When Ronda Rousey entered the MMA , she was one of the first Olympic caliber athletes to join women’s mixed martial arts. On April 27, 2013, former Olympian Sara McMann will make her UFC debut against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159. One of the main problems with finding challengers for Ronda Rousey has been that women’s MMA simply doesn’t have any other high-level athletes to compete with the strength, speed, and technique of Rousey. Miesha Tate is a good athlete, but the Olympics are a completely different animal. This is the main reason why Rousey has been so effective even though she is relatively new to the sport.
On the other hand, Sara McMann won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. McMann has displayed that elite level athleticism that is going to be needed to unseat Rousey from her throne at the top of women’s mixed martial arts. McMann will provide a unique matchup to Rousey’s judo skills. If McMann can defeat Gaff and continue moving up the ladder at bantamweight, she’s going to find herself in a title shot very soon.
It seems strange that the person to challenge Rousey has only been competing in mixed martial arts for three years; however, because women’s MMA is so young, elite athletes like Rousey and McMann are going to be able to dominate much of their competition with limited skills. Objectively, Rousey’s skills themselves are rather limited. Her striking is still a big work in progress but it doesn’t matter because he judo and submission skills are so good.
Against McMann, she would finally face someone who would be a legitimate threat to take her down. McMann has the technique and quickness to shoot double legs on Rousey. Futhermore, if the two find themselves against the cage, McMann’s wrestling abilities will prove a unique challenge to Rousey. For the first time Rousey may have to fight someone who she can’t take down at will. It would be in McMann’s best interest to keep the bout standing and she may just have the skills to do it. If she can remain on her feet, she can pepper Rousey with jabs and kicks. Rousey has never had to utilize her striking in an extended fight so it seems likely that McMann can take her into the deeper waters as long as she can remain standing.
McMann poses a unique athletic challenge to Rousey that no other bantamweights can offer right now. Honestly, she may be the only woman in the UFC right now who is even a small threat to Rousey. Once McMann gets past Gaff on Saturday, she will likely be propelled into a title shot. If that fight were to happen, Rousey would finally have her hands full with a contender who is just as good of an athlete as she is.