's bantamweight champion is the biggest star to come along in the 20-year history of the promotion, which is a debatable claim, as Rowdy's pay-per-view numbers haven't broken the marks of past monsters in the same category.
Nevertheless, the former Olympic judoka is the biggest thing rolling on the current landscape of MMA. Between the movie roles pouring in and her ability to capture media headlines with her polarizing public persona, the 27-year-old Californian has continued to add substance to her swagger as she's steamrolled every opponent placed across from her inside the cage.
Anytime a fighter's career trajectory has blasted into the atmosphere, worthy challenges are required to keep climbing. Due to the WMMA phenom's dominance, the pool of potential threats to Rousey's crown is thin, but the UFC tapped the one fighter many believed had the skills—and elite-level credentials—to possible dethrone the superstar.
On Saturday night, former freestyle wrestling Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann stepped into the Octagon at UFC 170 on a mission to stop what had been up until that point an unstoppable force. While McMann's experience inside the cage fell on the greener side of things, her time spent competing at a world-class level was supposed to be enough of a primer to prepare her for the biggest showcase of her young MMA career.
McMann seemed to be the only viable threat on Rousey's radar for the foreseeable future and the biggest threat the bantamweight queen had encountered thus far in her career. Where their respective grappling credentials were the focus coming into the bout, that aspect of their skill sets never came into play.
Both women came out firing punches and continued to trade even as the action hit the cage. As McMann attempted to tie Rousey up, the champion landed a left knee to the liver that put the No. 1 contender on the canvas and forced referee Herb Dean to jump in and stop the fight. Despite a questionable stoppage, Rousey picked up her ninth consecutive victory and notched the third successful defense of her UFC bantamweight title.
Outside of the main event showcase, the other big fight on the card for UFC 170 was supposed to be a fight with heavy title implications in the 205-pound ranks between Rashad Evans and former heavyweight contender-turned-light heavyweight Daniel Cormier.
Unfortunately, two weeks before the event went down, Suga was forced out of the bout with a devastating knee injury. This left DC without an opponent and threatened to make his drastic cut down to the 205-pound limit all for naught.
After the former Olympian begged the UFC to stay on the card, the promotion tapped prospect Patrick Cummins—who was working at a coffee house at the time of the call—into action to fill the void in the co-main event. Where a matchup between a high-profile fighter and an unknown could have easily turned fans off the fight, a murky history between the two from their wrestling days was enough to spark a swell of interest.
The two fighters traded barbs in the days leading up, including a shove from Cormier at the pre-fight press conference. While those antics were solid notches in the promotional buildup, those moments served as a cloud to the reality of the situation.
Cormier, a top-ranked undefeated fighter who had looked like a beast in his previous 11 fights, was about to step into the Octagon against a prospect with a 4-0 record who had never competed with a major promotion.
The fight business is certainly rooted in the entertainment business, but once the referee steps aside and the business commences, the truth always shows through. And it took one minute and 19 seconds for that truth to arrive in the co-main event.
Cormier rocked Cummins with an uppercut in their second exchange and kept the pressure on full tilt until the referee jumped in to wave off the beating. In scoring the stoppage victory, Cormier picked up his first win in the light heavyweight division and kept his hopes of a future title opportunity alive.
Where the two big fights on the card took care of generating the buzz for UFC 170, there were a handful of tilts on the lineup that had the potential to bring the ruckus. Those fights may have been lacking heat in the lead-up, but they absolutely delivered on fight night. Several prospects had impressive showings, and a potential title contender could have very well kicked open the doors to a championship opportunity.
Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC 170.
It is difficult to find the right word to describe Ronda Rousey's status in the fight world, but superstar will have to do for now.
The women's bantamweight champion has elevated beyond the statuses enjoyed by even the biggest names in combat sports and has shown zero signs of her ascension dipping any time soon. Where the biggest names on the men's side of the fight game make headlines when they grab a Nike endorsement, Rousey is snagging high-profile gigs in major Hollywood action-film franchises and is a constant presence on a multitude of covers on magazine racks everywhere.
While her star power is reaching megawatt status outside the cage, it is directly tied to what she has been able to do thus far in her career when competing inside the Octagon.
