UFC 184

Ronda Rousey will put her UFC women’s bantamweight title and undefeated record on the line when she faces Cat Zingano Saturday night at UFC 184 from Staples Centre.

The Californian, who recently starred in The Expendables 3, is already a poster girl for the sport having racked up a 10-0 record, starting with seven consecutive finishes by first round armbar.

On the other hand Zingano, 32 and with a 2-0 record in the UFC, arrives fully motivated having stormed back to beat Amanda Nunes in September after 15 months out due to knee surgery.

It’s an intriguing match-up at UFC 184 to say the least. Rousey, 28, won an Olympic bronze medal in judo in 2008 before battering her way to the Strikeforce title in 2012, winning it with a gruesome armbar against Meisha Tate. She further demonstrated her prowess in takedowns, throws and grappling with triumphs over Liz Carmouche (in the first UFC women’s 135lbs title fight), Tate again, Sara McMann and Alexis Davis.

Is she unstoppable though? Cat could be the one to unlock any weaknesses, plus Rousey hasn’t entered deep waters and looks hittable when she brings her guard down. But, remember, Rousey’s last two defences – against McMann and Davis – were both stoppages by strikes in a combined time of one minute and 22 seconds. Don’t go thinking she is merely a ground artist.

Zingano is dangerous on the bottom and owns a sharp ground game. With good footwork – but let down by a susceptibility to cuts – “Alpha” smashed Tate with knees in 2013 before surviving that onslaught from Nunes. Indeed, she spent most of round one eating elbows from half guard, showing guts to turn the tables and finish at the death with ground-and-pound.

You’d think Rousey would, as ever, dive in for the clinch straight away but don’t forget about Zingano’s muay Thai skills. If the battle goes against the fence it will be interesting to see if “Rowdy” can control the challenger, a naturally big 135lb’er. Still, all signs point to another Rousey finish but like most of Zingano’s fights, it will probably be violent, with plenty of twists and turns. Expect the champion to retain her gold – not without a struggle though.

In the same division the UFC 184 co-main event features Raquel Pennington welcoming Holly Holm, the 18-time world boxing champion to the UFC. Pennington, who impressed during The Ultimate Fighter Season 18, learned her trade with spirited defeats to Zingano (2012) and Leslie Smith (2013) in Invicta, while her slick skills on the mat came to the fore when choking out Ashlee Evans-Smith in December.

Despite competing at a lower level for Bellator and Legacy, Holm, 33 and a world class kickboxer, brings plenty of momentum. At 7-0, the Jackson-Winkeljohn product has looked imperious thus far with high levels of footwork, cage generalship and head kicks. Her keys to victory will be to cut off the cage and attack with punches and kicks in bunches. She can claim a stoppage late on but Pennington will take her shots like a warrior.

Two welterweights in need of a win at UFC 184, Jake Ellenberger and Josh Koscheck will also meet. Ellenberger, an excellent boxer, has seemingly found his level thanks to defeats against champ Robbie Lawler, Kelvin Gastulem and Rory MacDonald – all in the last two years. Holding victories over Diego Sanchez (2012) and Jake Shields (2011), he nevertheless boasts one of the fastest power-doubles in the game.

But wrestling has always been Koscheck’s speciality, and the one-time NCAA Division 1 champion’s striking has improved at a sharp rate after making his UFC debut in 2005. Still, he may have challenged George St-Pierre for the belt in 2010 – unsuccessfully – but at 37 and coming off a trio of defeats since 2012, Koscheck is nearing the end. Expect Ellenberger to set a high pace before overwhelming his foe for a decision.

Also at welterweight Alan Jouban, a 10-0 member of Blackzilians, will battle Australia’s Richard Walsh. Jouban has an arsenal of kicks that would leave Anthony Pettis jealous and frankly defines excitement while Walsh, 26, possesses heavy hands and more of a grinding style. If Jouban pushes the pace, turning it into a kickboxing match, he could finish it at any point.

Lightweights Tony Ferguson and Gleison Tibau open up the UFC 184 main card with Ferguson looking to finally crack that elusive top 10. The 31-year-old, on a tear following wins over Abel Trujilo and Danny Castillio in the last nine months, is long and rangy but has his work cut out with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Tibau. Indeed, it could be close but Ferguson should command the stand-up exchanges and counter-punch for the judges’ nod.

Moving to the UFC 184 prelims, middleweight Mark Munoz is another fighter battling to save his career. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine,” once a world-class ground-and-pound merchant before a slew of TKO defeats, faces UFC debutant Roan Carnerio. 170lbs contenders Dhiego Lima and Tim Means also meet with Lima, 26, aiming to force the action and grab a second victory in the promotion at UFC 184.

Kid Yanamoto, a legend coming towards the end, makes another crack at 135lbs glory against Roman Salazar. Japan’s Yanamoto, 37, ran through Caol Uno and Royler Gracie in his heyday a decade ago but the 27-year-old Salazar, with seven contests since 2012 to his opponent’s one, should be too fresh. Elsewhere a potential heavyweight barnburner between Derrick Lewis and Ruan Potts rounds off the prelims, while UFC 184 Fight Pass offers Masio Fullen against Alex Torres at featherweight and James Krause taking on Valmir Lazaro at 155lbs.

Article by Ally Hendrie