Fighting is one of the oldest -- if not the oldest -- sports known to man. Many different ancient civilizations have documented two athletes squaring off in some form of combat for sport. Over time, combat sports have evolved to include different fighting styles and martial arts, some of which have become more prominent than others. Wrestling and Judo are two of the better known martial arts, and have consistently created interesting matchups when set against each other. At UFC 170, the MMA world will get another rendition of the ageless story of a great wrestler attempting to defeat a great Judo player when Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann meet in the Octagon.
In their fifteen professional fights, neither Rousey nor McMann has tasted defeat. The two Olympic medalists have used their previous areas of expertise to carve up all the opposition that has been placed in front of them to this point. That exact fact makes this fight so captivating that fans and experts alike are having a hard time picking who is going to come out on top in Saturday's main event.
Looking at the statistics provided by Fight Metric one will see that there are some parallels, but also some very stark differences in how these two athletes approach their competition.
McMann has been a takedown machine in her professional career. In her last five fights she's amassed 28 takedowns in 13 rounds of action. That equates to a little more than two takedowns per round. She's finished two of those opponents during that time: Sheila Gaff at UFC 159 via knockout and Raquel Pa'aluhi by keylock submission. These numbers show that McMann can get takedowns nearly at will and doesn't stop even if her opponents continue to scramble back to their feet. Once she does take opponents to the ground, her wrestling has been able to overpower them to the point that it seems she can control them no matter how they fight back.
Rousey has also shown the ability to score with takedowns, but her numbers show a completely different story. Rousey has 12 takedowns in her last five fights. However, when the fight hits the ground, more often than not, Rousey's one takedown leads to an eventual submission. In fact, only one person – Meisha Tate – has been able to fend the armbar off, and Tate is the only competitor to take Ronda to the ground herself. In addition, Rousey averages six submission attempts per 15 minutes, which is third all-time among UFC fighters with at least five fights.
There are a lot of questions that will only be answered once these two women enter the cage.
First, what style of takedowns will McMann employ in an attempt to get Rousey to the canvas? Alhough she hit a perfectly-timed double leg against Gaff in their fight, most of her takedowns have come from the clinch tie up, even during her Olympic run; it's clear that that’s where she enjoys setting up her attacks. That plays into Rousey's Judo game of being able to use her leverage to toss opponents. Tate was able to take Rousey down by hitting well-timed double legs, and McMann can duplicate that ability; however, those same attacks put Tate in very bad positions when Rousey was able to turn the momentum against her. McMann could employ single legs using outside or low angles, but those styles of takedowns haven't been a part of her MMA game to this point.
Second, we've seen in the past that when competitors of equal takedown abilities face off, they often negate each other, leaving them to contest the fight with strikes. McMann has landed punches that have left opponents stunned and open for her wrestling attacks. She has the power to hurt any woman, and Rousey has been tagged by those who are willing to stay technical with their strikes. Rousey wasn't known for her striking skills, but showed a vast improvement in the second fight against Tate, where she outgunned the former champion by a very large margin.
Third, what happens when this fight hits the floor? McMann's wrestling has thus far been able to stifle any submission attempts that have come her way. To this point, we've only seen one fighter put Rousey on her back, but even then she was still looking for her patented arm bar. Across five rounds, will McMann be able to avoid Rousey’s active guard while staying busy enough in her own right to convince the judges?
The term “world class” is thrown around all too often in the world of mixed martial arts. However, both McMann and Rousey have earned the right to be considered among the best in the world at their specialties. When they meet in the Octagon at UFC 170, not only will the women's bantamweight championship be on the line; so will bragging rights between two of the most well-known martial arts in the sport.