The UFC is back in our lives this weekend, as the foremost fight promotion in the land offers up UFC 170 for our viewing pleasure. The card is pretty well stocked from top to bottom and headlined by UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey, who Dana White recently referred to as “the biggest star we’ve ever had.”

I’m unlikely to top praise like that in this intro, so let’s get started with the preview.

UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship
Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann – 135lbs.

It’s tough to know where to start with Ronda Rousey. Dana’s not exactly adverse to hyperbolic statements, but he could well be hitting the nail well and truly on the head when he opines on the Rousey star. Already Rousey has become one half of the first woman’s MMA bout in the UFC, the first female headliner , the first UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, defending said belt and been a part of several blockbuster movies, as well as being signed up for two of the more anticipated cinema releases in ‘Entourage: The Movie’ and ‘The Athena Project’. Rousey’s last Octagon appearance came this past December at UFC 168, where the ‘Rowdy’ one put her rivalry with Miesha Tate to bed with a customary armbar finish early in the 3rd round. Rousey’s star is burning bright and unlikely to be extinguished any time soon. Well, that is unless Sara McMann has something to say about it…

Sara McMann has only fought just the once in the UFC before taking on the dominant force of the division and entering the first title fight of her career. McMann’s Octagon debut came almost a year ago now, back in April 2013 against Shiela Gaff at UFC 159. McMann would dominate the early stages and claim victory via TKO late in the opening round of their contest. McMann is perfect in her MMA career and colds victories over women’s MMA notables Hitomi Akano, Shayna Baszler and Tonya Evinger.

The Rousey/McMann bout will be the first time that two former Olympians will have shared an Octagon with Rousey taking Bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games in Judo and McMann achieving Silver at the 2004 Games in Olympic wrestling. McMann’s wrestling chops will stand her in good stead against all foes she comes across and many are keen to see whether or not McMann will be able to take Rousey down and hold her there for any prolonged, meaningful periods. I don’t doubt that McMann has the ability to do so, it’s just that I don’t think that this particular tactic would be too wise. McMann has shown herself to be pretty handy on the feet and should be able to trade long enough with Rousey to set up a takedown, but once there it’s hard to look past Rousey grabbing on to a limb and doing what Rousey does to loose limbs.

Prediction – Rousey via submission

Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins – 205lbs.
Cormier carried over the good form and bright promise that he had showed during his time in Strikeforce when debuting in the UFC in his most recent performance to date. Having claimed the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix title during his time with the now defunct promotion, big things were expected of Cormier. Being paired off with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir for his debut bout did little to dull the excitement, and neither did Cormier’s performance. Cormier dominated proceedings for the full three rounds, taking home the judge’s decision. Cormier immediately chose to drop down to 205lbs, and Saturday will mark his debut at that weight.

This is the one that brings the bad blood to the card and that is because of Cummins’ revelations that he made Cormier cry in wrestling practice leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games. Cormier has confirmed the story, just not quite how Cummins would like it to be portrayed. Yes, Cormier cried directly after grappling with Cummins, but Cormier insists this was because he was mentally broke because of a gruelling practice session and that the tears were brought on as a result of his daughter’s death playing on his mind. That Cummins brought this up in the lead-in to this bout has really got to Cormier. But then for Cummins, without bringing this up, would he have got the fight? Probably not. Anyway, this is Cummins’ UFC debut and just the fifth bout of his so far perfect MMA career.

Cummins picked the wrong fight, with the wrong dude and used the wrong reasons to promote the clash. If this goes any other way than a sound Cormier-led beating, I will be surprised.

Prediction – Cormier via KO/TKO

Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia – 170lbs.
Once seen as the heir apparent to GSP’s welterweight throne, Rory MacDonald’s stock is at an all time low. Defeat in his last outing to Robbie Lawler followed a widely panned performance
against Jake Ellenberger, despite MacDonald achieving victory. MacDonald received some serious flak from fans, the media and his employers for the timidity of his showing, but a win over Demian Maia will go a long to restoring some fallen pride. A spectacular showing, one that MacDonald has proven himself capable of, and we could see ‘Ares’ back on the title trail.

After making the drop down from middleweight to 170lbs, Demian Maia took to his surroundings like a duck to water. Reeling off dominant wins against Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch, Maia looked like a man renewed. However, in his last performance Maia was to suffer his first defeat as a welterweight to Jake Shields. Maia had his moments against Shields, but was unable to effectively impose his world class BJJ on his opponent with the required force or regularity to take home the decision.

Maia’s grappling ability will always mean that he is a live dog in any fight he finds him in and this is the case again here. If Maia is able to drag this one to the mat, he may be able to work his much younger foe to submission or display enough dominant control to secure a decision on the scorecards. However, I expect MacDonald to be far too athletic, powerful and diverse for Maia to takedown and toy with. MacDonald should be able to keep this one standing and pick off Maia at range.

Prediction – MacDonald via unanimous decision

Mike Pyle vs. TJ Waldburger – 170lbs.
The gatekeeper’s gatekeeper, Mike Pyle has consistently shown that he is a match for absolutely everyone in the UFC’s welterweight division, just not quite those in the top 10. This was to be the case again in Pyle’s last contest, as he would be KO’d by Matt Brown in under 30 seconds after stringing together four straight wins over solid competition.

Waldburger has accrued a significant amount of experience in his MMA career so far whilst still only 25 years old. Waldburger has faced off with notables Josh Neer, Brian Ebersole and Johny Hendricks in his time, but like Pyle in some ways, Waldburger has been unable to make the leap to contention and has lost the more important bouts he has been featured in, including to those names above. Waldburger was last seen losing to Adlan Amagov via KO back at UFC 166 in October.

Waldburger has proven himself to be far too reliant on his grappling and often gets caught cold when left on his feet for any extended period of time. The savvier Pyle will likely look to exploit this weakness.

Prediction – Pyle via KO/TKO

Robert Whittaker vs. Stephen Thompson – 170lbs.
The inaugural The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner, Robert Whittaker saw his perfect start to his UFC career ruined with defeat in his most recent performance. After besting both Brad Scott and Colton Smith, Whittaker was paired off with Court McGee and would ultimately go on to lose via split decision back in August 2013.

Thompson burst on to the UFC scene with a spectacular head kick KO in his promotional debut, but was then quickly brought back down to earth by Matt Brown and the judge’s scorecards. Since that defeat, Thompson has rebounded with a pair of victories over Nah-Shon Burrell and Chris Clements.

While Whittaker has a black belt in Karate, it would be foolish to employ a striking-based gameplan against a multiple-time world kickboxing champion like Thompson. Whittaker will hold a sizeable advantage over Thompson on the ground and will likely look to take it there as soon, and as often as possible.

Prediction – Whittaker via unanimous decision

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