Another weekend, another card as the UFC continues its attempt to take over the world with its now seemingly weekly events. I love this shit, so I'm not gonna bitch about it. If you don't like it, don't watch it. Don't know why people can't figure that out...
This card has taken a lot of criticism for its lack of marquee fights which is unfair as the injury bug decided to strike hard for the first time this year. Rashad Evans was forced to pull out of a highly anticipated fight with Daniel Cormier with just over a week before the fight because of a knee injury leaving the UFC scrambling to find a replacement. Seeing as how the UFC said no to Chael Sonnen stepping up, the fact they were able to find with a history with Cormier to do so is amazing... even if he only has 4 fights with tomato cans on his resume. Cummins has been claiming to have broken Cormier during Cormier's preparation for the 2008 Olympics and Cormier hasn't been denying the crying, but contends it wasn't Cummins who broke him. Even though this fight is overhyped, it still make for interesting stuff. As far as other injuries, Rustam Khabilov and Rafael dos Anjos were both forced to pull out due to injury, as was Francisco Rivera from his undercard bout with Raphael Assuncao. That doesn't even count the quickly scrapped Gilbert Melendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. This card was hit hard to say the least.
The main attraction though is the women's title fight between Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann, two former Olympic teammates who walked away with medals (albeit in separate years) from the meeting of the worlds best athletes in events US women have traditionally struggled with in judo and wrestling respectively. With both unbeaten, something has to give and there are a majority of people hoping to see freshly minted heel Rousey get an ass-whoopin. Does McMann have a chance of taking the gold from the champ? I'll fill ya in on everything you need to know. Just keep reading:
(C) Ronda Rousey (8-0) vs. #4 Sara McMann (7-0), Women's Bantamweight
Less than two months after her last title defense, Rousey puts the belt on the line again against fellow former Olympian McMann in a highly touted bout. Considering I already hyped this in the opener, I'm leaving it at that for now.
Love her or hate her, Rousey is the undisputed face of WMMA and the fact that there is such a divide on her couldn't be better for the UFC. People will either tune in to see her lose or to add another arm to her wall and legacy. Depending on your point of view (how you look at her fight with Liz Carmouche), Rousey was pushed for the first time in her rematch with eternal rival Miesha Tate as she left the first round of a fight for the first time. Some holes in her game were highlighted from that fight (not exposed as they were well documented before) such as her striking, but that showed improvement as well as she got the better end of the stick on Tate there as well. People still seem to forget that Rousey's pro debut was LESS than 3 years ago. Her holes are there, but she has been putting in the work to shrink them up. Word is she has been knocking out training partners in preparation for this bout too. Beware Sara. There is no doubt she is currently the best judo practitioner in MMA (male or female) and threw Tate down at will every time they clinched up with a hip toss and she is skilled at trips as well. Tate showed good submission defense against Rousey but the fight still ended the way they always have... armbar. Tate attempted some subs that never truly threatened, but Rousey has shown the ability to defend and tough her way out of sticky situations (think the Carmouche head crank). What we haven't really seen is how she is from her back which is the biggest X-factor in the bout.
McMann has been lauded as Rousey's most potent challenge and while that may be true, she has less MMA fights than Rousey does as they both entered the sport around the same time. I'm not saying that McMann doesn't deserve her shot, but she is just as unpolished as Rousey is... maybe even more so. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist in wrestling has shown steady improvement in her striking using a boxing-centic attack. Whether or not her strength advantage over Rousey translates over into her striking I couldn't say, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the two of them engage on their feet for a while just to prove that one has better striking over the other. If she won a silver medal in wrestling than that will obviously be her biggest strength. In her lone UFC appearance she bulldozed Sheila Gaff into the ground and beat her up with some stiff GNP. Not to take anything away from the victory as it was very impressive and couldn't have asked for more from McMann out of that, but Gaff is a natural flyweight and doesn't own an inkling of Rousey's judo prowess. Nonetheless, McMann is truly capable of getting Rousey to the ground and landing some stiff shots on her from the top position. As already stated, how Rousey responds is the key.
