By Jaime C. Feal
The women take center stage at UFC 170 in Las Vegas, as Ronda Rousey once again puts her Bantamweight title on the line, this time against undefeated challenger Sara McMann, who is also a former Olympic medalist like Rousey. The co-main event is a disappointing and uneven matchup, as undefeated Daniel Cormier drops to light heavyweight and takes on late replacement and former training partner Patrick Cummins. Also on the card are solid welterweight matchups between Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia, and Mike Pyle against T.J. Waldburger.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Rory MacDonald (15-2, 6-2 UFC) vs. Demian Maia (18-5, 12-5 UFC)
Rory MacDonald was once considered the future of the welterweight division, but has looked very ho-hum in his past two fights, losing a decision to Robbie Lawler and winning one of the most boring decisions in UFC history against Jake Ellenberger. Rory has not endeared himself to fans, or Dana White, with these performances, and his chance at a title shot is fading. MacDonald needs a statement win more than ever, and this fight is a great clash of styles.
Demian Maia is one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners to ever compete in the Octagon. His submission skills and transitions are the stuff of legends, and should the fight go to the mat Maia will severely test MacDonald’s ground game. The problem for Maia is how to get MacDonald down. Rory is the much bigger and stronger fighter, with better striking and wrestling, and he has the length and reach advantage over his Brazilian opponent. MacDonald has shown a propensity to simply keep the distance and out-strike his opponent, while avoiding takedowns, to win a decision victory.
This is actually the exact blueprint to beat Maia, but the question is whether MacDonald will stick to this strategy in the face of growing criticism and pressure to finish fights and be more exciting. If MacDonald gets reckless, Maia is one of the best at capitalizing on his opponent’s mistakes, but otherwise Rory should coast to a decision win with his skillset.
Prediction: Rory MacDonald wins by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Daniel Cormier (13-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Patrick Cummins (4-0, 0-0 UFC)
What was initially supposed to be a huge matchup between Rashad Evans and Cormier turned into this second-rate affair, with Patrick Cummins, an unknown, last-minute replacement getting the fight. Cummins trash-talked his way into the bout, saying that he broke Cormier when they used to be training partners and “made him cry.” Not much is known about Cummins other than he is a former two-time All-American wrestler who likes to push the pace. His handlers also allege over 40 opponents have ducked a fight against him.
Cormier is heated for this fight because of the trash-talk, and the fact he’s fighting with emotion is one of Cummins’ only chances, because talent-wise the gulf between these two is massive. Cormier is bigger, stronger, has heavier hands, and has way more elite experience. Cormier has faced huge names in Strikeforce and the UFC, and he trains with Cain Velasquez, one of the most dominant and talented fighters in the world. Cormier has passed all his tests with flying colors, and the only “test” in this fight is the fact that he is dropping weight and cut to the light heavyweight division. This fight should be a complete blowout, with the only remote possibility of a Cummins win being by Cormier completely gassing out because of the weight cut.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier wins by TKO, Round 2.
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship (135 lbs.):
Ronda Rousey (8-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Sara McMann (7-0, 1-0 UFC)
Two former Olympic medalists square off in a fight for the Women’s bantamweight title. Rousey has looked ultra-impressive in all her fights, running through the competition with a perfect blend of judo and jiu-jitsu. Rousey has finished all of her opponents by armbar, which shows how dominant she is, yet at the same time raises questions as to whether she is one-dimensional. All of her opponents know what she wants to do, yet they can’t stop her from doing it.
Rousey has been in trouble in the Octagon before: In her first title defense against Liz Carmouche she had her back taken and had to thwart off a rear-naked choke attempt. Nevertheless, her resiliency and tenacity has always seen her through, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which she doesn’t get the job done again. McMann, a silver medalist in Olympic freestyle wrestling, will be looking to take Rousey down and use her wrestling and top control to earn the win. The problem for McMann is that Rousey is so adept at rolling off her back and attacking the arm from any position, that merely going to the ground with her, whether on top or not, is an extremely dangerous proposition. Does McMann possess the requisite submission defense to avoid tapping to another Rousey armbar? Don’t bet on it.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins by submission (armbar), Round 2.