Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight women, Miesha Tate and Rin Nakai, took center stage last night (Sept. 20, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 52 on Fight Pass from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Tate has been battling for consistency recently. She either fights too aggressive or looks sluggish, and her performance suffers regardless. Against the debuting Nakai, Tate looked to prove that she was taking positive steps and still a member of the division's elite.
This was a huge opportunity for Nakai. She managed to gather a fairly significant amount of attention with her bizarre videos. And a big win over a veteran like Tate would have shot her up the rankings quickly.
Unfortunately for Nakai, it was not to be.
Tate appeared rather relaxed on her feet early. She no longer looked likely to fling hooks with reckless abandon; instead, she appeared ready to box fluidly. Her improvement was apparent from her first combinations, in which she landed some right hands into Nakai's jaw.
When Tate looked to land a step knee, Nakai caught the leg and went for a takedown. Tate stuffed it, and the pair moved into the clinch, trading knees. Tate -- who proved to be the stronger woman throughout the bout -- tripped Nakai to the mat, but only for a moment.
Tate landed a low kick then goes high. Again, Nakai caught the strike but failed to capitalize. Nakai shot for a third time, but it is again stuffed. Once more, the fight moved into the clinch, with Tate controlling the action and throwing knees.
"Cupcake" continued to be first with her punches and kicks. Nakai shot again, but this time managed to get around to Tate's back and grab a body lock. Tate broke free and absorbed a couple short punches before the round ended.
Tate opened the second with a one-two combination and stuffs Nakai's first shot. Nakai caught another high kick and looked for the takedown, but wound up in the clinch. This time, she got around to Tate's back and hopped on.
Though Nakai locked in both hooks, she got too high up on Tate's back. Tate stood up and wiggled a bit, shaking until Nakai fell off. Then, Tate jumped on top in guard and landed some elbows.
After attacking with an armbar, Nakai rolled back to her feet. The two return to the clinch and trade more knees. The pace slowed a little bit when they returned to the center of the cage. The two exchanged punches, and then Tate defended another shot from Nakai to end the round.
Though neither woman had absorbed much damage, Tate was clearly in control.
It appeared that Nakai was aware of her situation, as she hurriedly started the third with a shot. Again, she circled her way to Tate's back and attempted to hop on. She managed to get one hook in, but Tate stood and broke away with a pair of punches.
Tate next began looking to land elbows. She smashed Nakai's head with a few before attempting a lead elbow from boxing range. Nakai recognized it and ducked under, but still failed to finish the shot.
Back in the clinch, the women exchange takedown attempts and short strikes, but nothing significant lands. Finally, Nakai completes a single leg. However -- as is largely the story of this bout -- little comes of it, as Tate is able to stand. The fight soon ends in the clinch as "Cupcake" stops yet another shot.
It wasn't particularly pretty, but Tate earned the unanimous decision.
Though she earned the victory, this was hardly the dominant performance that Tate wanted. Despite a clear size and technical advantage, Tate never managed to do significant damage or threaten a finish. For someone wanting rematches with the top two fighters in the division, performances like this simply won't cut it.
Tate's next challenge has likely announced herself, as Sarah McMann just requested a bout with "Cupcake." McMann is coming off of a similarly uninspired decision win and is also seeking a rematch with Ronda Rousey, so the two occupy similar positions in the division.
It may not be unexpected to fans who have seen Nakai fight, but her performance was still disappointing. She was content to shoot for the same failed single leg repeatedly and failed to step up the aggression when given opportunities.
For her next bout, Nakai needs to lose some muscle mass and move to Strawweight. She's simply too small to compete at 135 pounds and does not need the excessive muscle. When facing women her own size, her Judo skills might actually be quite effective.
At UFC Fight Night 52, Miesha Tate proved she was superior to promotional newcomer Rin Nakai. How far can Tate take her current win streak?
For complete UFC Fight Night 52: "Hunt vs Nelson" results, including blow-by-blow coverage of the entire Fight Pass event, click here.