For the first time in UFC history, two undefeated Olympic medalists will square off for promotional gold, as women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (8-0, 2-0 UFC) attempts to defend her 135-pound strap against challenger Sara McMann (7-0, 1-0 UFC) in Saturday's UFC 170 (10 P.M. EST, Pay Per View) main event.
Women's MMA's biggest star, Rousey, who took the bronze medal in Judo at the 2008 Beijing games, is just eight weeks removed from her last octagon appearance, a third round armbar submission of Miesha Tate, while McMann, who earned silver in wrestling at the 2004 Athens games, is returning to the cage after a 10-month layoff, setting up what is expected to be an epic clash of Olympians.
"I think it's an amazing matchup and it's great for, not just women's MMA, but MMA in general ... women's MMA has almost skipped ahead of the guys," commented Rousey. "I couldn't be more excited to have an athlete of Sarah's level to really test myself against."
The scouting report on Rousey has always focused on her athletic dominance; a tenacious fighter who controls the clinch with Judo throws and hip tosses, Rousey's armbar has proved impossible to defend in MMA competition. But McMann's wrestling pedigree is unparalleled among the women's ranks, and she is the last remaining threat to Rousey's title reign.
A McMann victory would rate as the promotion's biggest upset since Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva at UFC 162, and while she should be able to escape Rousey's submission attempts, the champion will prove to be too much, riding her current momentum and improved standup to a decision victory.
Co-main event: Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins
With Rashad Evans forced to withdraw from his showdown with Cormier after sustaining a knee injury last week, the UFC went out and signed the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion's former Olympic training partner, Cummins.
A virtual unknown in the MMA ranks, Cummins makes his UFC debut with little pressure, and little chance, against Cormier, who is making his first appearance at 205 pounds.
Expect Cormier to come out and dominate Cummins, controlling the cage, grinding out heavy knees from the clinch. Having never finished an opponent under the UFC banner, this will be Cormier's best chance at an early knockout, but don't be surprised if this one goes the distance, with DC scoring the unanimous decision.
Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia
This matchup between the multi-talented MacDonald and Maia, one of MMA's top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, is a battle for relevancy at 170 pounds, as both welterweights head into UFC 170 after losing split decisions in their previous outings.
MacDonald's counterintuitive style has been known to frustrate opponents, while Maia is blatant in his grapple-first approach; both fighters are slow and tactical, and this contest will likely gravitate toward the cage wall, where the clinch will dictate the outcome.
Look for Maia to attempt submissions early, but MacDonald will escape with the decision.
Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger
Another close welterweight contest, this battle between Pyle and Waldburger pits two dynamic finishers against each other, both looking to return to winning form.
For Pyle, who has been fighting professionally since his opponent was only 11 years old, success has often come by way of early submission; Waldburger has also recorded over a dozen submissions.
Expect a high pace fight early on, with both fighters throwing and landing heavy punches and knees. Waldburger will then go on to force the tapout.
Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker
Thompson, a Kempo Karate black belt who is known professionally as "The Wonderboy," is the UFC welterweight division's craftiest kicker, and a veritable highlight reel of spinning limbs.
Whittaker, who won the The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in 2012, is more of a traditional brawler, with refined boxing techniques.
While this fight appears to be evenly matched, Thompson will unleash his uncanny and unpredictable arsenal on the Australian, and land a late round knockout.