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Crash Course: Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann

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Ronda Rousey will look to extend her dominance by topping fellow former Olympian Sara McMann.

In the week leading up to every UFC championship bout, SI.com presents a crash course on the big fight. UFC 170, which takes place on Saturday, will feature MMA's foremost female star, Ronda Rousey, in her title defense against Sara McMann.

Overview

Enjoying the Olympics? Downhill skiing and slopestyle. Hockey and speedskating. Luge and curling and pinkeye and figure skating TV analyst attire. There's a lot of excitement to take in over these two weeks.

UFC 170 Live Blog: Follow SI.com's round-by-round action

Now let's add some mixed martial arts a good 8,000 miles away from Sochi to this cornucopia of sports.

It's not actually part of the official program for the Winter Games, but on Saturday night in Las Vegas the main event of UFC 170 will pit Olympic medalist versus Olympic medalist, with another Olympian competing right before in the co-main event.

Talk about clever cross-programming. Even the Russian judges are awarding the UFC matchmakers a 10.0 for their timing and style.

When Ronda Rousey meets Sara McMann at the Mandalay Bay Events Center (10 p.m. ET, PPV), it will be Rousey's third defense of the championship belt she was awarded a year ago after the UFC absorbed the 135-pound women's bantamweight division from Strikeforce. "Rowdy Ronda" had reigned in the corporate little cousin promotion since March 2012. Prior to that, Rousey's claim to fame was winning a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. McMann was the silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the '04 Games in Athens. (The third Olympian on the card is Daniel Cormier, a member of the 2004 and '08 US freestyle wrestling team, who'll face late replacement Patrick Cummins in Saturday's light heavyweight co-main.)

The 27-year-old Rousey (8-0, 2-0 in the UFC) has swiftly become the UFC's brightest star. She has few professional fights on the resume, but she's drawn interest far afield from the MMA world. In the months between last summer's coaching stint opposite arch nemesis Miesha Tate on The Ultimate Fighter and their December bout, Rousey took part in the filming of two movies, The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7. Rousey, who's also had exposure as a cover model for the body issue of ESPN Magazine and as a late-night guest of Conan O'Brien, Jim Rome, and Jimmy Kimmel, recently agreed to two more movie deals.

But this woman is no mere Hollywood creation. Inside the cage, Rousey is a very real terror, having ended every fight via her inevitable armbar, with all but the last Tate encounter finishing in the first round. It is that dominance, not her thespian chops, that has earned her the No. 7 spot in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings.

(A note about Rousey's inclusion on the pound-for-pound list: At the start of each month, when we release our new rankings, the presence of the women's bantamweight champ in the same Top 10 as the sport's elite men never fails to draw the ire of some readers. I explained my thinking on this a year ago, back when I was one of the few media members to include Rousey in the fanciful rankings, so I won't go into that again. If you need to know, click here.)

McMann (7-0, 1-0 UFC), ranked No. 4 on the SI.com women's bantamweight list largely based on the potential her Olympic medal promises, has only last April's first-round TKO of Sheila Gaff on her UFC resume. And Gaff, following another loss last summer, was summarily bounced from the UFC's less-than-deep women's roster. So McMann, despite her Athens podium credentials, does still have some work to do in proving herself in this sport. The 33-year-old's encounters with top-ranked women have all been near misses: She was scheduled to fight Liz Carmouche in a Strikeforce bout in 2012, but the fight (along with the rest of the card) was cancelled, and she was set to face another contender, Sarah Kaufman, last August but pulled out for an undisclosed personal issue. Now, thanks to that Olympic silver and the UFC's sharp sense of promotional timing, she's getting her shot against the champ.

In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET) and the card's other two bouts will stream on the UFC Fight Pass digital subscription service (6:30).

Background

The UFC cage has been home to Olympians before.

Rousey, McMann, and Cormier aside, the fight promotion's current roster includes several athletes who've competed in the Games, from middleweight Yoel Romero (2004 silver medalist, Cuba, freestyle wrestling) to welterweight Hector Lombard (2000, Cuba, judo) to ageless light heavyweight Dan Henderson (1992 and '96, United States, Greco-Roman wrestling).

Past UFC competitors have included some of U.S. wrestling's biggest Olympic stars, such as 1984 freestyle gold medalist Mark Schultz, 1992 freestyle gold medalist Kevin Jackson, 1996 freestyle silver medalist Townsend Saunders and 2000 Greco-Roman silver medalist Matt Lindland.

And some of the UFC's greatest have been Olympic team members or alternates, such as the promotion's first heavyweight champion, 1992 freestyle wrestler Mark Coleman, and five-time champion and Hall of Fame inductee Randy Couture, a Greco-Roman alternate in 1988, '92 and '96.

But never before have two Olympic medalists competed against each other in the octagon. Never has the cage been the venue for a meeting of two Olympians, period. So Rousey vs. McMann is history in the making. No wonder the UFC couldn't wait to make it happen.

This might prove to be too much too soon for McMann, who has not yet been tested by a top-10 fighter. But she has some lofty credentials left over from her days on Mount Olympus. As fellow Olympian Cormier told me, "Don't expect to see Ronda ragdoll Sara like she did Miesha."

I'm not quite sure what we should we expect, but as with everything else in the sports world during this Olympic fortnight, expectations are running high.

Last Five Fights

Rousey

12/28/13 Miesha Tate W Sub 3

2/23/13 Liz Carmouche W Sub 1

8/18/12 Sarah Kaufman W Sub 1

3/3/12 Miesha Tate W Sub 1

11/18/11 Julia Budd W Sub 1

McMann

4/27/13 Sheila Gaff W TKO 1

7/28/12 Shayna Baszler W UD 3

1/21/12 Hitomi Akano W UD 3

8/27/11 Raquel Pa'aluhi W Sub 3

7/29/11 Tonya Evinger W UD 3

 
Tale of the Tape
Rousey
vs.
McMann
Feb. 1, 1987
Birth Date
Sept. 24, 1980
Riverside, Calif.
Birthplace
Takoma Park, Md.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Residence
Gaffney, S.C.
8-0
Record
7-0
135*
Weight
135*
5'7"
Height
5'6"
66"
Reach
66"
* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

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