Without the bad blood that was present between Rousey and Tate, this match doesn't feel like there is as much at stake. Still, it should be a very fun fight that should show an angle of Rousey's game that has yet to be seen as McMann's wrestling is the likes that Rousey has never seen. But Rousey has an intensity that screams she wants it more than anyone and even if she is one her back, she isn't giving up. I don't know what is going to happen in between, but I'm sure I know how its going to end... armbar. Rousey by Submission 2nd Round
I can't help but feel letdown here knowing what the original match was, but gotta give the UFC credit for scrapping together a fight at the last minute that has intrigue in it even if it isn't very close on paper.
Cormier begged for a fight when he learned Evans was out and was lucky to have his wish granted. It has been well publicized that Cormier was making a drop to light heavyweight and didn't want all of his weight cutting to be for naught. Now we get to see how much the weight cut affects the former US Olympian wrestler. Though he was never a large heavyweight, he'll be a stout powerhouse at 205 and with his wrestling knowledge in technique and leverage, I have a hard time seeing any light heavyweight successfully stopping his takedowns consistently. Throw in the fact that no one has been able to take him down due to his outstanding balance and it is clear that his greatest strength is his ability to have the fight wherever he wants it. His two UFC fights are clear proof of this. Frank Mir and Roy Nelson are both excellent jiu-jitsu practitioners so rather than rely on his Olympic caliber wrestling, Cormier pushed them against the fence and boxed them up. When Cormier did take Nelson down in their fight he made sure to maintain top position rather than let Nelson use his excessive girth upon him. Similar to his training partner Cain Velazquez, Cormier relies less on one-punch power and more on a punches in bunches strategy. He uses solid technique doing this and doesn't wear himself out in the process. I must admit though that I've heard that Cormier has solid submissions, but I have yet to see him make a serious attempt at one and though he has 3 submission victories, 2 of those were from strikes.
Few if any fighters have come from out of seemingly nowhere to be thrust into the spotlight as quickly as Cummins. Does he have some credentials? Absolutely. He was a walk on at one of the better college wrestling programs in the nation and turned himself into a two-time All-American. So we know that he is willing to work and has talent to go with it. He too has good technique and strength, but to compare him to Cormier would be unfair. Still, he wouldn't embarrass himself if Cormier were to take the fight to the ground and in hopes of making the fight competitive, I hope that it goes there. His GNP is measured and powerful, but can he get Cormier on his back. Where Cummins will run into trouble is the standup. He throws a nice jab, but nothing I couldn't see Cormier having issues with. I expect him to try and clinch up with Cormier and attempt to land some knees and utilize the height advantage that he has. It likely would be his best shot. Remember that his opponents combined records were 10-20. Cormier has 3 more wins than his previous opponents combined without any loses.
This will likely be ugly. I give Cummins credit for stepping up on short notice and don't blame him one bit for bringing up the past with regards to Cormier breaking during his Olympic training. He isn't just hyping the card; he's selling himself. But anyone with a brain realizes that the circumstances of Cormier's tears had nothing to do with JUST Cummins and Cummins knows that himself. Cormier is motivated. He wants to beat Cummins down badly at this point. Cormier by TKO 1st Round
In a wide open welterweight field with GSP gone, two contenders near the top of the heap try to get back to their winning ways in a match where the winner could potentially be just one more victory away from a shot at the belt.
We all know that MacDonald gives off a serial killer vibe. But that isn't what annoys me at this point (well... alright, it does). The fact that a supremely gifted and talented fighter has chosen to play it safe over the last few fights is what kills me. This guy scored 12 stoppages in his first 13 victories and in the one decision he continually dropped Nate Diaz on his head and sent him back to the lightweight division. His overly-cautious strategy cost him in his last bout against Robbie Lawler and MacDonald has promised to go back to his aggressive ways. I hope so, because I don't care how effective his jab is, opponents will figure it out and finds ways around it... just like Lawler did. For instance, his wrestling. He didn't bother to attempt one takedown in the opening round with Lawler and most pundits agree Lawler took that round. The only reason he survived the last round is he was able to get Lawler down with his powerful double leg multiple times after being rocked. He's so strong he has little problem throwing his opponents around. Then once he gets top position, he is so heavy and difficult to escape from that about the only thing his opponent can do is wait to hear the bell and survive the vicious GNP capitulated by slashing elbows. Then again, he will be fighting Demian Maia. Maybe he doesn't want to go to the ground. But thats fine. MacDonald has his aforementioned jab and a devastating right hook that he can use as a counter as well. He knows how to use feints very effectively to lead his opponents into his strike of choice. He really is a physical marvel.
Maia has been lauded by many as the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappler to step foot in the UFC and I would not be one to disagree. His 9 submission victories don't begin to tell how good he is. He is an Abu Dhabi Champion, a 4th degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and opened his UFC career with 5 straight submission victories. You don't want to go to the ground with him. Having trained in judo as well, he largely utilizes trips and sweeps to get his opponents to the ground, but is capable of a double leg. Since his drop to welterweight, he has become much more effective getting the fight to the ground as he no longer has to take down the likes of Mark Munoz. At times I think he isn't a great wrestler and then remember that he out-Fitched Jon Fitch. MacDonald won't go to the ground easy, but Maia is more than capable of getting him there. If it does hit the ground, Maia's favorite position is to take his opponent's back. He seemed to have fallen in love with the idea of scoring a KO before dropping weight as he fell in love with striking at that point. His striking doesn't suck and has come a long ways since he first came into the UFC, but MacDonald will have a clear advantage. Maia has shown difficult to put away and will be able to land some solid shots (especially if MacDonald is tentative), but he knows the dangers of staying up with MacDonald.
Maia is 36 and a loss here will likely end any chance to legitimately get a title shot. He should have more desperation than MacDonald. But MacDonald has such a massive strength advantage and seems determined to make up for his disappointing showings lately. Though I'm not counting out Maia from scoring a sub, I think MacDonald gets an emphatic win here by GNP. MacDonald by TKO 3rd Round
#15 Mike Pyle (25-9-1) vs. TJ Waldburger (16-8), Welterweight
A pair of submission specialist welterweights coming off of violent first round KO's looking to get get back on the winning track. I know, super basic intro... but there isn't a whole lot more to it.
I don't think too many people figured Mike Pyle would last as long in the UFC when he debuted in 2009. Sure, he was a respected veteran, but never truly set himself apart and was soon to be 34. Now at 38, Pyle has somewhat reinvented himself from a submission specialist (16 career submission victories) to a notable KO threat. 3 straight first round KO's in the span of a year will do that. Pyle is still far and away a grappler though. Very crafty with a very offensive grappling strategy, opponents often go out of their way to avoid going to the ground with Pyle. He isn't that much of a wrestler and isn't a threat to take his opponent down via single or double legs, but Pyle is excellent in the clinch at executing throws and trips. Throw in the fact that he has shown fantastic knees when he has the clinch slapped on (ask James Head about that), you can guarantee that he will be looking to clinch up in this fight. Along with his knees, Pyle has gotten more technical with his striking which has produced more power, hence the KO's. The issue is that Pyle has been playing with fire. He was content to go toe-to-toe with Matt Brown and the fight lasted less than 30 seconds and had moments of trouble with Head, Josh Neer, and Rick Story where it looked very possible he could go to sleep. Wait... he's fighting TJ Waldburger isn't he. Alright, so Pyle has little to worry about in his opponents striking.
