In what might seem to some like a tribute to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the UFC 170 co-main event will feature Daniel Cormier making his highly anticipated move to light heavyweight to take on former Olympic wrestling training partner Patrick Cummins, who is making his organizational debut as a result of Rashad Evans' pulling out of the fight due to injury.
In addition, fans will see women's bantamweight title holder and former Olympian Ronda Rousey fight for the second time in the past two months against the relatively lesser known Sara McMann, who has an Olympic wrestling background that will provide a novel threat to the usually dominant Rousey. Let's look through the stats to find value in the lines for Saturday night's Olympics-themed card.
Ronda Rousey (-400) vs. Sara McMann (+325)
Rousey will be squaring off with McMann just 55 days after defeating Miesha Tate. This is a very fast turnaround for a champion to take a fight. To make the situation more bizarre, McMann last fought almost a year ago in her UFC debut. With such a short resting period for Rousey and such a large layoff for McMann, will that overshadow what should be the main attraction of the fight: whether the former Olympic wrestler can stop the undefeated former Olympic judoka Rousey?
It's no secret that Rousey's strategy in this fight -- and every fight she has been in -- is to take her opponent down and implement her trademark armbar to finish things as quickly as possible. And so far, the strategy has been flawless, netting Rousey eight wins via armbar in her eight career fights, with only her previous fight with Tate going beyond the first round. With a giant 8.11 takedowns and a mammoth 6.08 submissions per 15 minutes, Rousey has put up seemingly unstoppable production in this area. However, McMann's Olympic-level wrestling could give Rousey arguably the biggest test of her career.
As a result, the statistic of the fight is McMann's 100 percent takedown defense. Whether Rousey will be able to take McMann to the ground or not will tell a lot about how this fight goes down. And with McMann possessing a respectable 6.78 takedowns per 15 minutes herself -- and Rousey sporting just a 60 percent takedown defense -- McMann might be able to take offensive control of the fight and coast her way to a fourth career decision win.
The other question pertains to Rousey's conditioning, given that she has never seen past the third round of an MMA fight. McMann's Olympic-level conditioning could prove crucial in a fight that has the makings of going the distance. Despite going into the third round against Tate, Rousey was still able to armbar Tate after exerting a lot of energy in the back-and-forth battle. A five-rounder could wear down Rousey.
Consider this a stay-away bet given how dangerous Rousey is with the armbar as well as how difficult a matchup McMann might turn out to be.
Insider value pick: Stay away
Rory MacDonald (-300) vs. Demian Maia (+250)
Before turning in subpar performances during their most recent fights, both MacDonald and Maia were on trajectories that would have placed them as contenders in the welterweight division. After each lost decisions, however, they're now facing each other to maintain their positions at the top of the division. The major difference, though, is that while Maia has made terrific strides since dropping down to welterweight, he'll be taking on a young fighter who has only grown stronger following his past defeats, which weren't very sound defeats at all.
Considering he's just 24, MacDonald has had quite an MMA career, with eight UFC fights under his belt, six of which he has won in impressive fashion. And outside of a recent split decision that went against him, and a fight in which he had arguably won on the cards only to lose in the final seconds, falling victim to an inopportune flurry, MacDonald has appeared to be one of the best young talents in the organization. He has maintained a high 3.15 takedowns per 15 minutes and implemented some of the sport's best ground and pound, with a very high average of 3.85 strikes landed per minute (SLPM). MacDonald has one of the most efficient and effective skill sets in the sport.
But against former ADCC champion Maia, the challenge will be avoiding his high-level grappling and submission game. Maia lands a high 3.14 takedowns and 1.37 submissions per 15 minutes. However, the key difference between the two is in their styles, with MacDonald's wrestling ability allowing him to successfully defend 89 percent of takedown attempts as opposed to Maia, who defends just 69 percent.
While it might seem like that number is artificially lower due to Maia's willingness to fight off of his back, consider that he has successfully finished only one fight by submission since 2009, having far less effectiveness in his submission game against high-level competition. And with Maia being at a severe disadvantage standing, with a low 1.7 SLPM as well as giving up a large 4.5-inch reach advantage to MacDonald, Maia will have a very difficult time if he can't get MacDonald to the ground.
Indeed, Maia's pathways to win this fight are severely limited. Most important to note: MacDonald has never been submitted before in his career. So you can see why he's a great value as just a minus-300 favorite.
Insider value pick: MacDonald
Mike Pyle (-260) vs. TJ Waldburger (+180)
At 38, Pyle has been keeping an incredible pace, having won four out of his last five fights. Against 25-year-old Waldburger, however, Pyle will face a big challenge in trying to avoid his second loss in a row, as Waldburger is one of the most statistically impressive young fighters in the sport.
The most apparent strength for Waldburger is his grappling game, in which he is able to implement a staggering rate of production after getting opponents to the ground. With a rate of 3.96 takedowns and a record 5.94 submission attempts per 15 minutes, Waldburger has made a career of submitting opponents, with 13 out of 16 victories coming in this manner. Given that Pyle has a 69 percent takedown defense along with four career losses by submission, it's extremely possible that Waldburger could win this fight if he is able to implement his game plan.
The caveat, however, is that Waldburger has routinely fallen victim to knockout or technical knockout in attempting to out-grapple opponents. Having been finished six times in his eight losses by strikes, Waldburger will again be at risk against Pyle. With Waldburger holding just a 1.8 SLPM to Pyle's 2.66 SLPM, and given that Pyle has won three of his last four victories by KO/TKO, it's entirely possible that Pyle could stop Waldburger in his tracks. Furthermore, Waldburger sports a very poor 37 percent striking defense; he'll want to get this fight to the ground as soon as he can.
Despite all of this, the much younger Waldburger improves with each fight while Pyle simply continues to age. How long can he defy the odds? With Waldburger a plus-180 favorite, consider the young submission artist a great bet to win if he can stay out of trouble.
Insider value pick: Waldburger
Erik Koch (-420) vs. Rafaello Oliveira (-300)
Before losing two in a row, the Milwaukee-based Koch showed incredible promise, as he entered the lightweight division with two wins in a row and an impressive "Knockout of the Night" in his UFC debut. Since then, he has struggled against solid opponents at the weight class in Dustin Poirier and Ricardo Lamas. As a result, Koch has dropped to featherweight to reignite his career, taking on struggling submission specialist Oliveira. And with some key strengths that will be more pronounced in the lighter division, Koch should be able to return to winning form on Saturday night.
At 5-foot-10, Koch was a taller lightweight, but in the featherweight division, his size advantage will be very noticeable. Taking on Oliveira, who is two inches shorter, the former lightweight should able to use his larger frame to implement a productive striking attack, which has previously averaged 2.2 SLPM at a 42 percent accuracy rate. Though Oliveira has a similar production of 2.22 SLPM, he does so landing just 34 percent of his strikes. And given that Oliveira has lost two out of his last three fights by KO/TKO, Koch should have the opportunity to attempt to finish Oliveira early on.
Oliveira's main strength is his submission ability. To implement it, he gladly concedes position, maintaining just an 11 percent takedown defense, yet attempting 1.63 submissions per 15 minutes. However, Koch has never lost a fight in his career by submission, and maintains a similar 1.61 submissions per 15 minutes himself. And with a very good takedown defense of 79 percent, Koch should be able to control the pace of this fight, standing or on the ground, as he has the skill set to take it wherever he is more comfortable.
Thus, with the ability to dictate how the fight plays out, Koch should find a renewed career in the featherweight division with a win over Oliveira. He's a good bet -- even at the high price of minus-420.
Insider value pick: Koch