Sara McMann Wins Fight, Says All ‘135ers Will Have a Hard Time Defending My Take Downs’

When a wrestler walks through the doors of the cage, I sometimes wonder whether the fight will be action packed enough to hold my interest. ProElite 3 Grove vs. Minowa (Hawaii, Jan. 21, 2012) featured Sara McMann, a wrestler and still new to MMA, taking on, Hitomi Akano, a veteran of many wars (18-9) with seasoned fighters against big names you'll recognize.

Sara, who earned a silver Olympic medal in wrestling in 2004, put that experience to good use in her match with Hitomi Akano, taking her opponent down at will over and over again. Sara has been working on building her striking base. Recognizing that her Muay Thai tools weren't getting the job done, Sara reverted to her wrestling specialty to ensure that her record (now 5-0) advanced with a unanimous decision win.

In her post fight interview, Sara said, "I wish I'd had a little bit more stand up, but she did a great job at using her range…and when I did engage and get in the pocket, she was grabbing onto me. She was either elusive or she was a threat, so I had to resort back to my wrestling, a little more than I wanted to, but she kinda kept giving up her back and I had to take it." video

Sara also said, "Every person at 135 in the world would have a hard time defending my take downs."

The rankings and previous fight records

Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano is currently ranked number five on the January 2012 "Unified Women's MMA Rankings" list of 135ers.

1. Miesha "Takedown" Tate

2. Marloes "Rumina" Coenen

3. Sarah Kaufman

4. Alexis Davis

5. Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano

6. Liz "Girl-Rilla" Carmouche

7. Vanessa Porto

8. Julie "Fireball" Kedzie

9. Sara McMann

10. Kaitlin Young

In recent bouts, Akano emerged victorious over Roxanne Modafierri and Carina "Beauty but the Beast" Damm. Reading through the long list of Akano's match-ups reveals that she lost to:

- Miesha "Take Down" Tate in August 2010 (oh snap)

- Hiroko Yamanaka (Cyborg's 16 second "on steroids" knock-out)

- Cyborg Santos (made it to 0:35 seconds of third round)

- Vanessa Porto (split decision)

Balancing out MMA skills

Slade Bittler, owner of Tussle fight gear, remarked on Facebook that Sara is, "…looking better with every fight. Hitomi had her in a couple of bad spots. She maintained her composure and worked her way out of them. I'd say, best fight to date, displaying her growth as a fighter. I have no doubt, you will be seeing her in Strikeforce."

This is the second time I've seen Sara McMann fight. In her time between fights, she's been working her stand-up. From my point of view, she's really improved, but still needs work to feel confident in using her striking to set up opportunities. After watching Sara man-handle Akano, she has become one of my favorite fighters to watch. I'm enjoying watching her climb the 135 ladder.

Slade added, "Sara is growing for sure and I think you're right about the confidence on her feet. She's gotten better each time, but needs a good finish—over a quality opponent—to make her get that confidence."

Andrea Watson joined the conversation, "McMann is my fav :) It's funny because elite wrestlers have been dominating men's MMA for years. Now, finally, there is a true elite female wrestler in the mix and she is going to dominate everyone in her weight class. Mark my words, McMann is the best in the world. No one can stop that woman."

Andrea is deeply interested in MMA. Prior to focusing and competing in Muay Thai, BJJ, and wrestling, Andrea played soccer, rugby and learned to box.

Fighter Gear

Slade's company has been Sara's sponsor for about six months. Sara wore Tussle gear for her match with Akano. I asked Slade if his team designs the gear for the fighter or does the fighter make a special request.

Slade responded, "Depends on the person. I've done custom stuff for some of the girls. Sara's outfit was somebody else's, but not sure whose".

Slade explained that smaller fight gear companies, like his, are at a disadvantage once the fighters they sponsor hit the big shows, like Strikeforce.

"Zuffa charges a fee to be allowed to sponsor fighters in their events. The smaller clothing companies are unable to afford the fee—so we're not able to sponsor the people we have worked with—some for years. We work with the fighters as they are growing and developing. When fighters get to the big stage, large clothing companies take over and get the spotlight on somebody they know nothing about or haven't ever supported before. Seems a shame to me, but that seems to be how Zuffa assures that the companies they want to see succeed, get the chance to."

If that is true, then Slade's partnership with Sara McMann will have to adjust because this 135er is body slamming her way to Strikeforce.

Source: Facebook conversations, Sherdog.com, Twitter

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Cheryl Ragsdale started out boxing and has added kicks and BJJ so she can practice MMA. She trains with Keith Florian and UFC Fighter Kenny Florian at Florian Martial Arts - follow @thatgirlisfunny

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Updated Sunday, Jan 22, 2012