UFC 170 Recap: A Smorgasbord of Squash

Depending on what MMA media sources you frequented prior to UFC 170, you could have had vastly different expectations of what would happen when the fighters for the main and co-main events stepped into the cage on Saturday night. Some had pegged Sara McMann as the fighter who might be able to best Ronda Rousey based on her wrestling background and the assumption that she would continue to progress through her MMA career. Unfortunately, McMann was rushed into this title shot, as she had only competed twice in the 24 months leading up to this bout. Once against a completely overmatched opponent, and once against a solid fighter who gave her fits. Take the olympic medal away, and her resume wasn’t deserving of this title shot. That fact was ignored by many, as despite the betting odds opening similarly to Rousey’s previous fights — the champion was a -705 favorite (bet $705 to win $100) at 5Dimes Sportsbook, with the challenger a +435 underdog (bet $100 to win $435) — the closing odds were significantly closer, with Rousey at -360 and McMann at +325. This belied the fact that McMann didn’t really have a way to win the fight. Even though the challenger was able to avoid the takedowns and Rousey’s vaunted ground game, she didn’t have much to offer on the feet and was finished in just 66 seconds. While some criticized the stoppage, McMann was dropped by — and audibly reacted to — a knee to the body, while Rousey quickly followed up with shots that left Herb Dean with no option but to stop the fight.

Moving forward, Rousey has three potential contenders. The most interesting but least realistic is Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino, which is the women’s bout that everyone wants to see. The other two are Cat Zingano — depending on when she can get back from her knee injury — and Alexis Davis — who is the only woman other than Rousey to be 3-0 in the UFC — but both of those women would be massive underdogs to Rousey at this point. Speaking of massive underdogs, Pat Cummins was as high as a +1050 underdog against Daniel Cormier in the co-main event of the evening. Since Cummins was announced as the replacement for Rashad Evans just over a week ago there were two very clear narratives when it came to this bout. The first was as a tune-up for Cormier in his first foray down to 205lbs against an inexperienced and overmatched opponent. The second was that — get this — the fight would be competitive. If you watched the event, clearly only one of those was the correct line of thought. Still, bettors were clearly swayed by the story the UFC told leading up to the fight, as in the final hours prior to the event Cummins dropped from that high-water point all the way down to +600. Cormier took 13 seconds longer to dispatch his opponent than Rousey, but was equally impressive in doing so and was equally unscathed. Although he still remains unproven at light heavyweight, Cormier may get the next shot at the title in the division. The fights on the card that were appropriately matched provided their fair share of entertainment as well. Fight of the Night winners Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia each had their bright spots. The Canadian finally let his strikes go, something he hasn’t been willing to do of late. The Brazilian, for his part, was able to get takedowns in the first and third round, advancing to mount in the opening stanza. Maia tired after several failed takedown attemptes and, aside from a brief slip up in the final round, MacDonald took over as the takedowns became easier to stuff. While title talk would be premature for the Tristar product at this point, he’s certainly deserving of another top welterweight. The winner of the Shields/Lombard bout at UFC 171 seems a natural fit.

Two finishes in the welterweight division kicked off the PPV portion of the event, with Mike Pyle stopping T.J. Waldburger via strikes in the third round, and Stephen Thompson ending Robert Whittaker’s night in the first. Pyle struggled on the feet at times, but used his wrestling to tire Waldburger out early before starting to find more success with his strikes late. Referee Herb Dean came under fire for this stoppage as well, as some thought Waldburger took too much damage before he stepped in. Again, I thought the official did an appropriate job given the spot. There was no such controversy in Thompson’s win as he dropped Whittaker with a pair of right hands before following up with clean strikes on the ground that forced a stoppage. Despite being his third stoppage victory in the UFC, this was Thompson’s best peformance, and it came against the toughest test of his career not named Matt Brown. We’ve always known he’s had the striking, so it’s time to put ‘Wonderboy’ back in there with a wrestler to see if he’s finally improved that aspect of his game. The undercard of UFC 170 primarily featured decisions once again, but they weren’t nearly as tame as previous events have been. The bantamweight bout between UFC debutantes Aljamain Sterling and Cody Gibson was highly entertaining and competitive, while flyweights Zach Makovsky and Josh Sampo put on a solid, technical bout of their own. Overall, UFC 170 turned out to be a little bit more than we expected. Most people weren’t shocked in the slightest by the victors of the top two fights, but the overall entertainment level of the event was definitely higher than anticipated, especially when it came to MacDonald/Maia. Next up for the UFC is a card that bettors have been dreading. The UFC returns to Macau, China for the finale of ‘The Ultimate Fighter: China’. Stay tuned to MMA OddsBreaker over the coming week for a breakdown of some fighters you may have never heard of. Also keep in mind that Bellator returns this coming week, while Titan FC and Cage Warriors will both have events going down as well. The MMA schedule is in full swing, and that means lots of opportunities for making money.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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