Two of the top female bantamweight contenders in the world will fight for a huge prize this weekend (April 13, 2013) as former Strikeforce women's champion Miesha Tate takes on the unbeaten Cat Zingano on The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Not only is a title shot on the line, but also the opportunity to coach opposite champion Ronda Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter season 18.
Tate had a solid run in Strikeforce, culminating in an incredible victory over Marloes Coenen to capture the title in 2011. She put on a spirited effort against Julie Kedzie in her last bout, her first after losing the belt to Ronda Rousey, and came back to secure a third round submission.
Zingano has been on everyone's radar for a while now as a top potential title challenger. "Alpha" tore through the likes of Carina Damm and most recently Raquel Pennington en route to a 7-0 record which has her right on the brink of a shot at the belt.
Record: 13-3 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Ronda Rousey (Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey), 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.
Tate lost her belt to the current champion Ronda Rousey, giving her by far the toughest test of her career up to that point and in her comeback fight, she survived some rough early moments to not only come back but finish Julie Kedzie in the third round. Now, she's back and hoping to get that shot at redemption..
How she gets it done: When your nickname used to be "Takedown," don't expect much less when it comes to your most reliable method of victory. Tate's stand-up is a work in progress and while it's getting better, he defense still needs a lot of work so don't expect her to stand for long against Zingano.
Tate has never had a problem with conditioning, so that would likely be something she can rely on here. Obviously if she can find a finish in the opening frame, of course she should take it, but the key for her is to push a hard pace. Tate should be looking for takedowns constantly and really make Zingano work for everything she can get.
If Tate can put Zingano on her back, she needs to do everything in her power to keep her there. Wrestling is going to be the key to victory for her big time.
Record: 7-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Raquel Pennington (Invicta FC 3), Carina Damm (Crowbar MMA)
Key Losses: none
How she got here: Zingano was a terrific wrestler growing up, taking on all the boys in junior high and high school and she had dreams of competing on the national and even international stage but they didn't pan out. Instead, she transitioned to mixed martial arts and immediately found a home, crushing everyone in her path on the local circuit.
In just her fifth professional fight, "Alpha" took on elite veteran Carina Damm and had her way with her, scoring a dominant second round TKO victory and proving her worth.
Zingano continued her stellar run, blasting Japanese veteran Takaya Hashi with a beautiful third round slam. She returned against Raquel Pennington in her Invicta FC debut, handling her in the clinch and eventually scoring a rear naked choke victory in the second round.
Afterwards, Zingano was invited to UFC and the rest is history.
How she gets it done: Zingano has a very diverse striking game, although she hasn't used it much recently. It would be wise to try to mix things up on the feet against Tate, working not just jabs and straight punches but also her kicks and more unique striking attacks.
Zingano possesses some serious power and it would wise to go after Tate and her potentially suspect chin. Tate was dropped several times by Julie Kedzie and in my opinion, Zingano has a much more technical striking arsenal and she could definitely knock Tate out if she can land something flush.
"Alpha" is incredibly strong and with her wrestling and jiu-jitsu background, she should be able to use her wrestling in reverse to keep it standing. If that doesn't work, she could always go on the offensive with her grappling and take Tate down. Tate is great when she's on top but her bottom game leaves a bit to be desired.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!