While that might seem harsh to say about Waldburger, he owns own TKO victory due to doctor stoppage... his fists are not very feared to say the least. Does that mean Waldburger has no chance? Of course not! He has 4 UFC victories for a reason and 3 of those have come by submission with 13 of his total victories coming that way. Give the man credit: he knows his strengths and plays to them. Disrespect anyone enough though and they will make you pay as he set up his submission victory over Nick Catone with efficient use of his 75' reach to lace a punch through his defense, though his striking is somewhat wild and leaves him open to takedowns. A deceptively good wrestler, he doesn't just dive in there for the takedown. Though he is aggressive attempting his takedowns, he picks his spots well. But what makes him so dangerous is his ability to transition so quickly. One of the most aggressive submission stylists in the UFC, if his opponent leaves any limb out there for the taking and he will make them pay. His armbar submission of Jake Hecht went from a body lock takedown to Hecht's back, to an armbar in a very quick sequence. I suck at describing these things, but if you can find it, watch it. You'll see what I mean. Armbars and triangle chokes seem to be his specialty, but with an achilles lock submission W on his resume, I think he can do it all.
Pyle has been prone to mental mistakes and getting caught in a submission himself, but its been almost 5 years since that last happened and I believe he is a different fighter from that time. He showed he can put out his opponent and Waldburger's chin has been questionable (6 KO/TKO losses). Since Pyle's KO's always happen early, I'll play those odds. Pyle by TKO 1st Round
I have no doubt Joe Silva was well aware that he was matching two karate black belts when he put this match together. It could be good timing as fans are clamoring to see someone put to sleep after two decision-filled events. Early favorite for fight of the night...
Thompson accomplished just about all that he could accomplish in kickboxing as he accumulated a combined 63-0 amateur and pro record with 30 KO's. Making the transition to MMA in 2010, Thompson rattle off 5 wins before making a successful UFC debut with a highlight reel head kick KO of Dan Stittgen. He ran into a problem that many kickboxers run into when coming over to MMA... a lack of grappling experience that Matt Brown exposed. Thompson had over a year off after that fight and came back showing much improved grappling. He clinched with Nah-Shon Burrell and used good technique to often times keep the larger man against the fence. Aesthetically pleasing? No, but showed he is working on his overall game. I'm willing to believe he has some submission prowess as well considering he works with his brother-in-law and 8th degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Carlos Machado. He's also shown the ability to take the fight to the ground with an effective though somewhat awkward single leg. Make no mistake though, striking is and always will be his strength, particularly his kicks. They are lighting fast and thrown from all angles. He is most known for a roundhouse kick thrown with front leg that looks to his opponent like its going to the body and ends up going to the head. Stittgen may not remember that kick, but the rest of us do. Side kicks, hook kicks, and spinning kicks are prominent too. His fists aren't as powerful, but they are accurate and can put his opponent down using effective combinations.
Whittaker is still a pup at the tender age of 23. Even though he is a solid fighter at this point he still has a long way to go to reach his ceiling. He first caught the worlds attention with a couple of quick KO's on TUF Smashes (the longest fight was 77 seconds) giving him a fast reputation as a feared striker. While he deserves that reputation, his style could get him in trouble. He keeps his left hand low to help prevent takedowns and while that worked against one-dimensional Colton Smith, it leaves him open to powerful shots from his opponents and Court McGee was able to drop him in the early moments of the second round in their fight. Thompson would be able to exploit this if he allows him to. I do believe that he has enough respect for Thompson that he'll make the necessary adjustments. His jab is effective, but underutilized and he likes to throw his elbows like a punch which is effective at cutting his opponent. Though you gotta believe that he has kicks in his arsenal with his karate background, he rarely shows them. He hasn't gone to the ground much thus far (a tribute to the effectiveness of keeping his hand low), but has gotten up quick when he has. Considering he has 5 victories by submission though I find it hard to believe that he would be helpless there.
I think Whittaker is going to be more aggressive than he has been his last few fights since he doesn't want to give Thompson much distance and won't have to worry about the takedown as much either. But Thompson has shown continual growth in his grappling. I like the fact he has trained with Tristar as well while Whittaker has stayed with his camp in Australia. Thompson will make him respect his takedowns and eventually catch him with his hand down. Thompson by KO 2nd Round
Record for Last Card: 9-3
Record for Year: 39-18
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