UFC women's bantamweight titleholder, Ronda Rousey, may have finally met her match in muscular mat master Sara McMann, who can bring a 2004 silver medal in wrestling to match "Rowdy's" 2008 bronze medal in judo.
But will a stalemate on the ground force this contest to be decided on the feet?
Speaking of Olympic competition, former USA team captain Daniel Cormier clings to the co-main event after the recently-injured Rashad Evans left him high and dry. Taking over for "Suga" is the cream of the regional crop, as Patrick Cummins will try to once again make "DC" to cry.
And the fans, as well, if this fight turns into a three-round stinker (#wolftickets).
The rest of the UFC 170 main card will decide a couple of spots in the welterweight pecking order, most notably in the 170-pound clash pitting former division wunderkind Rory MacDonald against submission-starved grappling guru Demian Maia.
Who comes up aces in "Sin City?" I'm glad you asked...
135 lbs.: "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey (8-0) vs. Sara McMann (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: Heading into the UFC 170 main event, a good portion of the MMA fan base is starting to appreciate what it meant to have Miesha Tate in a starring role, especially when compared to Sara McMann.
Is "Cupcake" the best fighter in the division?
Not by a long shot. But since McMann doesn't do media interviews, only attends the junkets that are absolutely required to stay employed, and generally has nothing to say of any consequence, what makes for a sensational battle on paper could turn into a dud at the box office.
Great fighters make great fights. Great personalities make people watch them.
Those who do turn in likely share my intrigue as to how this particular contest unfolds. Rousey has never faced an athlete who is equal to McMann on any level, but that door swings both ways. The difference between the two is that while "Rowdy" has used her Olympic credentials to make a mockery of the division, McMann has been hot-and-cold and at times, looked uncomfortable as a professional fighter.
For as much grief as Rousey gets for her stand up, I do believe it's much more evolved than her opponent's, as she can afford to train with the best coaches in the world. In a pure MMA fight, I would reckon the only danger zone for the champion is guard.
McMann has a suffocating top game and could conceivably win three out of five rounds via dump and hump.
The threat of submission is always there, but Rousey is afforded great opportunities by her judo throws, which are a precursor to her trademark armbar. She's still dangerous from other positions, but it's no longer a foregone conclusion if the fight leaves her comfort zone.
And that's the bottom line.
Rousey can fight comfortably from any position, whereas as McMann has yet to demonstrate that same level of versatility. She's also susceptible to that cocky wrestler mentality. Sean Sherk told me back in 2007 that he hadn't been swept in nearly 40 professional fights and there was no way in hell that Hermes Franca was going to do it.
Then Franca fights him at UFC 73 and sweeps "The Muscle Shark" in the second round.
McMann's output has been uneven, but I'm not going crazy over the Shayna Baszler fight, because everyone should be afforded an off night. That said, her performances, to date, do little to convince me that her strength and athleticism are enough to combat the skill and technique of the equally-thewy queenpin.
Who for my money, has fought much stiffer competition, including two former Strikeforce champions.
Final prediction: Rousey def. McMann via submission
205 lbs.: Daniel "DC" Cormier (13-0) vs. Patrick "Durkin" Cummins (4-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: When I was a suit in the late nineties, my boss took me on a "golf day" because fuck the clients, their money was better spent on cigars and Titleists than anything else we could do on a sunny day. On the third hole, he warned me, making par was impossible and something he never did.
I birdied the hole, slapped on my aviators and waltzed to the cart, waiting for him to bogey.
Unfortunately, after 18 rounds, I ended up with a score that was so high, let's just say it would not have made the light heavyweight limit. Imagine how ridiculous it would sound if 10 years later I was plucked from Mania, put into the U.S. Open and bragged about how I once clowned him at the local country club.
That's pretty much where we're at with Patrick Cummins, who had a chance to beat Cormier when it mattered, and got shut out.
"Durkin" is co-headlining a major PPV event because he was able to have
15 five minutes of fame 10 years ago in a musty gym. Since then, Daniel Cormier has mastered the art of fighting, while Cummins has mastered the art of adding extra foam to a latte.
Sorry, but the sword is gonna stay in the stone this weekend in "Sin City."
This isn't a Cummins smear campaign, but rather an indication of how preposterous the matchmaking is, done to reward "DC" for his grueling weight cut and commitment to 205 pounds. But the promotion couldn't sell me on the Dion Staring "upset" angle and they won't do it here, either.
Yeah, upsets happen, I get it.
But if a guy who can beat former champions like Bigfoot Silva, Josh Barnett and Frank Mir loses to a barista with no training camp and four pro fights on the regional circuit, then MMA is a complete sham, because it means anyone can win at any time if they just get lucky enough.
Cummins looks to be a great athlete and has done an admirable job of maximizing the crybaby angle, but there is nothing outside of some silly underdog angle to believe that he's not getting smashed on fight night. But hey! At least we'll get a heated weigh-in staredown!
Final prediction: Cormier def. Cummins via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Rory "Ares" MacDonald (15-2) vs. Demian Maia (18-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's hard to be sympathetic toward Rory MacDonald, who was prematurely anointed the second-best welterweight in the world by far too many people, only to lay an egg against Jake Ellenberger in victory, then come up lame against Robbie Lawler in defeat.
But this time, supposedly, will be different.
Seems that "Ares" wasn't "motivated" in the past. Honestly, I don't even know how to respond to that. If becoming a UFC superstar, making boatloads of money and banging babes at will is not enough to get you motivated, then brother, you're doomed.
And stop stealing all of BJ Penn's excuses.
If we give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he's as talented as initially hyped, he's got a pretty good chance of pulling this one out. But I'm not so sure that he's got the chops to deal with Demian Maia 2.0. I know a lot of fans jumped ship after the loss to Jake Shields, but a razor-thin split is no reason to give up.
After all, Shields has beat some of the best guys in the world at 170 pounds -- and higher -- including Carlos Condit, Dan Henderson and Robbie Lawler.
I've also been hearing how MacDonald takes this one on the feet, as well, but I don't find it to be the lopsided affair people are portraying it to be. After he got turned inside out by Nate Marquardt, Maia worked exclusively on his hands for the next several years and is a pretty decent striker.
Is he the next Junior dos Santos?
No, but he's reached a point where he can manipulate distance and set up his takedowns more effectively, which is why he was able to out-wrestle Jon Fitch. In addition, "Ares" has only two knockouts inside the Octagon, with the last one coming against the increasingly-brittle Che Mills almost two years ago.
Maia has fought guys like Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman and practically everyone in between. I'll take that kind of experience -- along with some of the finest jiu-jitsu skills in the entire sport -- over a young, brash up-and-comer who is too bored with his own talent to see what he's really capable of.
Final prediction: Maia def. MacDonald via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Mike "Quicksand" Pyle (25-9-1) vs. T.J. Waldburger (16-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: Combined, Mike Pyle and T.J. Waldburger have 17 losses, but are both a solid 7-3 over their last 10 fights. But more importantly, they've been finished in 14 of those 17 defeats, so it's safe to say these guys have no issue going out on their shields. I have a certain amount of admiration for that.
And I wouldn't expect anything different tomorrow night in Vegas.
Unfortunately for Waldburger, he's likely to be the one getting smoked. He's a crafty jiu-jitsu fighter, but Pyle has 16 submission wins in 25 victories and hasn't tapped in nearly five years, so it's clear he knows a thing or two about the ground game.
But that's not why I'm siding with "Quicksand."
When you line up their transparencies on the overhead projector, one pattern becomes painfully clear: Waldburger can only win by submission, notching just one knockout and two decisions over the last nine years. Pyle, who generally only loses to top-10 caliber fighters, has the skills to get the finish wherever the fight goes.
If he's able to (and smart enough) to keep the fight standing, he'll likely end it in one.
Final prediction: Pyle def. Waldburger via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson (8-1) vs. Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker (11-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: Stephen Thompson is now 31, so it may be time to shed the "boy" part of his moniker, though admittedly, "Wonderman" doesn't have quite the same pop as a nickname. That said, there is a reason he gets the hype that he does.
He's deadly on the feet.
But as Matt Brown taught us, that doesn't mean squat if you're mugged and slugged across three rounds inside the cage, though let's also give credit to Thompson for working on those deficiencies and showing a more well-rounded game in his next two fights.
Is he versatile enough to repel "The Reaper?"
That depends on what kind of fight Robert Whittaker is offering. The Aussie knows a thing or two about shutting off the lights, but trying to bang it out against a world-champion kickboxer is suicide. It can be done, mind you, but I'm just not sure Whittaker is the guy to do it.
He needs to make this fight dirty.
I can't be certain if that's part of the initial gameplan and I know some guys like to "test the waters" before resorting to "Plan B", but I'm not sure he'll have the luxury of recovering after Thompson connects, and by the time Whittaker realizes he's in trouble, he'll already be looking up at the lights.
Final prediction: Thompson def. Whittaker via knockout
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 170 fight card on fight night (Sat., Feb. 22, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 170 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Rousey vs. McMann."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.