This Saturday night, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman will square off in the next biggest fight in UFC history at UFC 168 in Las Vegas. While Silva-Weidman II is certainly the fight that will prompt most people to shell out the ghastly $60 required to purchase the pay-per-view event, two female rivals will square off first in the co-main event. In arguably the biggest fight in women’s mixed martial arts history, reigning, defending, and undefeated champion Ronda Rousey will take on number one contender, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate.
To a certain degree, calling them rivals conveniently ignores the somewhat dominant performance Rousey put forth in their first fight, which ended once again via her patented first-round arm-bar. That said, however, the hatred and resentment these two women have developed for each other over the better part of the last two years is clearly very real. It is this palpable vitriol that has captured the interest of MMA fans.
The animosity started before their first encounter, when Tate’s boyfriend, Bryan Caraway, levied an abhorrently disgusting physical threat at Rousey via Twitter. The hatred continued to boil over on the past season of The Ultimate Fighter, where Rousey continuously used vulgarity and inappropriate hand gestures when in Tate’s presence.
Somewhat lost in all of these histrionics, though, is the fact that Tate is one of the most well-rounded female fighters in the world. Despite losing soundly in their first scrap, and despite being installed as a heavy underdog by Vegas, Tate is no pushover. She managed to get Rousey’s back in their first match-up and arguably got the better of the stand-up.
Tate’s last fight ended bitterly for the former Strikeforce champion, as fellow contender Cat Zingano TKO’d Tate late in the third round, finishing off a come-from-behind win for Zingano. As a result, Zingano earned the number one contender slot and a coaching spot opposite Rousey in The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately for Zingano, she tore her ACL in training camp, an injury that would result in surgery and open the door for Tate to serve as her replacement.
If Tate can remain on her feet for large portions of her fight against Rousey, she could inflict some damage to the champ.
While Tate technically didn’t earn this opportunity, you can bet she won’t squander it. All of Rousey’s finishes have come via first-round arm bar. As such, Tate will undoubtedly spend a large portion of her camp defending against them. Additionally, having already been the recipient of one of Rousey’s arm bars in an actual fight, she should be better equipped to put herself in less vulnerable positions and to defend against the arm-bar should she become in danger of being submitted.
Rousey is a Judo Olympian, so it would be naive to think that she can’t take Tate down, as she has been able to take down all of her opponents to this point, including Tate. However, Tate has the best wrestling of any woman Rousey has faced, and as was evident in their first fight, is very crafty and capable on the mat, especially should she get Rousey’s back again.
In Rousey’s last fight, versus Liz Carmouche, Rousey nearly got submitted from a standing rear naked choke. Carmouche and Tate are the only two fighters that have lasted longer than 54 seconds with the champ. Tate fought for 4:27 and Carmouche survived for 4:49. What is noteworthy about this is that these are clearly the two best wrestlers and all-around fighters Rousey has faced.
What makes Tate even more dangerous for Rousey is her stand-up. Other than Chris Cyborg, Cat Zingano arguably hits harder than any woman in MMA. Still, Tate was able to out-strike her on the feet and the mat for the better part of two rounds.
If Tate can remain on her feet for large portions of her fight against Rousey, she could inflict some damage to the champ, helping her on scorecards and slowing down the champ’s vicious judo throws and takedowns.
Not to be forgotten is that this is a three-round fight, and Rousey has never fought past the first round. Conversely, Tate has fought into the third and fourth round on eight different occasions. If Tate can manage to be the first person to get out of the first round against Rousey, this fight could get very interesting. At the very least, Vegas installing her as a +800 underdog is unwarranted.
Rousey did not make many friends with her despicable behavior on The Ultimate Fighter, or subsequent press conferences leading up to the fight, where she refused to speak to Tate or even look directly at her. She is the fighter with everything to lose, and she appears to be taking this fight very personally. Whether any of this will have an impact on Saturday is unclear.
What is clear, however, is that she is facing the most ready and capable fighter she has faced yet. Many people will be taking a keen interest in this fight, a fight that is arguably the biggest fight in women’s mixed martial arts history.