Two of the best female bantamweights in the world took center stage last night (April 13, 2013) as Cat Zingano battled Miesha Tate on The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale main card with a title shot and a coaching position on TUF season 18 on the line.
The stakes couldn't have been higher for both ladies and both knew they needed to bring their A-games.
In retrospect, they ended up bringing their A+ games, taking home "Fight of the Night" honors in unbelievably entertaining fashion after a tremendous back-and-forth war.
Tate wasted no time early on, pushing the pace and shooting in for her patented takedowns, catching Zingano by surprise with her aggression. Zingano was able to work back to her feet but again, she was caught off guard by Tate's insane pace and tenacity.
They weren't pretty, but Tate stepped forward winging huge haymakers and she not only clipped Zingano, but looked like she was overwhelming her defenses a bit on the feet. This happened several times in the first round but instead of continuing to attack on the feet, Tate would clinch or shoot in for takedowns, stifling her own momentum.
The takedowns were huge for Tate as well, helping her gain superior position on the canvas where she dropped some punches but she wasn't able to land the really solid shots she wanted and Zingano was usually able to work her way back to standing or even reverse the position when Tate would attempt a submission.
By the end of the second round, Tate's pace began to take a toll on her and Zingano started to take over, securing top position and dropping some heavy left hands and elbows, bloodying up her nose in the process.
In round three, Zingano immediately shot in for a takedown and went right back to work with her ground and pound. When Tate tried to get back to her feet, a perfectly timed knee to the face caught her on the way up and this was the beginning of the end. Zingano continued to attack, throwing knee after knee and catching Tate in the face. One last elbow sealed the deal as the ref had seen enough, even if Tate wasn't happy with the stoppage.
For Miesha Tate, she was doing everything right early on, pushing a pace so hard that Zingano was having trouble keeping up despite her athletic gifts. Tate shocked everyone by actually getting the better of the early stand-up exchanges and this was primarily because she was so damn aggressive on the feet. The old saying. "brawl a boxer, box a brawler" couldn't have been more correct as she brawled Zingano and overwhelmed her a bit. The takedowns and submission attempts were solid as well, but they ended up being her downfall as Tate dropping for leg locks and armbars actually surrendered her position and allowed Zingano to not only land on top, but to drop some huge ground and pound. Eventually, the strikes got the better of Tate and Zingano poured it on in the third to finish her.
Even if the stoppage was a tad early, she was well on her way out.
Next up for Tate should be a no-brainer. Liz Carmouche makes perfect sense as an opponent with the winner getting right back in the mix among the top contenders. Other potential opponents include the Alexis Davis vs Rosi Sexton loser or perhaps Amanda Nunes.
For Cat Zingano, she did a terrific job of weathering the early storm. She had a bit of the jitters early on, showing some heavy emotion as she walked to the cage, but she hung tough, survived Tate's early blitz and then fired back with some brutal shots. There was a serious difference between the power behind Zingano's strikes and Tate's and once "Alpha" finally settled down, she was able to utilize his wrestling attack and those beautiful knees. When she landed the massive knee on Tate as she was trying to stand, she didn't let up and continued the assault of knees and elbows until the ref had seen enough. It was a terrific display of endurance and heart from the new number one contender.
Zingano will face Ronda Rousey next and deservedly so. Perhaps she could be the first fighter to take "Rowdy" past the first round.