Ronda Rousey (top) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The MMA Corner Round Table: UFC 170 Kyle Symes February 19, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight The UFC heads to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas for UFC 170. The scheduled headliner is a women’s bantamweight title fight between reigning champ Ronda Rousey and Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann. The undefeated Rousey has won all of her MMA fights by armbar. McMann is also undefeated and is coming off a TKO victory over Sheila Gaff in her UFC debut. The co-main event of the evening was originally scheduled to feature Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier. However, an injury to Evans forced him off the card and promotional newcomer Patrick Cummins has stepped in to fill the void. Cummins immediately got the trash talk going, and the fight has become an impromptu grudge match. Cormier will be making his light heavyweight debut after competing as a heavyweight during his professional MMA career. Also on the card is a pivotal welterweight contest between Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia. Both are coming off losses and will be looking to re-establish themselves as title contenders at the other’s expense. Mike Pyle and TJ Waldburger will square off in a match-up of two guys who desperately need a win to stay relevant in the division. Welterweights Robert Whittaker and Stephen Thompson will kick off the action at UFC 170. The preliminary card gets underway at 7 p.m. ET with two fights streamed on UFC Fight Pass. The festivities move to Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET for the remaining four preliminary bouts, then it’s off to pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET for the five-fight main card. The MMA Corner’s Dan Kuhl, Gregory Chase and Kyle Symes break down the entire card in this edition of the Round Table. WW: Stephen Thompson (8-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (11-3) Kuhl: The UFC hit the nail on the head with a great match-up to kick off the main card. Karate and kickboxing expert Stephen Thompson, at 31 years old, is easily one of the most technically talented strikers not only in the welterweight division, but in all on MMA. If anybody remembers the days of the World Combat League, he was the guy, ranked No. 1 in the entire league. At 6-foot tall, he throws kicks that make him look as tall as Stefan Struve and cover a ton of distance with really long, strong legs. His accuracy is at the highest level, mirroring a 100 percent Anderson Silva in a lot of ways. Robert Whittaker, a 23-year-old Aussie, has a big future ahead and is more of a power striker than a precision guy. He has a very odd, technically flawed hand position, where he keeps his right hand high on his right cheek, but lets his left hand hang as low as possible, pointing straight down at the ground. Whittaker’s odd striking style yields some nasty connections that carry a lot of heat, which he showcased in his complete destruction of Colton Smith, who is traditionally not considered a great striker. Whittaker’s background is essentially in pure MMA, so he displays a wide range of techniques, but he prefers to keep the fight standing. Against Smith, he also displayed some good takedown defense and scrambling skills, but he avoided spending too much time on the ground. The Australian fighter has power and skill, but Thompson’s last fight with Chris Clements tells a pretty similar story of how this fight should go. Clements has a black belt in taekwondo, but is a shorter, stockier fighter with good power. Thompson, who has black belts in kempo karate and kickboxing, displayed tremendous wrestling and ground skills before eventually knocking out Clements early in round two. That will likely be the outcome for Whittaker. Whittaker is not long enough to be able to effectively deal with Thompson’s reach. The elder fighter has also trained with Nate Marquardt, Georges St-Pierre, Dan Hardy and other big-name guys at Tristar gym with Firas Zahabi, so it will be very difficult for Whittaker to bring anything Thompson hasn’t seen. Thompson should take this one handily by a second-round TKO. Chase: Whittaker is a pretty well-rounded fighter with more fights under his belt, but Thompson is the better fighter in this one. Thompson’s striking has been his strength, specifically his kicks, and he will certainly continue to use them in this fight. It is important to note that Whittaker hasn’t been knocked out before. He holds the advantage when it comes to submissions, but lately his wins have been a result of his hands. However, if he decides to go that route, he may very well be walking into the kickboxing nightmare that Thompson brings. Thompson will utilize his kickboxing to issue Whittaker his first knockout loss, and he’ll look flashy while doing so. Symes: The difference in this fight, as Dan pointed out, will be Thompson’s length. He knows how to control distance and utilize his striking skills to hit at range, which will undoubtedly help him against Whittaker. To beat Thompson, you’re either going to have to be a very good “push the pace” type of fighter or very good at grappling. I don’t know if Whittaker can be said to be either of those things. Given the martial arts background of both of