This Saturday night (Dec. 28, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will put her belt on the line against arch rival Miesha Tate in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 168 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The bout will culminate the drama-filled Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, a reality show that saw the formerly loved Rousey lose a ton of fans when her competitive nature lashed out against the more laid-back Tate. It's also a rematch of their first fight in March 2012 where Rousey torqued Tate's arm in gruesome fashion to win the Strikeforce women's bantamweight belt.
Rousey has taken the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene by storm since that day, persuading the previously immovable Dana White to add a women's division to UFC. She made her Octagon debut against Liz Carmouche at February's UFC 157, adding another armbar submission to her undefeated 7-0 record.
Meanwhile, Tate got onto TUF 18 by default.
She faced Cat Zingano for a number one contender's spot at TUF 17 Finale in April but she couldn't capitalize. Despite controlling much of the first two rounds with her boxing, Tate ultimately succumbed to a third round technical knockout from Zingano.
But fate came calling when Zingano unfortunately tore her ACL in training.
The injury moved Tate into the coaching spot opposite Rousey and got her a shot at the belt. There aren't many fighters who legitimately hate each other more than these two. The bad blood between them makes this fight interesting, but no one has come close to figuring out Rousey's lethal judo game.
However, it may have been Tate who showed the most resiliency against Rousey, giving her a glimmer of hope in an incredibly tough bout. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate:
Record: 7-0 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Miesha Tate (Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey), Liz Carmouche (UFC 157)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: There's not a whole lot of elaboration necessary for Rousey's dominating style. She uses her Olympic medal-winning judo pedigree to slam her opponents to the ground and finish them with absolutely brutal armbars.
She's done it to each and every opponent she's faced, and all inside the first round.
Rousey's striking is supposedly improving at a rapid pace but she has had little need to use it so far. Tate appeared to hold the striking advantage in their first fight until she was thrown to the ground and submitted.
The champ is going to look to close the distance quickly, tie up Tate, and get her to the canvas for the armbar. It's that simple. Any other outcome would be a huge surprise. Tate's wrestling is some of the best in the still-blossoming women's division, but that probably won't matter much against "Rowdy."
We know what Rousey is going to go for. It would be nice if she showed a new wrinkle to her game and won in a different fashion, but it's tough to mess with overwhelming success. This fight is more on Tate to prove she can stop Rousey's trademark finishing move.
And that's a tall task.
Record: 13-4 overall, 0-1 UFC
Key Wins: Marloes Coenen (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Julie Kedzie (Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman)
Key Losses: Ronda Rousey (Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey), Cat Zingano (TUF 17 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Tate is a very solid fighter who mixes up her game well with three knockouts, six submissions, and four decision wins. She's also shown incredible toughness, never more so than in her first bout with Rousey where her elbow ligaments were nearly torn off from an armbar.
She'll obviously be on red alert for a similar scenario. With Rousey's arsenal full of varied ways to apply the submission, she could be in for a short night.
Rousey has never reached the second round in her seven-fight MMA career so it would be an accomplishment for Tate to even get that far. But her mind is set on only one thing, and that's emerging with the title belt wrapped around her waist.
To score the huge upset and shock the world, Tate absolutely has to fight the best fight of her career. Her best chance probably lies in the stand-up, so she needs to show up to UFC 168 with her kickboxing at an all-time high.
If she can keep the aggression level constant while not over-committing, Tate could stand a chance to disrupt Rousey's gameplan enough to score points with the judges; however, that's going to be incredibly tough to pull off over the course of a full five-round championship bout.
Tate has the deck stacked against her here. She has to control the Octagon, fight without fear, and control where this bout goes. No fighter has come close to maintaining that kind of balance against Rousey.
Getting lucky and landing a knockout punch to score the belt isn't her only chance to win, but it might be her best one.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's going to shape the landscape of women's MMA for the foreseeable future.
If Rousey wins like everyone is expecting her to do, she'll most likely move on to face either Alexis Davis or Sara McMann in her next bout.
If Tate does the presumably impossible and knocks Rousey off her high horse, then it gets a bit more complicated. The division will most likely be tied up for some time as Rousey and Tate become embroiled in a trilogy-ending rematch.
The buildup and drama surrounding this fight has been absolutely monumental. From the surprise of Tate somehow getting back into the coaching position to the buzz of the first-ever TUF to feature female combatants, the media attention has been unprecedented.
It's going to be incredibly difficult to deliver a bout that matches the hype that the show garnered, but there may be an underlying issue here, as well. Rousey was thought to be UFC's golden girl upon her signing to the promotion. Indeed she was well on her way to that role.
But TUF 18 brought her intense competitiveness to the forefront and rubbed many fans the wrong way. They thought she came off as too harsh, rigid, and standoffish.
And perhaps she did.
She had to know that every move she made was being dissected under a microscope, so maybe toning it down for the cameras would have been in her best interest. She let her true self go on full display and now has to deal with the consequences.
Regardless, it's going to be interesting to see how the crowd reacts if Rousey does what she usually does and submits Tate in the first round. It's going to be even more interesting if Tate can slay the dragon and come out as champion.
All of the talk and theatrics that started on TUF 18 will finally come to an end this Saturday night. It's going to be quite the anomaly if it isn't just another day at the office for Rousey.
Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate will continue their feud at UFC 168's first title bout. Does Tate have any chance of shutting up her "Rowdy" rival?