Heading into the much anticipated UFC 196 this weekend, one fighter stands with probably the biggest opportunity for gain, the celebrated women’s bantamweight title contender, Miesha Tate. The coveted bantamweight belt has seemed out of reach for Tate for several years after her 3rd Round submission loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 168 in December 2013. With Rousey’s shocking defeat at the hands of new girl Holly Holm at UFC 194, the door suddenly opened wide for Tate.
A victory against Holm, while obviously being difficult to achieve, could be the launch pad for a new era in Tate’s successful career. She is currently on a four fight win streak, which she believed had earned her another shot at Rousey. Her last loss was actually against Rousey at UFC 168. But the UFC and Dana White were wary of putting Tate against Rousey for the third time (she also fought and lost to Rousey in Strikeforce).
But she could cap this win streak with a championship belt. And she has been focused on everything a victory could bring from the moment Holm’s head kick shattered Rousey’s perfect record and the MMA world. In an interview with MMAInterviews.tv she said,
“When Holly beat Ronda I thought immediately I have to be next in line . . . I’m going to get to win a world title in front of millions of people . . . I’m really glad that things have worked out the way that they did, and I think that 2016 is going to be my year.”
Winning the bantamweight title is obviously a dream of Tate’s, but she is uniquely poised to capitalize on this opportunity. The mere fact that Rousey has been defeated will give Tate the psychological edge and game plan to potentially defeat Rousey in a title defense. So a win against Holm could propel Tate to multiple title defenses and a chance to erase in many people’s minds her career defining moment, double losses to Rousey, and replace that negative moment with the more permanent, positive image of a belt around her waist.
Defeating Holly Holm will be no mean feat. Tate is two inches shorter and gives up four inches in reach, which plays right into Holm’s strengths. However, Tate has recently shown a patient determination to wear down opponents and go the distance. Although Tate is known for her submission game, all of Tate’s last 4 victories have come via Decision. She will not be the predictable raging bull that Rousey was, walking into Holm’s well timed punches and elbows.
Tate’s stand up game is slightly better than Rousey on paper, according to UFC’s official stats. Rousey technically lands a higher percentage of punches (52% to Tate’s 47%) but throws considerably less punches (213 to 447 respectively). What is important, however, is the different styles of their stand up. Tate has landed 56% of her strikes while standing, whereas Rousey delivers the majority of her strikes while in the clinch, a position hard to achieve against Holm. While standing and trading with Holm is not advisable, Tate will be far more comfortable on her feet than Rousey was. And Tate believes her standup game has developed tremendously in recent years, but she can still get to ground and go to war in the trenches.
“I don’t think that my fight has to be pretty, it just has to be effective . . . I have a tendency to turn fights into dogfights and to drag people into deep water if I need to.”
To seize this opportunity, Tate will have to use her determination and creativity to patiently work inside Holm’s guard and shoot for takedowns. She will also have to match the cardio of Holm, especially if the fight goes all 5 rounds.
The buildup has been respectful and Tate’s focus has been razor sharp.
“The woman that stands in front of me is Holly, and she deserves 110% of my respect . . . you saw what she did to Ronda. I think to take my eye off the prize for one second would be a huge mistake on my part, and as a veteran I refuse to make that mistake.”
Overcoming the champion was never going to be easy, but if anyone can do it, it’s Miesha Tate.
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