Only one year ago, the socially dynamic “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey made her UFC debut after having already been crowned the first UFC women’s bantamweight champ. In fact, she was the first female UFC champ of any kind. That fight, at UFC 157, saw Rousey go up against Liz Carmouche, a dominating fighter who was 8-2 at the time. Many felt Carmouche was one of the top female fighters in the world, although possibly not the No. 1 contender.

When the Rousey-Carmouche match-up was first announced in late 2012, there was a lot of banter surrounding the choice of opponent for Rousey’s UFC debut. Undefeated by first-round armbar in her first six fights, Rousey seemed a logical mismatch with Carmouche, who had most of her wins by TKO and wasn’t really known as a dominant submission grappler. That being said, Rousey was known as an outspoken, young, physically attractive girl and Carmouche was the lesser-known, openly gay ex-Marine. It was an easy decision for the UFC’s marketing department.

One of the biggest career credentials that Rousey brings to the table is her experience as an Olympic judoka. In the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the California native won one of two bronze medals, becoming the first American woman to win a medal in judo at the Olympic games. Bringing her fourth dan black belt in judo to the MMA arena was easy, but she’s not the only Olympic medalist in women’s professional MMA.

Sara McMann won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and she continued to work towards a gold medal in the Pan-American Games in 2007. Now a professional mixed martial artist, McMann has racked up a nice 7-0 record, including a TKO of German knockout artist Sheila Gaff in her UFC debut last April.

A lot of people felt that the undefeated McMann deserved that first shot at Rousey for the bantamweight strap last year, but the Zuffa brass was trying to sell fights and fair was not the first order of business. One year later, the pairing is unavoidable.

UFC 170 takes place Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, and the fight that should’ve happened a year ago is finally coming to fruition. Rousey and McMann will meet for the first time. Two women walk in undefeated in their pro careers, and only one will walk out the champ. Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Rousey – 10, McMann – 10

Every fight starts standing, but all of Rousey’s fights end on the ground. The majority of McMann’s fights end on the ground, too, and the ones that went the distance also spent a lot of time there.

Regardless of what their trainers think, neither of these ladies is a very dominant force standing, but they do enough to get the fight where they need it to go. When it comes to striking, they are both sufficient, but not stellar. McMann has gone the distance and has the striking to make a dent. Rousey looked the best she’s ever looked against Miesha Tate less than two months ago, but she still needed the armbar to secure a win.

On the feet, this fight may seem scrappy, but neither of these girls is at a point where one will put on a striking clinic. Striking is a toss-up on Saturday night.

Submission Grappling: Rousey – 10, McMann – 9

Neither Rousey nor McMann prefer to stay vertical. So, now is the time to look at the ground, and this fight could be there until the end. The question is: when will that be?

It’s clearly no secret to anyone that Rousey has finished all but one fight by first-round armbar. She’s a fourth dan, an Olympic-level judoka, and her mother was the first-ever American to win at the World Judo Championships, earning a gold in 1984. Although sport judo does not include many submissions, the art form does, and Rousey has the juji gatame armbar down to a guarantee. This may be the only arsenal she has truly displayed in MMA, but no one can ignore the perfect record that it has brought to her.

McMann carries a much different discipline. She is a wrestler who basically came into the sport that way. However, prior to beginning her pro MMA career, she began competing in submission-grappling tournaments. The Maryland native has won gold medals at various levels and a silver medal at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club North American Championships in 2011. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near the type of competition that Rousey has faced and defeated throughout her life.

McMann is no slouch on the ground, but in pure submission grappling, it is difficult to put any female fighter above Rousey right now.

Wrestling: Rousey – 9, McMann – 10

Rousey may be the reigning submission queen, but McMann has a brutal attack on the ground. Her strong attack arises from her Olympic-level wrestling. Even against the relentless submission attempts of Shayna Baszler, McMann just bulldozed through her opponent with calculated brute force. Rousey has not faced this level of competition yet.

Rousey is not a wrestler at all. She does carry a level of standing wrestling in her judo skills, but on the ground, nobody ever sees the California native throwing her hips forward and controlling her opponents from the top. Obviously, her dominant grappling skills have led her training toward filling the biggest gap in her game—striking. Wrestling has taken a pretty dominant back-burner role, as Rousey feels she can snag anyone’s arm on the ground.

Quality wrestling is the one game that no lady has been able to really bring to Rousey, at least not like McMann can. If there’s one saving grace and possible complete game-changer in this fight, it’s McMann’s wrestling.

Aggressiveness: Rousey – 10, McMann – 9

Rousey has something going on that arises out of her perceived immaturity. However, unlike the show that people like Felice Herrig put on, Rousey’s super catty-girl attitude persists to the final round and beyond. Although this attitude may be judged quite heavily, it seems to work for her. She is mean and aggressive, and she wants to win and win dominantly. There is a big difference here.

McMann is not a very explosively aggressive fighter like Rousey, but she is more of a grinder. This may be a problem when Rousey comes out ready to bang. McMann is extremely tough, but she doesn’t explode, and when Rousey tries to push the pace, the wrestler might get caught off-guard.

Stamina: Rousey – 10, McMann – 10

McMann’s stamina could never be in question. She has Olympic-level wrestler conditioning and has taken part in a couple of fights that went to a decision. Against Baszler, she never looked winded.

Rousey is a question mark, but for all the wrong reasons. One of the biggest problems with MMA pundits is that they think the world starts with a MMA career. Although judo conditioning and weight cuts may not be as extreme as the old wrestling folklore, what they’re training for is very similar. Judokas fight in tournaments, just like wrestlers. This means they have to face multiple opponents in one day. Rousey may have finished all of her opponents in the first round up until her last fight, but she went into the third round in her rematch with Tate on Dec. 28, 2013. It’s just icing on the cake that she took her McMann fight on less than two months’ notice.

