Two of the most talented female 135 pound fighters in the world will meet tomorrow night (March 3, 2012) as Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate takes on "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey in the main event of Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey" in Columbus, Ohio.
Tate rose up through the ranks and earned her title shot after defeating too women in one night, then dethroned the champion last summer to claim the women's 135 pound championship. She feels incredibly disrespected to be heading into this fight as a major underdog and she's out to prove herself all over again.
Ronda Rousey, despite just four career fights, has the looks, the swagger and the talent to be a superstar in women's MMA. She's not only finished every opponent from amateur to professional, she's done it all in the first round, in the first minute by the same maneuver, the juji-gatame or better known as the armbar. Rousey confidently talked her way into a title shot and now she gets to prove that she's legit against by far her most credible opposition.
Will Tate be talented enough to retain her title? Can Rousey back up her talk with some ferocious technique as well? What's the key to victory for both talented young ladies tomorrow night?
Let's find out:Miesha Tate
Record: 12-2 overall, 5-1 in Strikeforce
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.
After a delay due to a knee injury, she finally got her shot at Marloes Coenen last July and she capitalized, using her wrestling offensively and surprising the Golden Glory fighter with an arm triangle which forced Coenen to tap out for the first time in her illustrious career.
Now, after a long waiting period, Tate is set to defend her title again against a brash, young challenger.
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, but that might not be what she wants to do tomorrow night, at least not right away.
While Tate doesn't have the most dangerous stand-up abilities, she also doesn't really have an opportunity to showcase them. Most of her opposition has been decent strikers so why would she risk standing and trading with them like she did early in her career when she got knocked out by the kickboxer Kaitlin Young?
This time, she should keep her distance, try to work a jab and just stay away from Rousey's bullrush attack early. She should avoid any close-quarters fighting in the first round entirely and try to drag this fight into deeper waters.
Tate has never had a problem with conditioning, so that would likely be her best plan of attack here, wait for Rousey to tire out a bit in the second or third (if she does) and then pounce with a more aggressive striking and wrestling attack.
If Rousey begins to fade, Tate can definitely take over with her wrestling and it will be easier to defend against her submission game but she should try to avoid it at all costs in the first round.
Record: 4-0 overall, 2-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How she got here: Ronda Rousey had world class athleticism in her blood. Her mother was a world class judo player and Ronda followed her in footsteps. Starting early in judo, Rousey made it to the Olympics by the time she was just 17 years old at the 2004 games in Athens.
In 2008, she not only qualified, but this time she medaled, earning a bronze in Beijing but when it was all over, she was done with judo and wanted to try something else. She began training in mixed martial arts and made her amateur debut in 2010, crushing all three of her opponents inside the first minute with her go-to move, the armbar.
Upon switching to a professional in 2010, she didn't slow down, crushing all four of her opponents via first minute armbar, even Strikeforce fighters Julia Budd and Sarah D'Alelio at 145 pounds. With talk that she could be the one to dethrone the champion, "Cyborg" Santos.
Instead, she announced she was first going to drop to 135 pounds and challenge for the title there, and she confidently talked her way into a title shot this weekend against Miesha Tate.
How she gets it done: Rousey is so big, strong, powerful and skilled, she just needs to keep doing what she's been doing and that is rush in, overwhelm her opposition and force them to tap out.
Dropping down to 135, her strength advantage could be even more severe in the cage against Tate and she could seriously turn some heads if she could do to the champ what she's been doing to all her competition prior.
Rousey has been working hard to round out her game, but why not stick to what got her here? I'd like to see her close the distance early, wade right through Tate's punches and get in the clinch. From there, she needs to try to use her years of judo experience to leverage Tate onto the canvas and immediately transition to an armbar.
If she can put Tate on the ground, she needs to take that arm home with her, even snap it because Tate won't be giving up without a fight.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is experience and time. Ronda Rousey has been so good thus far in her career, she hasn't even had to go past the first minute of a fight against even the best of her opposition. That's a sign of how good she is, but this is a five round fight. What happens if Miesha Tate proves to be resilient and this fight actually goes into the second, third or even the championship rounds? It's all a gigantic question mark.
Lastly, while she's had experience against world class judo players, Rousey has yet to really face anyone of significance in MMA. Her biggest career win was against Julia Budd, who has a 2-2 record in MMA right now. Miesha Tate has a ton more experience in actual MMA and that could potentially be a factor here.
Bottom Line: This fight has just about everything MMA fans have come to love, skilled athletes, the threat of a finish at any moment and hell, both ladies are pretty easy on the eyes. There's a very high chance of some serious grappling getting showcased in this fight and maybe even some striking, although that all depends on if Rousey can close the distance early or not. The fact that there's a strong possibility that Rousey blitzes Tate with a first minute submission again is enough to warrant that you keep your eyes glued to the television at all times and if Tate survives the early onslaught, it will be extremely interesting to see what happens next as no one has done that before against the judo Olympian. This should be a good one.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!