On Saturday night, the former Olympian was faced with her toughest test to date in fellow medalist Sara McMann, and the 27-year-old solved that puzzle in rapid-fire fashion. After a few solid exchanges where both women found a home for their power, Rousey put McMann's back against the cage and went to work.
The champion threw a mixed bag of strikes at the challenger before a well-placed knee to the liver put McMann on the canvas. While referee Herb Dean's stoppage was questionable, it doesn't take away from the skills Rousey displayed en route to the victory.
Upon stopping McMann in the first round to secure her third successful title defense, the victory casts a large shadow of doubt as to whether or not there is a fighter on the UFC's women's bantamweight division roster who can stop her.
Three fights into her run as the UFC champion and no one has come remotely close, and it could very well be a long time before anyone ever does. Plus, Hollywood could end up stealing her away before we ever get a chance to find out.
Daniel Cormier dropping down to light heavyweight to make a run at Jon Jones and his title immediately generated buzz when the former Olympian announced his plan in 2013. The volume on that buzz was turned up when the UFC announced the former heavyweight contender would be facing former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in his first showing in his new weight class.
Things would ultimately take a sharp turn south when Evans was forced to pull out of the fight with an injury and was replaced by Patrick Cummins—an unsigned fighter who was working at a coffee shop when the UFC came to call.
While there were sparks that flew and bad blood pumped through the matchup in the 10 days they had to promote the tilt, the painful truth of the matter came in the pairing between an elite-level title contender and a prospect who was by and large out of work.
The promotional machine spun a web to project previous training experiences between the two made Cummins a live dog in the fight, but when the cage door closed, it didn't take long for reality to set in.
The Louisiana native did what he was supposed to do in such a situation and dispatched Cummins in quick fashion. The AKA-trained fighter wobbled his opponent with an uppercut during their second exchange, then turned up the intensity to finish the fight shortly after to get his first official victory in the light heavyweight division.
While defeating Cummins isn't going to launch Cormier to the front of the line at 205, it certainly served several purposes. He's had a rough track record with cutting weight in the past, and for Cormier to make the weight and perform like a beast will only add to his confidence as his journey through the light heavyweight ranks goes forward.
There aren't too many fighters who have come along in the current era of mixed martial arts who have generated the type of expectation Rory MacDonald created. The talented young Canadian burst onto the UFC stage at 21 years old and made an immediate impact by notching victories in six of his first seven outings.
That said, a lackluster showing in his win over Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 8 and then his split-decision loss to Robbie Lawler in his next outing had the Tristar fighter suddenly leaning toward limbo in the welterweight ranks.
The 24-year-old was determined to get things back on track and did so in a big way by defeating submission ace Demian Maia on Saturday night.
While the Brazilian was able to get the fight to the ground and control the action for the first round, MacDonald fired back strong in the second and had Maia in serious trouble. While the former middleweight title challenger had a brief moment of success in the third by scoring a takedown, Ares was able to get back to his feet quickly and return to racking up damage on his opponent.
Defeating a talented fighter of Maia's caliber is certainly a nice feather for his cap, but the type of performance MacDonald rolled out while doing so was exactly what he needed on multiple levels. Not only does the win put him back in the hunt for the welterweight title, but the return of his aggression and killer instinct will also have the other fighters at 170 in no hurry to see him inside the cage.
Raphael Assuncao has been on fire since dropping down to the bantamweight division.
The Atlanta-based fighter had won all five of his showings at 135 pounds coming into Saturday night's tilt against Pedro Munhoz—a run that made him a major player in the bantamweight title picture. The Brazilian veteran needed both a victory and a strong showing to land a shot against bantamweight champion and phenom Renan Barao, and he absolutely showed up to handle business at UFC 170.
With both fighters having solid credentials in the ground-game department, the action played out largely on the feet, where Assuncao's power and counterstriking made the difference.
The 31-year-old landed clean when he got off first, then switched to a southpaw stance and took advantage of the openings that change created. At the end of the three-round tilt, Assuncao picked up his sixth consecutive victory and a took a big stride toward a potential title shot.
His winning streak is double what any other bantamweight outside of Barao is currently sitting on, and Assuncao could very well see a championship opportunity in his next outing.
Another fighter who put herself closer to a title shot at UFC 170 is Alexis Davis. The Canadian grappler battled back from a rough start to take the split-decision victory over Jessica Eye in the final bout on the preliminary portion of the card. The Cleveland native was able to find success with her striking in the first round, but the tides turned when Davis was able to take the fight to the ground in the second and third frames.
