Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 170 Prediction: Sara McMann vs. Ronda Rousey

In recent fights Ronda Rousey has been an overwhelming favorite over her opponents. She opened as a -1500 favorite against Liz Carmouche and a -1100 favorite against Miesha Tate. Betting action dropped the line on both fights but for a point of reference, consider that Daniel Cormier opened at -1100 against the woefully overmatched Pat Cummins.

The betting public seems to have a lot more respect for Sara McMann’s chances. Rousey opened at -705 with McMann the underdog at +435, but action on McMann dropped the line all the way to where Rousey was -380 with McMann +260 at one point.

The advantage McMann has over anybody who has faced Rousey before is that she might be able to control the takedown game. McMann is a very accomplished amateur wrestler who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. In MMA McMann has landed 28 takedowns without her opponents taking her down at all. Not even Rousey can claim that she’s never been taken down – Miesha Tate took her down once in each of their two fights.

As a result I have to give McMann a slight advantage in the takedown game. It’s tough to tell exactly what will happen when McMann and Rousey engage in the clinch, but because both are outstanding athletes I have to consider it close to a 50-50 situation.

Here’s the problem for McMann: in MMA, the takedown matters less than what you do after the takedown. Let’s say for the sake of argument that McMann is able to dominate the takedown game, putting Rousey on her back whenever McMann wants. What then?

Well, despite all of McMann’s success in the takedown game, it hasn’t translated to much success in terms of submission offense. In fact, McMann is even with her opponents in submission attempts (2-2) despite the overwhelming advantage in takedowns.

Meanwhile, Rousey averages two submission attempts PER ROUND. While McMann is a fighter who tends to stay in her opponent’s guard and land strikes, Rousey is a fighter who is amazing at manipulating her opponent on the ground from almost any position. One thing is for sure – there is no way McMann will be able to simply grind out a decision with strikes from inside the guard. Instead, I expect Rousey to immediately threaten with submission attacks and sweeps.

Don’t take it from me. Check out this video from BJJ Scout on YouTube, highlighting some of McMann’s critical flaws on the ground. This video has been shared often and deservedly so as it illustrates how Rousey’s ground game is far beyond McMann’s:

McMann’s only realistic hope of winning this fight is to use her wrestling in reverse, to focus on keeping this fight standing in an attempt to defeat Rousey with strikes. But there are problems with this approach as well. McMann has shown herself to be a mediocre striker at best – in her win over Shayna Baszler, McMann ended up landing 61 significant strikes to Baszler’s 57 despite her takedown advantage. When the fight was standing Baszler arguably got the better of McMann.

McMann also doesn’t have significant knockout power – her one TKO win was due to strikes on the ground. So that leaves the question – can McMann defend ALL of Rousey’s takedown attempts, AND win a striking battle, AND do it for 25 minutes?

The most likely scenario here is that McMann does go for takedowns, because that’s what she’s done her entire life. She’s very unlikely to use a different fighting style now. If McMann lands the takedown, she will almost definitely be swept or submitted. If Rousey lands the takedown then McMann is in huge trouble immediately. In a fight that’s almost certain to come down to grappling, I don’t see how McMann defeats Rousey.

Pick: Ronda Rousey by submission


I was fortunate enough to place a bet on Rousey when she was at -390. I doubt that price will be available again. I’ve risked a large percentage of my bankroll – $11.70 to win $3.00. For this fight, I think it’s well worth it as I simply cannot imagine how McMann wins.


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