Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to pay-per-view (PPV) this Saturday night (Feb. 22, 2014), an opportunity for one of the company's biggest stars, Ronda Rousey, needing to deliver a huge mixed martial arts (MMA) hit essentially on her own.
UFC 170: "Rousey vs. McMann" goes down from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring the aforementioned undefeated (8-0) women's Bantamweight champion defending her title against Sara McMann (7-0) in the main event.
In a battle of undefeated fighters with Olympic medals, Rousey returns to the cage just short of two months since her win over Miesha Tate at UFC 168.
Yet, the biggest story is possible the emergence of the relatively unknown Patrick Cummins (4-0), who has stepped up on super short notice to serve as a replacement for Rashad Evans in the co-main event against Daniel Cormier (13-0), who fights for the first time at Light Heavyweight. The 205-pound fight is being touted as such a mismatch that if you wager a $100 on Cormier to win, and he does, you may not have enough money to buy your favorite fast food combo the next day with your earnings.
There are several interesting story lines heading into the "Sin City" event, with all the news we've received in the past few weeks.
Check out "Five Burning Questions" heading into these fights in Las Vegas this weekend:
5. Will this card avoid the decision bug?
We hope the answer is yes.
At UFC 169 and UFC Fight Night 36 a few days ago, combat sports fans suffered through a combined 20 decisions in a span of 24 fights. And we weren't really treated to slugfests or instant classics, either.
We can never know for sure how a fight will pan out, but for the ones who tune in from the very first fight up until the last one, we want a sense of purpose.
It's nothing to be worried about for the moment, but at the same time, looking at this card as a whole, it's similar in the sense that it lacks a number of contests with the ability to be great.
4. Will UFC give fans their money's worth rather than worrying about PPV pirates?
Much like judging and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), there's another problem that we must face in MMA today:
The UFC PPV model.
The price is never going to decrease ... we must accept this fact. And to watch the festivities this weekend, it will set back someone at least $45, which equals almost $10-per match. Unfortunately, names like Cummins, Mike Pyle, T.J. Waldburger, Stephen Thompson and Robert Whittaker aren't worth that much.
Instead of mapping out better fights to take place at UFC 170 -- or all other recent cards for that matter -- UFC is going after streamers, illegal distributors and viewers who hijack their shows on the net. Fans who favor the product, but can't necessarily justify spending their money on less than impressive line up.
Perhaps, moving forward, UFC should focus its efforts on quality and less on poor pirates. If the show is worth buying, most will suck it up and make a night out of it.
Just like the old days.
3. Is there a chance that Rory MacDonald versus Demian Maia could be exciting?
Instead of breaking down the dynamics and tools of both fighters, let's try and lean toward the straight up truth.
MacDonald (15-2) has brought somewhat of an unexciting fight style to the Octagon as of late, while Maia (18-5) has never really thrown a party in there, either.
Everyone focuses on "Ares" being the future of this sport, but his future is now. With one of his teammates, Georges St-Pierre, gone from the sport with no timetable for a return, MacDonald can't afford any more slip-ups. If the criticisms are that he fight safe, those don't really matter once you're the champion.
If you aren't, they stick out like a stumpy toe.
Maia has already been in a championship bout before -- and despite it being a horrendous experience for him -- there's no indication that he can get there again with the amount of fighters who are soaking up the Welterweight division at the moment (even if it's in a different weight class, which is usually harder to accomplish).
He is a menace on the ground and his work should be admired (as should MacDonald's, too) yet it's not a delicious stylistic match up that sells PPVs or puts butts in seats.
Perhaps one of these guys decides to actually go for it and make a statement, but if recent -- and past -- history is any indication, MacDonald and Maia will be a careful, tactical match that has all the potential to suck the life out of Mandalay Bay when it should be setting the stage for the main- and co-main events.
If you don't agree, consider that this fight was supposed to be the co-main event with Evans out. How comfortable would you have been with that?
2. Will it be another rout for "Rousey?"
McMann will be Rousey's stiffest test thus far in UFC.
Keeping in mind that Rousey's turnaround from UFC 168 is the fastest for a champion after a title defense, the Olympian versus Olympian angle is being shoved down our throats, ensuring that we have no option but to pay close attention to it.
McMann is no slouch, and it's the best we're going to see offered inside the promotion (outside is a different story).
But, McMann is also a developing fighter just under three years shy of competition (so is the champion, ironically) and still kind of green in some areas. She can trounce opponents by mustering them with power; however, she doesn't have the experience and track record that leads us to believe she's got a great shot at winning.
Granted, Rousey did say that she wouldn't be able to throw her around like a ragdoll the way she did to Miesha Tate, so the respect factor is there.
The fight should be close in the early going, but with so much momentum on Rousey's side, not only in her game, but including the perceptions of her outside of the cage, all fingers point to another familiar finish for "Rowdy."
1. Does Patrick Cummins have a chance in hell of overcoming Daniel Cormier?
So, you're expecting me to say that everybody has a chance, right?
Although, that is true, how can we believe that somebody who was serving up lattes comes in and has his way with Cormier?
There's a slight chance, right? No, there isn't.
Forget even complaining that "Durkin" got a contract and that Ben Askren didn't, Cummins will come in not having fought in almost one year and his wins to date comprise finishes over poor regional circuit talent (minus his one time Strikeforce appearance over a guy who hasn't fought in almost three years).
With the amount of talk that Cormier has been spewing as of late, he can't possibly lose this fight or it's a massive blow to his career.
On the flip side, imagine the huge travesty it would be if "Durkin" won? A guy who gave you your muffin at the drive-thru window last week just beat a top undefeated contender in UFC.
Not a chance.
To check out the latest UFC 170: "Rousey vs. McMann" finalized fight card click here.