This Saturday night (July 30, 2011), two of the most talented female fighters in the world will battle for the Strikeforce women's welterweight title as Marloes Coenen attempts to defend her belt against Miesha Tate in the Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" co-main event.
Marloes Coenen is the current women's 135-pound champion, having defeated two of the best female welterweights in the world on back-to-back occasions. She's ready to take on the third straight top ten challenger in Tate.
Miesha Tate is finally getting her title shot that she earned last year when she won the Strikeforce single night women's 135-pound grand prix. She suffered a setback last March with a last minute knee injury but she's back, healthy and ready to fight for the belt.
Will Coenen's ground mastery prevail for her third consecutive match? Can Tate stay out of the Golden Glory fighter's dangerous web off her back if she scores a takedown? Who will leave Chicago as the Strikeforce women's champion?
Record: 19-4 overall, 3-1 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Cristiane Santos (Strikeforce: Miami), Cindy Dandois (Beast of the East), Roxanne Modaferri (K-Grace 1)
How she got here: Marloes Coenen has competed in women's MMA since the early days nearly 11 years ago. She accumulated an 8-0 record in the Land of the Rising Sun before suffering a knockout loss against the bigger, stronger Erin Toughill.
After five more victories in Japan, Coenen chose to compete in the budding European scene after suffering a split decision loss to Roxanne Modaferri in the finals of a one night, eight-women tournament event.
Coenen would have modest success in Europe but would lose a bout to the unheralded judo player Cindy Dandois before leaving to compete in America for Strikeforce, avenging her earlier loss to Roxanne Modaferri via armbar in barely a minute.
The victory earned her a shot at the women's 145-pound title against Brazilian powerhouse Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos. Coenen attempted to hold her own with her technical striking but the beast that is "Cyborg" Santos simply walked through her punches and overwhelmed her to retain the title via third round technical knockout (TKO).
Undeterred, the Flying Dutchwoman challenged 135-pound belt holder Sarah Kaufman and would defeat the champion off her back after catching her in a nasty armbar. Coenen defended her title this past March after absorbing a ton of punishment from upstart challenger Liz Carmouche with a dramatic fourth round triangle choke, again off her back.
She's set to defend her title against Miesha Tate now, the opponent she was originally supposed to face in March.
How she gets it done: Coenen has some of the best submission skills in women's MMA and she's certainly not afraid to fight off her back, having recently won and defended her Strikeforce 135-pound title from that position.
But that would likely be a mistake against Miesha Tate.
The Golden Glory fighter also has superb technical striking skills, something her female counterpart sorely lacks. Coenen would be wise to try and keep her distance early, working her strong Muay Thai and kickboxing attacks and potentially attacking Tate's legs with kicks to reduce the effectiveness of her wrestling.
At some point, Tate will probably take Coenen down, but again, that's not a position she's afraid to be. The only issue is that Tate is likely ready for every wild submission that Coenen can throw at her after months of training with Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male.
Look for Coenen to stand and strike for as long as she's able to before the inevitable takedown. If she can accumulate enough damage, it could set up another dramatic late submission win or even a potential striking stoppage at some point.
Record: 11-2 overall, 4-1 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Zoila Gurgel (Strikeforce Challengers 7), Hitomi Akano (Strikeforce Challengers 10)
Key Losses: Sarah Kaufman (Strikeforce Challengers 1)
How she got here: Miesha "Takedown" Tate got her professional career started in 2007, fighting in the Bodog women's one night bantamweight tournament. She would defeat eventual Strikeforce title challenger Jan Finney in her first fight via decision but would be brutally knocked out by a much sharper and more dangerous Kaitlin Young.
Undeterred, she would win her next five bouts, four by stoppage before earning a fight against future Strikeforce women's 135-pound champion Sarah Kaufman. Tate would eventually lose the bout, but she was competitive and forced Kaufman to go to decision for the first time in her career.
After reeling off three straight victories, including a very impressive submission against Zoila Gurgel, Tate was invited to the one night Strikeforce women's welterweight grand prix to determine the number one contender. The strong grappler would dominate the tournament with her wrestling and top control, winning a pair of decisions to earn a shot at the belt.
Unfortunately, Tate would injure her knee just a week prior to her title shot against Marloes Coenen and she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Coenen would defend her belt in dramatic come-from-behind fashion against "Girl-Rilla" this past March at Strikeforce: "Feijao vs. Henderson."
She's full healed and ready to challenge for the title now.
How she gets it done: When your nickname is "Takedown," don't expect much less when it comes to your most reliable method of victory.
Miesha Tate is still a bit raw in her stand-up striking abilities and will almost certainly need to put Coenen on her back if she wants to win on Saturday night. The takedown shouldn't be too difficult as Coenen almost welcomes it, preferring to rely on her very strong ground game and submission arsenal.
What the Washington native needs to look out for is Coenen's deadly high guard where she can threaten with sweeps, triangles and armbars.
Once the takedown has occurred, the wisest plan of action will be to immediately pass Coenen's guard as quickly as possible. The longer Tate is in Coenen's guard, the more opportunity she gives the champ to put her away via tap out. If Liz Carmouche could pass to mount with ease against the champ, it should hopefully be a cinch for Tate.
It may not be pretty, but expect a considerable amount of top control and positional dominance as Tate's primary method of attack.
Fight "X-Factor:" The biggest factor, by far, will be Miesha Tate's submission defense. Both Sarah Kaufman and Liz Carmouche had no problem taking Marloes Coenen down, that wasn't the issue.
Her nasty submissions off her back are.
If Tate's recent work with Urijah Faber and the guys at Team Alpha Male has done enough to help her defense against Coenen's lethal jiu-jitsu, she has a very good chance of grinding out a decision or ground and pounding a TKO over the course of five rounds.
Bottom Line: This looks to be a very interesting match-up between two very unique female fighters. This will be a chess match for up to five full rounds with a threat of a finish coming at any time, especially from Coenen and her wizardry on the canvas. Expect a constant battle from start to finish. This should be really good. The only threat for a boring fight is if Tate passes to mount for five rounds and just lays-and-prays from mount and I simply don't see that happening.
Who will come out on top at the Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" on Saturday night. Tell us your predictions in the comments below!