NEW YORK — Mixed martial arts (MMA) upstart Kim "Sugar Free" Couture (1-1), wife of MMA legend Randy Couture, will take a major step up in competition when she squares off with fearsome submission expert Miesha Tate (5-1) in a live SHOWTIME-televised 135-pound limit contest at the inaugural SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers event at Fresno, California’s Save Mart Center on Friday, May 15.
SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers is a proving ground for up-and-coming MMA fighters. SHO MMA provides today’s top prospects with the opportunity to step-up their level of competition and demonstrate their ability in a nationally televised event.
In addition, Aaron Rosa (11-2) will face Anthony "A Train" Ruiz (21-12) in a light heavyweight (205-pound limit) fight on a fight card headlined by undefeated lightweight (155-pound limit) Billy Evangelista (9-0) versus BJ Penn protégé "Iron" Mike Aina (11-6-1).
The SHOWTIME telecast will air live beginning at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) and feature up to five live fights.
"I think she’s definitely in for a surprise and this is going to be a little bit over her head," said the 22-year-old Tate, who has been on a tear of late, stopping each of her last three opponents in the first round.
"I do respect the fact that she chose to fight me," said Tate, who is considered a veteran over the inexperienced Couture. "I think she’s really tough and, at heart, she’s a fighter. She wants to fight people who are going to push her."
A native of Olympia, Wash., Tate was introduced to wrestling during her teen years when a girlfriend convinced her to join their all-boys high school wrestling team. Tate’s passion for the sport developed as she learned. Eventually, wrestling led Tate to join the MMA club at Central Washington University.
Last year, Tate enlisted with Victory Athletics, the elite fight squad headed by MMA star and two-time Matt Hughes conqueror Dennis "Superman" Hallman.
"He’s got so much to offer technically," she said about her mentor. "He comes from a wrestling background so his fighting style is very similar to the one I want to develop."
The 33-year-old Couture said, "(Tate)’s been wrestling for a long time and I’ve only been wrestling for four years, but I’ve been learning from Randy Couture.
"My training partners are Xtreme Couture fighters so I feel like I have the Cliff Notes I need to be successful in this fight. I’ve been pushed and supported by the best guys in the business."
Couture earned her first professional victory by pummeling an overmatched Lina Kvokov in the first round of their Strikeforce meeting at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2008. The victory came shortly after she had adopted K-1 superstar Ray Sefo as her new kickboxing trainer.
It is in the area of punching and kicking that Couture feels she will have the upper hand against Tate.
"Her stand up is not strong. Before she gets to the clinch or a takedown, she’s going to have to get past my hands," said Couture. "My Muay Thai is really good right now and I’m very confident that, if we get to the clinch, she’s gonna have a hard time taking me down."
Rosa, of San Antonio, Tex., was victorious in his first 10 starts as a professional. Following two straight defeats, he stopped Ron "Killing" Fields in the second round in Chicago, Ill., on June 14, 2008.
The 31-year-old Ruiz, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight championship challenger, last saw action at Strikeforce’s second event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he lost a unanimous decision to former South African national wrestling champion Trevor Prangley.
Tickets for the first SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers event are on sale at the Save Mart Center box office and select Save Mart Supermarkets as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (800-745-3000), Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) and Strikeforce’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).