Sara McMann (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Falling Stars: If Sara McMann Defeats Ronda Rousey, UFC is the Biggest Winner Vince Carey February 21, 2014 Spotlight There’s no denying just how much Ronda Rousey and her reign over the women’s bantamweight division have done for the women’s side of mixed martial arts over the last few years. Not all that long ago, UFC President Dana White was adamant against women fighting inside the Octagon. Cut to early 2014 and the UFC is in the process of bringing in a second women’s division in addition to Rousey’s established 135-pound weight class, and the biggest active star in the sport is, in fact, a female fighter. Rousey was the reason for White’s sudden about-face on women mixing it up in the cage, and the insane surge in popularity for female fighters can largely be attributed to “Rowdy” and her polarizing personality. Rousey put women’s MMA on her back and carried it to the promised land, and after dispatching her biggest rival, Miesha Tate, in December, “Rowdy” is as popular as she’s ever been. That is exactly why Sara McMann needs to win the women’s bantamweight title this weekend. If there’s one major struggle that the UFC has had to deal with over the last two or three years, it’s been the inability to create new stars to replace the Chuck Liddells and Randy Coutures of the world. As more and more UFC and Pride legends have decided to hang up their gloves, the company has lost a ton of main-event level talent, and the promotion has had a hard time filling the void those fighters have left. After losing—at least for the foreseeable future—both Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre in the last couple of months, the promotion hasn’t been this short on star power in quite some time. We’ve seen the UFC turn fighters like Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez into household names in recent years, but there’s no denying that Rousey is the biggest and brightest of the new stars that the promotion has delivered in recent memory. “Rowdy” followed up her first UFC title defense by filming a season of The Ultimate Fighter with the UFC and showing off her acting skills in The Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7. Following her fight with McMann this weekend, Rousey’s set to join Vinnie Chase and the gang to film the Entourage movie. Simply put, the UFC women’s bantamweight champ is everywhere, and the bright lights of Hollywood are going to continue to keep calling for Rousey for the rest of her UFC career. Although Rousey hasn’t given any indication that she’s headed down the Gina Carano path and preparing to leave the fight game, the UFC definitely needs to be prepared for that situation. That’s why a win for McMann on Saturday would not only be good for the UFC, but for women’s MMA as a whole. At the moment, Rousey isn’t just a women’s MMA star, she’s the women’s MMA star. None of her UFC counterparts can hold a candle to her popularity. For that to change, someone needs to present a true challenge to Rousey and at the very least prove that she isn’t head and shoulders above the rest of the competition at 135 pounds. The only way to create a new star is to prove to the audience that the newcomer is every bit as good as the fighters they’ve been cheering for years. Since “Rowdy” is the standard when it comes to the ladies, it’s going to be tough for another female to break into the mainstream without having gone through Rousey first. On paper, McMann has a better shot than anyone on the UFC roster at taking away Rousey’s belt. Fans and analysts alike have talked about Rousey’s incredible skills on the mat and her Olympic-level judo game like it’s an unbeatable force, but McMann has an Olympic medal of her own in wrestling. She is one of the few women in the world who can likely hang with Rousey in the grappling department. That’s not to say that McMann should jump into the cage and start trading armbar attempts with the champ, but if/when the fight hits the floor, she’ll be more comfortable than most. Staying out of precarious situations is vital when matched up against a finisher like Rousey, and McMann’s strong wrestling background should provide her with the tools necessary to do that. Throw in the fact that both of these fighters have shown off shockingly little of their respective striking games, and the fight becomes even more of a crapshoot. However, “Rowdy” is a pretty heavy favorite going into the event, and deservedly so. But McMann should prove to be a game opponent and has a very real chance at pulling off the upset here. If she does, the entire women’s MMA landscape is going to change along with the championship. First and foremost, common sense says that any loss for Rousey is going to be followed up with an immediate rematch. Even with a loss on her record, Rousey is still going to be the UFC’s hottest commodity, and the promotion won’t let her slip out of the title scene with just a single defeat. Her road to redemption would be one of the most widely discussed stories in the MMA media for months, and her fans and haters alike would eagerly await her return to the cage. Let’s not forget that nearly every major UFC bout in history has been a rematch—Royce Gracie against Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell versus Tito Ortiz, Brock Lesnar against Frank Mir, Anderson Silva versus Chael Sonnen, the list goes on and on—and it’s not hard to see why the UFC would envision dollar signs in the case of a Rousey vs. McMann II fight. It may not be a rivalry with verbal fireworks and shoving matches at the weigh-ins, but the skill level of the athletes make it that much more intense. It seems ridiculous to think that one of the UFC’s biggest stars suffering a loss would be good for the promotion, but a tough loss for Rousey is exactly what the UFC and women’s MMA need right now. Rousey is arguably the promotion’s biggest star, yet she’s the only female fighter on the roster that has proven to be a draw of any kind. If her sabbaticals into Hollywood become more and more frequent, it’s only going to leave the UFC with one less star in the long run. Rousey’s dominance has delivered the women’s side of the sport to new heights, but for it to truly flourish, McMann needs to prove that “Rowdy” isn’t invincible. The best thing to happen to the UFC would be for McMann to walk out of the Octagon as a star this weekend, and for her to walk right through Rousey as she does it.