With the win, Davis has found success in six consecutive showings and has been victorious in eight of her last nine. The caliber of this run, mixed with the current state of the women's bantamweight division, could certainly put Davis in position to become the next title challenger.
Mike Pyle may be 38 years old, but he's still adding new weapons to his skill set. Quicksand utilized a few of those new moves as he battered TJ Waldburger and finished the 25-year-old Texan in the third round of their tilt.
With both men being savvy ground specialists, the majority of the fight took place on the feet, where Pyle peppered Waldburger with a mixture of punches, knees and a well-timed spinning elbow.
While the victory puts Pyle back into the win column for the first time since his loss to Matt Brown at Fight Night 26 back in August, it makes him successful in five of his last six outings since 2011.
After racking up an impressive 57-0 record in kickboxing, Stephen Thompson came to the UFC with a fair amount of buzz attached to his name. While Wonderboy scored a highlight-reel knockout in his debut, a loss to Matt Brown in his next outing cooled off the heat surrounding him.
The South Carolina native has responded to that setback by notching three consecutive victories, the most recent of which came at the expense of Robert Whittaker on Saturday night.
It took less than a full round for Thompson to score the knockout over the TUF: Smashes winner and—in doing so—further legitimize his place on the UFC's welterweight roster.
The flyweight division is struggling to find title contenders, and Zach Makovsky took a big step toward the upper tier of the 125-pound fold on Saturday night.
Fun Size picked up his second victory under the UFC banner by defeating Josh Sampo via unanimous decision in a fight where he controlled the action every step of the 15-minute affair.
The win over Sampo is the 30-year-old's fourth consecutive victory and will guarantee his next opponent will come from the top tier of the flyweight division.
While he may not have pulled off the explosive performance he was touted to bring, promotional newcomer Aljamain Sterling showed promise in his victory over Cody Gibson.
The Serra-Longo-trained fighter had solid buzz surrounding him coming into the fight and was able to showcase his skills en route to the unanimous-decision victory.
By defeating Simpson, the New York-based fighter picked up his ninth consecutive win and kept his undefeated record intact.
After a tough stretch where he fell out of featherweight title contention on back-to-back losses, Erik Koch put the brakes on his skid at UFC 170.
The New Breed made a successful lightweight debut by stopping Rafaello Oliveira in the first round of their tilt on the preliminary portion of the card and looked impressive every step of the way.
With the victory, the 25-year-old picked up his first win since September 2011 and brought what had been a drastic fall from grace to a halt.
It has been a tough run for Jessica Eye as of late.
After coming out on the winning end of a three-round barnburner in her debut against Sarah Kaufman at UFC 166 back in October, the Ohio native has experienced some turbulence on her career path. She was praised for the heart and determination she showed against the former Strikeforce champion in Houston, but her win was ultimately overturned to a "no contest" after Eye failed her post-fight drug test.
Eye wasn't suspended for the infraction, which was ultimately what allowed her to face Alexis Davis at UFC 170.
While a failed drug test is damaging to a fighter's profile, Eye made things worse for herself by going on Ariel Helwani's MMA Hour and lying about the situation. The backlash from the situation eliminated any momentum she had built, and Eye was looking to get things back to positive when she stepped in against Davis.
While she was able to land some solid shots in the opening round, the 27-year-old was outclassed by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt when the fight hit the mat. Davis was able to control her in the second and third rounds, and that tipped the balance on the judges' scorecards.
Where one loss inside the Octagon isn't going to make her irrelevant in the women's bantamweight division, when coupled with the public relations nightmare that followed her victory being overturned, it puts Eye at the bottom of the big hill she will have to climb if she wants to get back in the title picture.
Demian Maia won't have anything to hang his head about following his scrap with Rory MacDonald, but a second consecutive loss at welterweight will put the title shot he's been chasing out of the picture for the foreseeable future.
After a failed attempt at the middleweight crown and experiencing mixed results in the aftermath, the Brazilian grappling ace decided to drop down into welterweight waters.
The choice proved to be the right one, as the 36-year-old was successful in his first three showings at 170 pounds and put himself on the title radar in quick fashion. He was within striking distance of a championship opportunity until a split-decision loss to Jake Shields back in October knocked him off course.