these guys, the striking exchanges could be pretty interesting. The more polished striker will not have to deal with a stellar ground assault from Whittaker, and that gives him the edge. Thompson by unanimous decision. WW: Mike Pyle (25-9-1) vs. TJ Waldburger (16-8) Chase: Mike Pyle and TJ Waldburger are looking to bounce back from recent losses. Both men were finished in the first round of their fights, and you can be sure they want to come back strong with a finish of their own. This is a fight that I see Pyle taking, but not without putting up a grueling fight. The two men are very similar in their abilities, with their forte coming in the submission game, but this is a fight that could prove to be a stand-up war. Both men could be timid to trade after their recent losses, but neither has a style that will allow for this to be a boring fight. If this fight does go to the ground, which I imagine it may after one gets hit hard enough, it is a toss-up for who could pull off the submission. The ground games will cancel each other out most likely, and the stand-up skills of Pyle will help him secure a win. Pyle takes this one by TKO or a close decision. Symes: I agree that both men might be timid on the feet after suffering first-round knockouts. That’s especially true in the case of Waldburger, who was on the receiving end of a scary knockout. Waldburger’s slick submission skills are the equivalent to a one-punch knockout in a fight, but I’m not convinced he will be able to get Pyle to the ground. Pyle will most likely look to bring the fight to Waldburger and push the pace, which will help him in this encounter. It could also be to Waldburger’s advantage that Pyle will be easier to take down if he gets overly aggressive, so Pyle will want to be conscious of that. I’m going to agree with Gregory and pick Pyle to win by TKO. Waldburger has been knocked silly one too many times for my liking. Kuhl: I understand that Waldburger is only 25 years old, and that seems to be an age of invincibility, but to come back after a brain injury only four months later takes brass balls. Pyle is an old-school vet, but, with 16 submissions under his belt, he wasn’t really known for knockouts. So, it’s a bit of a safe bet for Waldburger. The only problem is that three of Pyle’s last four wins have been by knockout, bringing his career total, in 35 fights, to five. If Waldburger is coming back this fast, young or not, he must feel pretty damn good. If anything, contrary to what Kyle said, I can also see Waldburger bringing the fight to Pyle just to prove he’s back at 100 percent. However, that may not be the best idea. Both of these guys are heavy submission artists throughout their careers, but Pyle’s recent string of knockouts is probably the reason he lost his last fight—he got too confident. It’s still in Pyle’s recent memory that he is starting to find that knockout arsenal, so I see him coming out confident, but intelligently cautious. I’ll go with Kyle and Gregory and pick Pyle by TKO. WW: Rory MacDonald (15-2) vs. Demian Maia (18-5) Symes: Everyone’s favorite (read: sarcasm) Canadian returns when Rory MacDonald faces Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard Demian Maia at UFC 170. Both guys are coming off close losses. MacDonald dropped a split verdict to Robbie Lawler at UFC 167 and Maia lost a split decision to Jake Shields. Following the loss to Lawler, MacDonald seemed like he acknowledged that his safe/smart style wasn’t working for him. Will the loss help him return to the devastating finisher we saw earlier in his career? I’m not completely sold on that idea. It’s one thing to take chances when you’re not a known fighter or you’re facing lesser competition, but it’s quite another to take chances with a guy like Maia. Even the slightest slip on the ground could give Maia enough of an opening to capitalize on it. Maia was on a tear after dropping down to welterweight, and I don’t think anyone will knock him too much for the loss to Shields. Shields has a history of sapping all momentum for a fighter. MacDonald is obviously the better striker, whereas Maia should hold the edge when it comes to grappling. MacDonald is good enough to take Maia down and hold him there, but I don’t think he’ll try to play the ground game with Maia. Maia’s takedowns have never been spectacular, outside of that lateral drop against Chael Sonnen. Unless he trips MacDonald, the only way I see this fight going to the ground is if he pulls guard. MacDonald’s strength and athleticism will be the deciding factor as he takes another decision win. Kuhl: I still believe all the hype surrounding MacDonald. The problem with his game-planning for his last few fights is that he’s still too young and unaccomplished to approach fights like his mentor, GSP. At 24 years old, he is far too young and inexperienced to fight “not to lose.” If MacDonald is going to get back to his winning ways, he needs to remember that GSP didn’t become a decision machine until his fourth title defense. MacDonald hasn’t even earned a title shot yet. I’m not sure if this is a coaching flaw or a choice of his own, but he needs to get back to finishing if he wants to make a run at the strap before he’s 30 years old. Maia has had a similar career resurgence as that experienced by fellow Brazilian Lyoto Machida since dropping a weight