Before women's mixed martial arts (MMA) became the next big thing under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner, the ladies of fight were strutting their stuff under the guidance of Scott Coker, who ran MMA's little engine that could in San Jose, California.
It wasn't an experiment, an attempt to capitalize on a niche market or some crackpot scheme cooked up to attract viewers. This was a bona fide female fighting force, comprised of real athletes holding legitimate combat sports credentials.
Chief among them was 135-pound rising star Miesha Tate.
The artist formerly known as "Takedown" -- who earned that moniker after wrecking shop on the amateur wrestling circuit -- had an on again, off again relationship with the Strikeforce brand, competing just twice inside the Hexagon across a span of 10 fights.
Then shit got real.
Tate made her Strikeforce return for good as part of the Challengers 10 event, submitting fellow rising star Zoila Frausto by way of first round armbar. In addition to marking her triumphant return to the promotion, it landed her a spot in the upcoming grand prix.
"Cupcake" would conquer Maiju Kujala and Hitomi Akano by way of unanimous decision, both in one night.
All that stood between her and the division gold was a dangerous Dutch damsel named Marloes Coenen, who abandoned her post at featherweight to usurp the throne from Sarah Kaufman, prior to defending it against the rough-and-tumble Liz Carmouche.
These two, it seemed, were on a collision course.
The stage was set at the Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" event on Showtime, where Coenen would put her 135-pound strap on the line against Tate in the historic co-main event, held at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, on July 30, 2011.
Here's how it all went down.
No touch of gloves as Tate comes out firing, initiating the clinch and driving her opponent into the cage. Coenen pushes off and they reset, but the challenger is right back in her face after eating a left hook. "Cupcake" finally secures the takedown and drags the fight to the floor.
Right into a deep guillotine choke.
Fortunately, her breath outlasts Coenen's grip. When the champ gasses out her arm and is forced to relinquish the hold, Tate assumes side control and drops a few short elbows. The fighters jockey for position the remainder of the round.
Which in my book, belongs to the challenger.
The second stanza would be just the opposite. While Tate charged out of the gate and initiated the tie-up, a botched takedown would leave her with Coenen clinging to her back, working the rear naked choke and dropping intermittent bombs.
It's all tied up an one apiece.
Round three starts out on the feet and Coenen is doing work with punishing leg kicks. Tate eats a few to get the timing down, then shoots on a latter attempt and drops the champ on her keister. The next two-and-a-half minutes consist of "Cupcake" trying to punish her foe from the top, but referee "Big" Jon McCarthy rewards the boo-birds with a stand-up.
Tate defiantly takes her down again and the clock expires with the challenger in control.
The fourth frame gets underway just like all the others, a solid minute of striking exchanges followed by a takedown from Tate. The next two minutes are spent jockeying for position, when suddenly, "Cupcake" is able to transition from side control with her knee on Coenen's belly, while simultaneously slinking her arm underneath her opponent's head.
Seconds later, "Rumina" is forced to tap to the arm-triangle choke.
Tate would cough up her strap to Ronda Rousey in her very next fight, but rebounded nicely with a submission win over Julie Kedzie later that year. In fact, she stands just one fight away from getting her revenge on "Rowdy," if she can turn away the undefeated Cat Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 Finale on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
That would be the icing on the Cupcake.