He needed a victory over Rory MacDonald at UFC 170 if he wanted to keep his title hopes alive. Unfortunately, that wasn't in the cards. The Tristar standout was able to stuff the majority of Maia's takedowns and rack up points when the two men traded on their feet. The end result was a unanimous decision in MacDonald's favor, and Maia was handed his second consecutive loss.
While there is no doubt Maia is one of the most talented fighters in the welterweight ranks, the title race at 170 pounds has opened up in 2014 with Georges St-Pierre vacating the belt he held for so long. The current state of affairs in the welterweight division leaves no room for error, and the loss to MacDonald will push Maia to the back of the division's upper tier.
The hair style sported by newcomer Yosdenis Cedeno when he stepped in to face Ernest Chavez was easily the worst in recent memory and made a strong case for the dubious honor of worst ever to be showcased inside the Octagon. It appeared as if the Floridian had started out on a mohawk but changed courses somewhere along the way, then for good measure decided to add an arrow or a bird on the side.
I'm still not entirely sure what was going on up top for Cedeno, but confusion aside, it certainly warranted inclusion in this category.
Finally, I've never been one to jump on the early-stoppage bandwagon, but the fashion in which the main event between Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann ended bears a mention in this category.
While the knee Rousey planted on McMann's liver certainly did damage and dropped the former Olympian to the ground, it hardly served to finish her off from a fighting perspective. McMann was getting up when referee Herb Dean stepped in to wave off the fight, and the challenger shot him a clear-eyed look of disbelief in return.
While McMann dropping from the knee was certainly a bad look, Dean rushing in took away her chance to fight her way out of it. A referee is inside the cage for the purpose of fighter safety, but McMann seemed far from out of it in that moment.
Dean—who is heralded as one of the best officials in the fight game—had just allowed TJ Waldburger to take a great deal of punishment as the Texan attempted to work his way out of trouble three fights prior to the main event in a fight between two men fighting for position in the top 20 of the welterweight division.
McMann was competing for a world title with life-changing implications on the line, and Dean didn't show a quarter of the patience he exercised in the previous fight he officiated. Nevertheless, railing against things of this nature is pointless, but it would have been nice to see the fight play out in a more definitive fashion.
It is possible I'm alone or standing with very few, but it felt like there was a lack of promotion for UFC 170. While the card was far from stacked in comparison to recent events and a few on the docket ahead, the lineup still featured a few of the top-ranked fighters in the world, the most notable of which being WMMA superstar Ronda Rousey.
Granted, losing former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans to injury was a big blow, as it took the second-biggest name on the billing off the card, but there were still some big opportunities to push.
With the Winter Olympics dominating the sports landscape, the angle of having two former medalists in the main event between the women's bantamweight champion and Sara McMann could have been blasted to tiresome levels. The UFC certainly included that information in their commercials, and various media outlets explored the connection, but it ultimately became just another detail in the lead-up.
With both fighters coming into the tilt unbeaten in their professional careers, the undefeated angle could have been shouted from the rooftops as well.
Prior to Saturday night, Rousey had shredded eight consecutive opponents and become not only a UFC champion, but also a certified star in just shy of three years. While McMann hadn't captured anywhere near the magnitude of attention the champion has claimed, she had built a solid record by emerging victorious in seven consecutive showings over a two-and-a-half year period.
Again, these details were absolutely mentioned in the promotional buildup, but the amount of volume dedicated to them seemed a bit off. UFC President Dana White touts Rowdy as the biggest star under the UFC banner, and Saturday night's main event felt noticeably quieter than recent high-profile cards topped by other UFC superstars.
The bout with McMann was supposed to be the toughest challenge of Rousey's career, but it lacked that overall "big fight" feel that comes with events that are "can't miss." Whether that is a symptom of too many events in a small window or a card top-heavy with recognizable names, the lead-up to UFC 170 felt like it was lacking in some areas.
Whether or not there is truth in that sentiment will be a difficult thing to accurately gauge, but the pay-per-view estimates that come out next week will be a good indicator. With the UFC being a privately owned company, it doesn't make the exact numbers public, but estimates on the number of buys always make their way out.
The circumstances affecting the card put the lion's share of the weight on Rousey's shoulders, and we'll see how big of a draw she truly is in the next few days.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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