Both fighters could go five rounds, no problem. With these deep gas tanks, this fight could easily go the distance.

X-factor

Frankly, the x-factor in this fight is the fighter mentality. This is the first time Rousey has faced another Olympic medalist in MMA. Recent buzz would lead one to believe that wrestling rules in MMA, but Rousey has done nothing but prove different. In a way, she’s the female version of the old Royce Gracie, with fewer moves. McMann is a brawler, though, and she’s not going to be scared of the armbar. She will be looking for a way to win, because that’s how she competes. This could make Rousey’s game plan more difficult to achieve than ever.

Total: Rousey – 49, McMann – 48

Verdict: It’s becoming almost cliché to vote for Rousey anymore, but her head coach recently alluded to her ability to find any arm, and it’s really hard to argue with that. McMann has a tremendous game and she can compete with Rousey both standing and wrestling, but, at the end of the day, she has committed some major errors in recent fights and nobody can sleep on Rousey and win. Rousey may get bulldogged to the ground, but she will get that arm and win.

Rousey by armbar in the championship rounds to retain the UFC women’s bantamweight title.

  • BJJudo

    C’mon, you’re writing: “Although sport judo does not include submissions, the art form does,” And you even claim you have previous training in judo! In London 2012 Olympic judo final was won by choking a competitor unconcious. Various chokes and armlocks are an intergral part of the sport of judo and they are used in every competition and at every level (except young children).

  • JT

    Sport Judo most certainly has submissions in it. Ronda even won a match by arm bar in the 2008 Olympics.

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  • Author

    I appreciate the feedback, but the comment was that “sport judo does not include MANY submissions”. Having previously trained in the art, I’m very aware that judo includes submissions.

  • Kevin

    Sport judo does not have many submissions? When olympic champion judoka Yoshida choked Bjj and UFC legend Royce Gracie out he was using basic judo techniques he had practised for winning the Olympics, not “judo art” techniques.

    Bjj and submission wrestling do not have so many subs of their own, most of them are straigt from judo. There aren’t leglocks allowed in competition judo, but virtually all the subs that win a lot or Bjj fights are also used to win judo fights. The subs that you can’t use in judo competition (belt chokes, wristlocks and such) are not winning so many Bjj fights either let alone MMA fights. The only real thing limiting judo sub game is the limited time the referee allows for getting the sub. That’s why judo submissions are particularly fast in transition and very agressive.

    About judo, wrestling and MMA. Wrestling is a little overrated in the USA. In a world scale judo is bigger and more competitive sport, both men and women. There are many wrestlers that do well in UFC but that’s mainly due the fact that UFC is not that intresting in the rest of the world, particularly Europe and Asia, where judo is huge. When Greek judo olympic champ and superstar Ilias Iliadis was asked about Ronda Rousey’s MMA career he did not know anything about it. He said he likes watching a good MMA fight on TV but does not know any MMA fighters by name… The sports minister of France is judoka, David Doulliet. Vladimir Putin is former judo competitor and a diehard supporter of the sport. Judo is on a different level compared to the UFC. For judo players UFC is not that intresting as it may seem looking from the us.

  • Author

    Here is the phrase that seems to be in question: “Although sport judo does not include many submissions, the art form does, and Rousey has the juji gatame armbar down to a guarantee.”

    First off, the reference to “not include many” means that there is a low volume of submission attempts in Olympic (aka “sport”) judo, which is largely due to time constraints before being stood back up. That is a fact, plain and simple. Also, of all the techniques that the art of judo teaches, moves like leglocks, most blood/air chokes, and certain joint locks are all illegal in Olympic judo, so there is a limited number of techniques available, which Kevin alluded to. Also, judo consists of three types of techniques, nage waza (throwing), katame-waza (grappling), and atemi-waza (striking). Olympic judo doesn’t even allow for half of what a high-level judoka like Rousey would have learned in acheiving the 4th dan black belt.

    As for Kevin’s comments about judo on a global scale, I couldn’t agree more. I studied judo and have been through Jigoro Kano’s book several times. For those who don’t know, Kano is the father of Kodokan judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, who brought judo to Brazil, where it was misinterpreted as “jiu-jitsu”, was a 7th dan Kodokan black belt under Kano. So, what was brought to Brazil, and taught to Carlos Gracie and Luiz Franca, was straight-up judo. Nearly all of the techniques utilized in BJJ are straight out of Kano’s judo teachings.
    As for the comments made by BJJudo and JT, obviously that was a misread.

  • BJJudo

    The trend in international judo is towards allowing more time to fight on the ground, which is good. There is more than enough chokes and locks allowed in the judo rulebook, just google Flavio Canto or Katsuhiro Kashiwazaki to see stuff you might not see even in Bjj competition.

    It is very rare that I perform a submission of get subbed by a technique that is not allowed in judo contests when I’m sparring in a bjj-class. Triangle, jujigatame, kimura, americana, ezekiel, rnc, collar chokes, the everyday stuff that works best in bjj also works best in judo like it has always been and it’s compeletely legal in competition.

    Btw “olympic judo” is a misleading term. There is only one judo rulebook that is followed in every judo contest around the world. Judo is very uniform (the only exceptions are kosen university judo of Japan if it still exists and now emerging “freestyle judo” which is a really small phenomenon)

    Also google “ne waza in international judo” to see how submissions are done faster than Ronda does.

  • BJJudo

    And yes I skipped the MANY word, sorry for that, but I wouldn’t underestimate the subbing capabilities of any olympic level judo athlete.