class. His lone setback was the loss to Shields, which, frankly, could have gone either way. Obviously, MacDonald is the better striker, but he’s also a black belt in BJJ. Maia is the BJJ master of the two, literally, but his striking has become much crisper and his frame fits this division a lot better. I agree with Kyle on this. Maia has been prone to standing more in recent days, and MacDonald’s distance management will pose problems. Also, MacDonald’s wrestling, namely his takedown defense, is extremely effective. However, I will throw up the challenge that this one will not make it to the end of the third round. MacDonald has said that he’s not happy with his last few performances, so I think we will see him trying to put Maia away. MacDonald by second-round or later TKO. Chase: Kyle said it best: MacDonald will have the stand-up and Maia will have the ground. Where this fight goes is up in the air, but the more complete fighter is MacDonald. Maia has been looking better since getting back to his roots a little and backed away from trying to prove his striking ability, which turned out to be lackluster. Maia relying on his ground game is his best bet, but also doesn’t inspire too much confidence when fighting a guy like MacDonald. MacDonald has a good ground game, though not anywhere near as technical as that of Maia, but he is all around a very game opponent for anyone. This fight should be a great technical battle, with both men utilizing their strengths, rather than trying to beat the other at their game. MacDonald takes this one by strikes in the second round. LHW: Daniel Cormier (13-0) vs. Patrick Cummins (4-0) Chase: It’s pretty unanimously agreed that Daniel Cormier is not only the favorite in this fight against Patrick Cummins, but also the much more experienced fighter. This is a fight that Cormier should walk through. He should not take Cummins or any fight lightly, but based on performances and history, this should be a pretty one-sided affair. Both men are undefeated going into this fight, but Cormier has faced far more difficult opponents. The caliber of his fights will show in this battle, and Cormier will put on a clinic. Whether it is on the ground or standing, Cormier is a strong fighter, and he keeps getting better and more refined. Add some bad blood in the mix, and this could very well be the best performance of the night. Expect Cummins to be thrown around the cage at will. Cormier will ultimately either completely dominate every position or land a big hit and issue Cummins his first professional knockout…and loss. Kuhl: The fight between Cormier and Cummins has quickly become a nasty grudge match in every sense of the word. Basically, in a sort of Sonnen-esque fashion, Cummins, who is a NCAA Division I wrestler out of Penn State and a past training partner of Cormier, said some things that were pretty bad in order to try to get his shot at the Octagon. Cummins helped the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ prepare for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where Cormier finished fourth. Upon learning of the injury to Rashad Evans, Cummins started firing his mouth about things that took place behind training-room doors, including how he repeatedly took Cormier down and actually made him cry at one point. The latter is riding the fence between good and evil, as Cormier tragically lost his daughter in a car accident while training for those Olympics. Cummins really crossed the line, and yet his pro record speaks to nothing. His last win was over regional journeyman Willie Smalls, who’s currently on a 10-fight losing streak and has lost 13 of 15 times by submission. One of Cummins’ previous opponents is 0-3, and all of his opponents combine for a total of 10 wins. I’ll acknowledge that he was an All-American wrestler, but outside of the fact that he trains at a phenomenal camp with Reign Training Center and Kings MMA, he has done nothing to prove he even deserves to be in the UFC, let alone get a shot at Cormier. Cormier has either dismantled or neutralized guys like Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Josh Barnett, Soa Palelei and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. This one is a no-brainer. Cummins better be prepared to lose and lose badly. During their training in 2004, punching wasn’t allowed. This isn’t a wrestling match, Patrick. Cormier by first- or second-round TKO. Symes: I’ll tip my hat to Cummins. In just a short amount of time, he’s made me very interested in Cormier’s light heavyweight debut. I would’ve rather seen Cormier face Rashad Evans, but there was a high percentage for that fight to be incredibly boring. At the very least, Cummins’ trash talk should light a fire under Cormier’s ass to where he’ll look to be more aggressive. Cormier is very good at what he does—controlling the action—but it hasn’t led to a lot of excitement inside the cage. Cummins’ trash talk should theoretically get Cormier to push the pace. However, I don’t believe what Cummins said is worse than Roy Nelson calling Cormier an “Uncle Tom,” and we still saw Cormier display a very conservative approach against “Big Country.” Cormier will use his wrestling to control the action to sort of send a message to his ol’ wrasslin buddy. Even though Cormier’s approach will be cautious, he’s light years ahead of Cummins