Sara McMann is no stranger to large audiences, bright lights or stress.
Before she travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday (Feb. 22, 2013) to face Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweight ruler, Ronda Rousey, in a five-round, pay-per-view (PPV) main event, McMann trekked across the globe to compete on the grandest stage of them al back in 2004l.
Arriving in Athens, Greece, she prepared to represent her country and reach for the highest achievement an amateur wrestler can earn: Olympic gold.
Despite such large opportunities, McMann has never been much of a talker. Nowadays, she prefers her opponent and soon to be Hollywood starlet draw the attention, both with her history of violence and public image.
Back in 2004, McMann allowed her wrestling talent to speak for her and draw eyes.
At that point in her career, McMann's largest accomplishment was a silver medal in the world championships. Encouraged by that near victory, McMann is both confident and passionate before her match in the semifinals, claiming that she expects a gold medal.
McMann, garbed in a blue singlet with her hair tightly tied back, steps onto the mat to meet her opponent, Greece's own Stavroula Zygouri, who enjoys the home field advantage. It's revealed that this is not their first encounter, as McMann pinned Zygouri in the World Cup.
However, as the commentator mentions, "anything can happen in a wrestling match."
The two women shake hands, and McMann crouches low and rests her elbows on her knees, awaiting the beginning of the match. The referee signals for them to begin, and McMann obliges by rushing forward and grabbing a collar tie. Zygouri breaks away from McMann's inside control, beginning a battle for hand position as they circle about the mat.
The two clash heads, and McMann grabs around Zygouri's head. This allows the Greek to drop down into a deep single leg, and she begins to lift McMann into the air. McMann pulls up on Zygouri's elbow, which slows down her drive and lift, but is still forced to rely on natural athleticism and balance to remain on her feet.
McMann successfully shut down her opponent's first and, as it turns out, only attempt at a takedown
Back in the center of the mat, the two fight hands just outside of the clinch distance. McMann uses Zygouri's grip on her wrist against her by reaching across with her free hand, grabbing at Zygouri's elbow, and yanking it past her for a perfect arm drag. As Zygouri is pulled forward, McMann drops down and gets in on a deep double leg.
After turning the corner, McMann drives forward with the shot. Zygouri, realizing the precarious nature of her situation, manages to get an underhook, drops to the mat, and attempts to roll McMann over by bridging hard. But, McMann flows around the bridge, leaving Zygouri desperate to get her stomach to the mat.
Zygouri twists and turns with all her might, but McMann does not budge. With the pin, McMann secures herself a silver medal as well as a shot at gold.
Not bad for about a minute of work.
Though she would go on to lose the finals match to Japan's Kaori Icho via points, McMann put up a fight and aggressively looked to score at all opportunities. It was a close match, the kind that often occur when two of the best in a combat sport square off against one another.
After coming up just short of first place in both the Worlds and Olympics, McMann is being given another shot to win (Octagon) gold. To do that, she'll have to overcome a fellow Olympian, who's a bit younger, has more professional experience and has quickly solidified her reputation as a violent finisher.
The oddsmakers are certainly on Rousey's side, listing her as a 4-1 favorite.
Regardless of the circumstances, one thing remains constant: McMann will quietly walk in with confidence, intent on nothing but earning gold.
Check out the video of McMann vs. Zygouri below: