UFC 170 RouseyWhile UFC events have been in a bit of a slump lately, Saturday’s UFC 170 promises to turn our fortunes around. Our main event features Ronda Rousey in a quick turnaround to defend her belt once again, taking on fellow Olympian Sara McMann.  It’s an interesting dynamic when elite freestyle wrestlers meet elite judoka, and one we rarely see play out outside of JMMA.

We’ve got plenty of impressive bouts to look at, so lets dig into the action. For those of you looking to place a bet or two on the bouts make sure you check out the MMA Betting at William Hill for the latest UFC 170 plays.

Ronda Rousey vs Sara McMann: Coming off an outstanding performance against Miesha Tate, Rousey will fit in another title defense, this time against undefeated grappler Sara McMann. Rousey finally showed up more than an armbar last time out, with her bag of grappling tricks and functional judo being more than I expected. While her striking is still not at this level of competition, she still proves too much for almost any fighter at 135lbs to engage.

McMann is a solid fighter in her own right, but incredibly green in MMA and not adding much of anything to her game. This is a fight she must win on virtue of her wrestling over judo, and it’s one that I can’t see panning out.  Historically, freestyle wrestlers have a difficult time with judoka because judoka work entirely out of their standing base, and can shut down takedowns or reverse the classic shots of freestyle. It’s a fight that’s played out many times in Japan, and it’s one where McMann will play out for us here as she’s swept and stuffed on every attempt. With both ladies being lackluster strikers, look for some crowding where Rousey takes McMann’s back standing before hitting her armbar towards the end of the first round.

Daniel Cormier vs Patrick Cummins: A short notice replacement for an injured Rashad Evans, Patrick Cummins looks to make a major statement by dispatching Daniel Cormier in his UFC debut. The UFC hype machine is pushing this fight to be something it’s not: Competitive. Hitting tape on Cummins, what I saw was a fighter with a decent takedown, but one who is novice at best with striking, has no understanding of range, and who has no entry to set up his takedowns. Against Cormier, he faces one of the best wrestlers to even hit the cage, and having nothing but a shot is a recipe for disaster here. Look for Cormier to wheel from the outside, counter the takedowns, and then turn it on when Cummins begins to wilt, getting the TKO inside of two rounds.

Demian Maia UFC 170

Demian Maia

Rory MacDonald vs Demian Maia: A fight that will likely play out as the snoozer of the night, Rory MacDonald will look to erase his last loss, taking on fellow struggling fighter Demian Maia. MacDonald is one of the best talents in the sport, yet has become basically unwatchable in the last year, swapping his killer instinct for savvy point-fighting antics. Maia isn’t much better here, having ditched the striking game he was percolating to rededicate himself to his BJJ roots. He’s proven to be impossible to shake for most of the division, yet his positional grappling and endurance were found faulty at the hands of Jake Shields last time out.

Maia can get takedowns, but he’ll have a hard time getting inside of MacDonald’s jab, and MacDonald isn’t going to try to do much else I imagine, with Maia being too dangerous to engage.  If Maia can get a takedown, things will become awfully interesting, and for the sake of our entertainment, let’s hope that how it plays out.  Look for MacDonald to pump the jab and fade away from takedown attempts, leaving Maia standing bewildered like he was against Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, with the Canadian taking a lackluster decision win.

Mike Pyle vs TJ Waldburger: A fight between mirror images, Pyle and Waldburger will compete with backs against the wall. Both men have been defined as ultra-savvy grappling specialists with horrendous chins, but this fight should play well into each man’s style, with plenty of opportunity for sweeps, transitions and entangling submissions for the two BJJ stylists. While I think Waldburger is the better shooter, Pyle should be the stronger fighter with a bit more experience against high-level grapplers. I think we see a competitive first round, but the second sees Pyle getting his punches going and ultimately crumpling Waldburger against the fence with a flurry for the TKO win.

Robert Whitaker vs Stephen Thompson: Just write the FOTN check now, as two of the most dynamic strikers at Welterweight, karateka Whitaker and Thompson will steal the show. Whitaker is a true punisher in this sport, having crushing power and speed in his strikes, with all the aggression needed to close and put those shots on point. Thompson is a cut above Whitaker’s standard opponent, having a level of technical prowess in the art you rarely see. Masterful movement, plenty of power and range control on par with Machida, Thompson is a nightmare to deal with in a striking exchange, and Whitaker is stuck doing exactly that.

One interesting X-factor to this fight is Whitaker’s moving to Tri-Star, while Thompson was brought in previously to work with GSP and several other team members, while not being a member of the group himself. Tri-Star should have some intel to impart to their fighter because of this one-way familiarity, and that could give Whitaker an edge early. The key to this is for Whitaker to get going early though, as Thompson is adaptive beyond what most fighters are capable of, and that window to work against Wonderboy will rapidly close. While I like Whitaker’s power, I don’t like his lack of high-level competition and the fact he’s a karate fighter taking on someone who spent their entire life fighting the same. This should be dynamite, but Thompson has the angles and talent to deal with Whitaker, taking an exciting decision win on virtue of his strike count and control.

Alexis Davis vs Jessica Eye: Another outstanding fight, WMMA bruisers Davis and Eye will square up and set the cage on fire. Davis is a killer, using a nasty cutting inside leg kick to disable her opponent’s base, while having an underrated ground game and the toughness of any fighter at this weight class, man or woman. Eye isn’t a slouch either however, being a sound technical boxer with a decent power punch. This should be fireworks, but I have to give Davis a slight edge due to her outstanding cardio and that leg kick that will ruin the movement of Eye in short order. Look for a close first round, but Davis starts to put it together as the fight goes on, walking Eye down and take a decision win based on that aggression.

Raphael Assuncao vs Pedro Munhoz: A great addition to the UFC, Pedro Munhoz will make his short notice debut, taking on surging foe Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao has had a real resurgence at 135lbs, having put together a complete striking game to compliment his strong-style BJJ, and having mixed the two to deadly efficiency. Munhoz is a solid all-around fighter, but I feel he’s just a cut below Assuncao everywhere the fight goes and will find himself beaten in the clinch and broken down as he drops a decision to the UFC veteran.

Zach Makovsky vs Josh Sampo: Another stellar match-up, former Bellator champ Zach Makovsky will bring his single leg mastery to the cage against the well-rounded battler Josh Sampo. Makovsky looked amazing against Scott Jorgensen in his debut, but faces one of the most cerebral fighters in the division in Sampo, who has all the skill to find a way to circumvent the takedowns of Makovsky. It’s a matter of time, and while I like Sampo to eventually puzzle out his foe, he won’t have all day to do it as he’s stuck to the mat over and over again. A quick scramble seals the deal here, as Makovsky takes Sampo’s back and grabs that RNC before the final bell in a spirited effort by both men.

Rafaello Oliveira vs Erik Koch: An interesting match-up, Erik Koch will move up to Lightweight, taking on struggling fighter Rafaello Oliveira. Koch was once thought to be a serious title contender at Featherweight, but injuries and setbacks in the cage derailed those plans. While I’m not sure the move up to 155lbs is smart, he does face an opponent in Oliveira that’s almost hand-picked for him, having limited offense on the feet and a novice if powerful takedown game. Koch has all the tools to beat Oliveira here, so expect some fleet-footed stick and move tactics that ruins Oliveira’s entry and eventually dishes out a savage KO late in the fight, putting Koch back in the winner’s circle.

UFC 170 takes place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

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