It’s a testament to the progression of women’s MMA that this week’s Invicta Fighting Championship 2 card is filled with a number of match-ups worthy of the title of “Fight of the Week.” Alas, only one fight gets the billing and it’s the night’s main event between veteran Shayna Baszler and wrestling stalwart Sara McMann.
The pair lock horns on Saturday, July 28, from Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. The 14-fight pro card will stream live on the promotion’s website.
Following the upstart organization’s first card, it was clear that Invicta was taking its matchmaking process seriously, and again that is evidenced by its second event. The Baszler-McMann fight is a grappler’s dream and is sure to provide a fan-friendly culmination to the event.
Let’s take a deeper look at the fight. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another.
First things first, neither of these women would ever consider themselves to be strikers in the purest form of the art. That aside, all fights start on the feet and there could be a few surprises in this bout.
As both fighters’ strengths lie on the mat, it’s not out of the question that a large portion of this fight could take place standing. Ultimately, this may be where the fight is won.
Baszler has succumbed to strikes in four of her six career losses, but those came at the hands of vaunted strikers such as Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos and Kelly Kobold. The fact that she went the distance with a technical striker in former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufman in her last defeat speaks volumes about toughness. Although she has only finished a fight once with strikes, the fact that she has been in nearly four times as many fights and faced tougher competition will be a huge factor in this fight.
For McMann, striking is an entirely new animal. After years on the wrestling mat and just over a year into her MMA career, her biggest goal on the feet is to find the holes in her opponents’ attacks and take the fight to the mat, where she is comfortable. It will be interesting to see if she employs the same strategy against Baszler, but due to her lack of experience, she’ll be at a disadvantage if the fight stays upright.
While neither fighter holds a significant edge in the striking department, Baszler carries a huge advantage over McMann in the area of submissions.
Of her 14 career wins, Baszler has forced a tapout on 12 occasions (she also has one submission due to strikes). And most of her submissions aren’t of the “garden” variety. Rather than attack with traditional moves, Baszler frequently uses modified attacks inspired by her catch-wrestling training with veteran heavyweight Josh Barnett. Long before the twister was made mainstream in the UFC, Baszler hit it twice in competition—in 2008 and 2010—and in multiple grappling matches. She also invented her own take on the kimura, dubbed the “Shwing,” which forced Roxanne Modafferi to submit. It’s not to say that she’ll pull another highlight-reel move against McMann, but be sure that if McMann makes a mistake or panics, Baszler has the tools to capitalize and end the fight.
McMann’s brief career has been impressive, but outside of her last fight with Hitomi Akano under the ProElite banner, she has not faced any significant submission threats. And Akano’s strengths lie in her ability to get the top position with her judo—something McMann easily neutralized with her wrestling. Against Baszler, she’ll face someone with much more experience and someone who is comfortable working off their back. McMann will have to stay calm and calculated if she wants to avoid the first blemish on her record.
For all the accolades and advantages that Baszler has in the submission department, McMann may surpass those skills on the wrestling mat.
Baszler’s grappling skills certainly include a strong wrestling game, but don’t expect her to shoot for a double-leg takedown in this fight. Undoubtedly, she’d love to get the top position and make McMann uncomfortable, but she’ll likely have to get there with a sweep or scramble rather than a takedown.
In terms of pure wrestling skill, there are very few women on the planet who can hang with the former Olympian McMann. The 2004 freestyle silver medalist has used her extensive experience to propel her to victory in all five of her professional bouts to date. Her top control has been smothering, as evidenced by her complete domination of the aforementioned Akano.
It would be silly to think this fight won’t hit the mat. The question is, what happens when it goes there? McMann’s top control has looked top-notch thus far in her career, but with only five fights under her belt, how much stock can be put into that?
Baszler’s experience advantage could prove to be the difference. If this fight is to avoid the scorecards, it will likely come via a submission from the “Queen of Spades.”
Verdict: The edge, however slight it might be, goes to the veteran Baszler. While McMann could very well score with repeated takedowns and avoid submissions for 15 minutes, she is still very raw as a fighter. Against a dangerous (and creative) ground ace like Baszler, that’s a recipe for disaster. Expect Baszler to catch McMann with a second-round triangle choke and hand her the first blemish on her record.
Top Photo: Shayna Baszler (R) looks for a kick (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)