and will still get the TKO finish. Women’s BW Championship: Ronda Rousey (8-0) vs. Sara McMann (7-0) Kuhl: Finally, the UFC brass had no reason to avoid it any longer. Many people, including myself, felt this match-up was the most deserving of the first-ever UFC women’s title bout. And, with no disrespect to Liz Carmouche, it really seemed like the higher-ups were protecting Ronda Rousey from one of her most formidable opponents. At this point, everybody knows who Rousey is. Between her bronze medal in Olympic judo, the trash talk, attractive look and her spread in ESPN’s Body Issue, it’s no wonder UFC President Dana White has a huge affinity, to say the least, toward his most prized female fighter. And, to be fair, Rousey’s game really does speak for itself. At only 27 years old, she has a mantle full of arms that used to belong to ladies with the last names of Tate, Carmouche, Kaufman, Budd, D’Alelio, Tweet and Gomes. Most of those ladies are now or will soon be in the UFC, and none of them ever looked that great against the rising star. However, Sara McMann has an arrow in her quiver that none of the others have been able to offer. McMann is a very accomplished wrestler, earning the silver medal in freestyle at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Like most wrestlers-turned-MMA fighters, McMann has been a total stud in the cage. She is also undefeated, but in a variety of fashions. The Maryland native has earned three decisions, three submissions and a TKO, which came against German knockout artist Sheila Gaff in McMann’s UFC debut. In her fight with veteran Shayna Baszler, McMann displayed a high volume of submission defense, but that’s actually more of a concern than anything else. Neither Rousey nor McMann are considered very technically proficient strikers, but Rousey’s skills have progressed much faster than her opponent’s. Team that with McMann’s penchant for getting into precarious positions, especially against Baszler, and that spells trouble for the wrestler. Rousey does not miss an opportunity on the mat, and there’s no reason to think otherwise in this match-up. McMann has the ability to do some serious damage and could definitely be the second person to get out of the first round against the champ, but I can’t bet against Rousey until I see a different outcome for once. Rousey by armbar in the middle rounds to retain the title. Symes: Every time I look at this fight and admire McMann’s wrestling credentials, images of Rousey hip-tossing Tate on shoot takedowns replay in my head. Although Dan is correct in saying that neither lady is a prolific striker, the slight nod goes to Rousey, based on the fact we’ve seen more of her stand-up game. McMann is the most credible (in terms of resume) opponent Rousey has faced to date, but she still presents the same challenge Rousey has already faced. McMann’s greatest strength plays directly into what Rousey wants to do, which is take the fight to the ground. McMann will put up more opposition than Miesha Tate did at UFC 170, but it just won’t be enough. Unless McMann has worked wonders with her takedown defense and striking skills, expect Rousey to add another arm to her collection. Chase: It’s becoming more of a desire to see Rousey truly tested, and her last fight with Tate did show a little more of a vulnerable side to her. However, as her fights have progressed, her striking game has improved as well. She takes the ground game, hands down, against any other female fighter right now, but if McMann is able to keep this fight standing, it would be her best bet. It will be interesting to see if McMann learned enough from watching Tate fight Rousey to help her keep on her feet and avoid throws. It is no secret what Rousey wants to do, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to execute a game plan and not fall into Rousey’s trap. Both women are tough fighters, and this will not be a boring fight in the least. Expect Rousey to eat some shots to close the distance, and from there it all belongs to “Rowdy.” My money is on Rousey, but McMann does have the athleticism and ability to give Rousey her toughest challenge to date, and possibly hand her the first loss of her pro career. Preliminary Card LW: Ernest Chavez (6-0) vs. Yosdenis Cedeno (9-2) Symes: Ernest Chavez and Yosdenis Cedeno are unknowns to most MMA fans, but the word is Cedeno is supposed to be a pretty darn good prospect. Neither guy has faced a lot of competition, but I’ll ride with Cedeno by knockout in this one. Chase: Cedeno takes the win. His hands have proved deadly and have resulted in a nice string of victories, most via TKO. Cedeno by TKO or knockout early on. Kuhl: Cedeno is coming in after winning the CFA strap last October with a split decision over a very tough Torrance Taylor. The Cuban is a nasty striker, but he is on the weaker side with his ground game. Chavez is coming in after winning the BAMMA USA title last May, and he is also a striking-heavy fighter. Without knowing much more about these guys, I’m also going with Cedeno by TKO. He’s younger and seems to have a bit more fire in his belly. LW: Erik Koch (13-3) vs. Rafaello Oliveira (17-7) Kuhl: Here we go. Every card has one, and this is a big one for UFC 170: the proverbial “fight for your job” match-up. Erik Koch was widely thought to be the No. 1 featherweight contender