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Miesha Tate: a Career Defined by Overachievement

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Miesha Tate UFC

“I had a lot more to give, but I couldn’t pull it out of myself. It’s been a long time, taken a lot of punishment. I still love this sport. I love you guys so much, thank you, but this is it for me.”

Those were the words uttered by Miesha Tate in the middle of Madison Square Garden on Saturday night following her decision loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205. A knowing embrace following the final bell, kissing Pennington’s forehead and accepting defeat before the judge’s scorecards had been announced, marked the end of Tate’s run as a fighter.

While it might be the final exclamation point on her in-cage career — at only 30-years-old a return can never be completely ruled out — it is not a moment that defines Tate’s near ten year career as a professional mixed martial artist. Not in isolation at least.

Tate will leave the sport as one of the most popular fighters of her generation. Of the current UFC champions only Conor McGregor (2.82m) has more Twitter followers than Tate (675k). Michael Bisping (345k) and Daniel Cormier (376k) both have half as many as her despite combining championship runs with broadcast opportunities on FOX. None of the others come anywhere close. Tate has three times as many as Paige VanZant (211k) even with the exposure the plucky strawweight was afforded on Dancing with the Stars, and 18 times as many as current bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes (36.7k).

A 20-year-old Miesha Tate first made an imprint on our conscious in 2007 when she took part in the HOOKnSHOOT, BodogFIGHT bantamweight tournament. After defeating Jan Finney in the opening round, Tate’s brain was switched off momentarily by the right foot of Kaitlin Young. A knockout so brutal that it could have ruined the career of the 20-year-old prospect before it had really begun.

Foreshadowing what would come later in Tate’s career, her reaction to the crushing defeat was impressive. A loss that Tate refused to let define her, kickstarting further development.

Tate won 11 of her next 12 fights, making her Strikeforce debut in the process. The lone defeat during that time came against Sarah Kaufman, with no shame attached. Kaufman was one of the world’s best and was on her way to becoming Strikeforce’s inaugural bantamweight champion.

The run saw Tate win a one-night tournament in 2010 to earn a shot at Strikeforce’s 135 pound title, before defeating Marloes Coenen to win that belt in 2011. Now boasting a 12-2 professional record, with a win over one of the greatest female fighters of all-time on her resume, Tate could legitimately call herself a world champion.

Strikeforce had recently been purchased by the UFC’s parent company Zuffa, and the future of women at the top end of the sport was uncertain. The UFC had never planned to promote female fights, and there were questionmarks as to how long Strikeforce would stick around before being folded into the UFC, as the WEC had been before it.

Quickly rising through the Strikeforce ranks was a young Olympic medallist named Ronda Rousey. First round armbar wins over Sarah d’Alelio and Julia Budd inside the Strikeforce cage had got Rousey noticed. The scheduling of a title fight between Tate and Rousey was inevitable. So began the perfect rivalry to guide women into the UFC and help them make their mark once they got there.

After four thrilling minutes in March 2012, Rousey torqued an armbar that Tate initially refused to tap to, delaying the stoppage while creating an image even more memorable. This was the first time women had headlined a major MMA card since 2009, when “Cyborg” and Gina Carano met in an equally appealing one round affair. The event’s success forced the UFC to reconsider investment in opening up opportunities for women in the sport.

While Rousey is so often credited with being the one to lead women into the UFC, one can’t help but wonder if it would have taken her longer without Tate playing opposite her. From their first Strikeforce fight to their runs as opposing coaches on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, the contrast between the two made everything they were involved in together compelling viewing.

Where Rousey prided herself on proving that the masculine traits traditionally reserved for men could work just as well, and sometimes even better, for women, Tate represented something quite different. Rousey was brash and outspoken, an all-action tomboy. Tate was more respectful, humble and warm, with a girlie-girl appearance. Yet both bought a natural charm and mental toughness with them. They showed everyone watching that women could be anything they wanted to. Between them, they had all bases covered.

The second fight between the two took place in December 2013, now inside the UFC’s octagon. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate had been the real story of The Ultimate Fighter 18, with the rivals meeting at UFC 168 following the end of the season. This time Tate avoided the armbar until the third round before being submitted.

The event was estimated to have sold over one million pay-per-view buys. While much of that will always be attributed to the main event, a middleweight title rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva, the numbers that both Rousey and Tate have turned in since, suggest that they played a significant part in focusing so many paying eyes onto the event.

Miesha Tate vs Rousey

Tate lands a left hand in her second fight with Rousey

While Rousey’s dominance continued, it seemed Tate had no route back to a title shot. Just as there had been no quit in Tate in the first Rousey fight, holding out in the excruciating pain inflicted by Rousey’s armbar, there was no giving up on her title aspirations either.

Tate scrapped her way past some of the top bantamweights in the company. Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann had previously challenged for the title, while Jessica Eye was a big part of the UFC’s plans for future contendership too. Tate defeated all of them, as well as undefeated Japanese hero Rin Nakai.

Yet Tate’s run back to the top was about more than winning four straight fights. Against McMann, Tate was being lit up early before making adjustments in the cage to regain control of the fight. Against Eye, Tate was being handily outboxed before she found her timing and landed with fight altering power towards the end of the first round. Tate refused to accept defeat, and had proven to be one of the best mid-fight adjusters in the sport.

That was ever apparent when she finally got her title shot against Holly Holm at UFC 196 in March earlier this year. For almost five full rounds Tate and Holm went back and forth in one of the most fluid championship fights put on by two women in the history of the sport. The ability of both fighters to adapt on the fly, making the necessary changes to turn the tide back in their favour was on a level we had not seen before. Tate eventually submitted Holm in the fifth round when only a finish would have been enough to win her the fight.

The performance proved beyond all doubt how much better Tate had become since her losses to Rousey. Painful defeat had once again become the catalyst for growth. The heart, determination and will to win had always been there, but Tate had worked hard to become a better trained, more athletic fighter. She had also become a better in-fight strategist.

That Tate went on to lose the title to Amanda Nunes on the grandest stage of her career, the UFC 200 main event, can’t be overlooked and is one of a handful of obvious disappointments throughout her career.

On top of that, following Tate’s defeat to Pennington on Saturday night, questions will always be asked. Had she come back too soon after such a crushing defeat at UFC 200? It is impossible to answer accurately. Perhaps Pennington was just too good on Saturday. After all, when Rousey opted to take almost a full year to get over her mortifying defeat to Holm before accepting a booking, people suggested that her refusal to step straight back into the cage was a sign of weakness too. Sometimes you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

If this truly is it for Tate and we see her pursue other, less physically damaging interests, such as becoming a part of FOX’s broadcast team, it is not a question of whether we remember her for the highest highs, or the lowest lows, because the two are forever entwined. What has truly defined Tate’s career is the way those most traumatising setbacks have only pushed her on to become a better fighter and compensate by overachieving.

Maybe the fact that Tate was unable to do the same after being run over by Nunes at UFC 200 serves as the proof that this is the right time to go. If so we are left with warm memories of a fighter who pushed herself to the limit and drained every last ounce of potential out of herself. Miesha Tate was not a physically gifted athlete, nor was she afforded Olympic level training before she entered the sport. She just worked her butt off to develop, evolve, and become the best fighter she possibly could be.

A top ten fighter on the all-time women’s pound for pound list based on achievement, and one of the five most important women in the still-young history of the sport.

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Interviews

Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Announcement

Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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Announcement

*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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