in the world and was expected to face Jose Aldo twice. Unfortunately, Aldo pulled out the first time with an injury and Koch pulled out the second time. After 16 months on the bench, Koch returned to suffer two losses in a row. Rafaello Oliveira is on his second run in the promotion with a total UFC record of 2-5. For this match-up, Koch is making his lightweight debut, and at 25 years old, he’s only getting better. Koch takes this one by TKO. Chase: Both men desperately need this fight, but that’s most true for Koch. However, he is the much more well-rounded fighter, and he will bounce back from his losses and secure a strong win against Oliveira. Expect Oliveira to look for takedowns early, but Koch will be ready to answer with strikes. Symes: I’m going to make this a clean sweep for Koch. He’ll benefit from not having to cut weight. Koch’s overall game will overwhelm Oliveira en route to a TKO finish. FlyW: Zach Makovsky (17-4) vs. Josh Sampo (11-2) Chase: This should be a win for Zach Makovsky over Josh Sampo. It won’t be an easy one, though. Makovsky’s greatest threat will be if these two go to the mat, in which case Sampo may very well sink in a choke. Makovsky will get the better of Sampo on the feet and win by decision. Symes: I’m going to agree with Gregory that Makovsky will pick up the win. He’s the more experienced and better overall fighter. Sampo will be game wherever the fight goes, but Makovsky will be the clear winner. Kuhl: I can’t say that I agree with my colleagues on this one. This is a clash of two guys who have both held titles—Makovsky in Bellator and RFA, Sampo in CFA. Both won titles in the latter part of 2013 and followed up with successful UFC debuts. This match up will test the sophomore UFC efforts of two dynamic up-and-comers who either go to decision or win by submission. Neither has been stopped very often, and both have deep gas tanks. Sampo is the younger by two years, and his camp in St. Louis has been home-growing some really good talent, so I’ll go against the grain and take Sampo by decision. BW: Cody Gibson (11-3) vs. Aljamain Sterling (8-0) Symes: After the injury to Lucas Martins, Cody Gibson will step in on just under two weeks’ notice to fight Aljamain Sterling. Gibson has the better resume, but Sterling is part of the Serra-Longo camp. Those guys seem to have it going right now. I don’t feel comfortable picking a guy who’s stepping in on such short notice, so I believe Sterling will keep his undefeated record. Kuhl: I’m not totally convinced that Gibson is a heavy underdog just based on short notice. With his experience, he’s going to be fired up, and he does have a puncher’s chance, especially against the submission-heavy Sterling. Gibson’s well-rounded background will have him ready to go, but Sterling is coming out of an amazing camp and will be fully ready to submit Gibson early on, possibly after sustaining some damage. Chase: Gibson coming into this fight on such short notice against a guy like Sterling doesn’t give me the confidence that I would normally have in Gibson. Sterling will be very prepared, and the lack of preparation on Gibson’s part will show early. Sterling will keep his record loss-free. BW: Raphael Assuncao (21-4) vs. Pedro Munhoz (10-0) Chase: Although Pedro Munhoz is undefeated, this is a fight in which Raphael Assuncao will look dominant. The string of wins Assuncao has accumulated will translate into huge momentum coming into this fight. Munhoz, while versed in submissions, will not be able to handle Assuncao’s skills. Kuhl: Munhoz may be undefeated, but he’s been a Black House fighter who’s been fighting under Ed Soares’ promotion, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. That’s not to say his record is padded, but his opponents have been nothing compared to the talent Assuncao has been facing since well before Munhoz ever even made his pro debut. Assuncao should take this one handily by TKO. Symes: Assuncao is a top-10 bantamweight and Munhoz isn’t. Seems like a pretty clear fight to call here. Assuncao by submission. Women’s BW: Jessica Eye (10-1) vs. Alexis Davis (15-5) Kuhl: Jessica Eye and Alexis Davis are top female fighters looking to put on an exciting show. Regardless of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) overturning Eye’s last win, we’ll just say she has won her last eight fights against some top talent. Davis is on a four-fight winning streak, including big UFC wins over Rosi Sexton and Liz Carmouche. This is a tough one, because both are very well-rounded fighters, but I have Eye taking it by decision. Symes: This may be the most talked-about prelim fight in recent memory after Eye’s failed test. Davis has been on a roll lately and could be the next title challenger if she can pull out a victory. Eye is also on a hot streak, even if her win was overturned. Eye has a bright future in the UFC, but she will lose to the better fighter in this contest. Davis by decision. Chase: This is a fantastic fight between two very tough women, and it’s a fight that holds importance in their division. Eye will have something more to prove after all of her drama from her last bout. She will want to come in and leave no doubt that she is a true athlete and fighter, and she will look to dominate to help erase the negativity from the previous fight. Eye takes this one by decision.