Given Miesha Tate’s victory over Holly Holm, do you believe her expected third fight with Ronda Rousey will play out any differently? Why or why not? What should be next for Holm if that fight happens?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Miesha Tate avoided becoming the female version of Uriah Faber when she finally captured UFC gold at 196. Tate seemed destined to be one of the best ever to not hold a belt with Rousey on top of the Women’s Bantamweight division, but the shocking upset by Holly Holm last November gave her a legitimate chance she may not have had otherwise.
For all the talk of Tate’s improved stand up, and it definitely looked a lot better in her fight against Jessica Eye, she was thoroughly outclassed on the feet against Holm. Let’s give credit where credit is due, though, Tate showed her wrestling and grappling acumen may be the best in her division. And, unlike many fighters behind going into the final round, Tate went for the kill and persevered in securing the finish. I cannot help but admire her tenacity in holding onto Holm in the fifth before she finally locked in that choke. Cupcake proved the third time’s a charm, and regardless of what happens the rest of her career, she can call herself UFC Champion.
With all that, there’s very little reason to think that she’s improved to the point where she can take Rousey. Styles make fights, and the top three at 135 lbs are a perfect illustration of that. We potentially have a rock-paper-scissors situation here with the top three. While Tate’s striking may have improved, it’s miles away from the level it would need to be to go all Preacher’s Daughter on Rousey. Tate is not a knockout fighter, and her strength lies in taking fights to the ground and grinding out a decision. Taking Rousey to the ground is a recipe for a quick night, one in which the non-Rousey party finishes on the wrong side of. Tate is strong, but Rousey is a beast and odds are the third tilt between the two ends with Tate nearly getting her arm ripped off again.
The only thing that’s really changed since Tate’s last fight against Rousey is the former champ’s air of invincibility has been cracked. A common cliche is that many fights are won and lost before the bell rings, and this never seemed truer than with Rousey. Iron Mike Tyson was never quite as scary after Evander Holyfield stood up to him, and eventually knocked him out, in 1996. I’m not convinced that Tate was every intimidated enough by Rousey for it to affect the ultimate outcome, but if there ever was any doubt that she could be beat, it was removed when Holm kicked the consciousness from her last December. With all that though, no, I don’t see Tate winning. Rousey hates losing, and she’s going to take her training up several notches to come back and reclaim what she held for so long. Sorry Tate, but at least we’ll always be able to call you “former champion.”
There’s three options for Holm: Keep her on the sidelines for a rematch with Rousey, pair her with another top fighter for a number one contender spot, or give her a beatable opponent to keep her busy and get another win on her record. All this is of course assuming that Holm doesn’t fight Tate again right away, and for what it’s worth, Dana White has said it’s Tate-Rousey III next. Holm is a fighter that likes to stay busy, so she’s probably going to push for a fight sooner rather than later. Two opponents who would make for logical matches would be Amanda Nunes and Cat Zingano. Nunes was probably next in line for a title shot after Rousey before Tate upset those plans, so her wait just got a bit longer. Zingano’s last fight was a title shot about a year ago, and she holds a win over the new champion. Either of these matches makes sense on paper, and launches the winner into obvious title-challenger territory.
If I’m booking this division, I’d pair Zingano and Nunes against each other and then keep Holly Holm busy with Bethe Correia. Correia isn’t very good, but she’s got a sparkling 9-1 record and fought for the title. There’s some material to work with in promoting that fight, and Holm can both stay active and come out looking like a world-beater when she kicks Correia all over the Octagon. Either way it goes, we’ve finally got some fights coming up with more intrigue to them than just “How will Rousey destroy this person’s soul this time?” to them.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think it’ll be more tense, if that’s possible, but I would expect Rousey to win. I’m basing this on my expectations of Rousey showing a champion’s heart and returning stronger than before. I think Tate will also be better than their previous fights, but I think it evens out and Rousey still has the advantage. And if Rousey gets that fight, I think Holm gets booked against Amanda Nunes with the winner receiving the next title shot. I can’t imagine Rousey not getting the next title shot unless she’s not ready to return, so Holm-Nunes is probably the best way to go for her.
DAN MOORE, MMATORCH UK COLUMNIST
She’s the least skilled of the three in question, but Miesha Tate has more grit and determination and I refuse to rule out her chances. Although clearly outfought in their last fight, she survived a couple of submission attempts against Rousey at UFC 168 before finally succumbing to the inevitable armbar in the third round. If she can learn from what Holm did to Rousey in Australia and figure out how to keep it standing, she’s got every chance to retain her title.
The perfect next fight for Holly Holm would be Cat Zingano if the UFC want to match two fighters coming off a loss. Either that or they match-up the former champion with someone, who hypothetically, is only one or two wins away like Amanda Nunes or Julianna Pena. A win over any of those three contenders would afford Holm the chance to bounce straight back into another title fight against the winner of Tate vs. Rousey.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I do see things playing out different between Tate and Rousey, but it really has very little to do with Tate becoming the champion or her current winning streak. Tate is the proven commodity here. Rousey is the complete mystery. While I’ve never been a Rousey fanboy, I’ve appreciated her drive and accomplishments as she mowed down opponent after opponent with relative ease. I appreciate it even more now that it appears that incarnation of Rousey is dead.
Rousey used to talk about her legacy and how her goal was to retire unbeaten. She used to talk about how she was a fighter first and foremost as her fighting career is what attracted Hollywood to her in the first place. These things used to come out of the mouth of a supremely confident woman. Then Holm punted her head into the stands and absolutely shattered Rousey’s confidence. We don’t hear a peep from her anymore in regards to these things. Instead she talks about having Travis Browne’s babies. We hear about delays in her latest movie project. We hear she isn’t coming back until October at the earliest. We hear her representatives tell an interviewer in Australia not to ask her any fight related questions. Rousey had seen herself as indestructible before running into the Holm buzzsaw giving her a confidence rivaled by few. Now knowing she can be taken down, that confidence is no longer visible and she appears to have already moved on to the next stage in her life (at least mentally) now that she can no longer achieve her undefeated dream since she doesn’t know how to deal with defeat. Sure, she has beaten Tate before which means she knows she can beat her again, something she can’t be sure of with Holm. But Tate also gave her a good fight in their second contest and if Rousey second-guesses herself even for a second, Tate has shown she can capitalize on her opponent’s mistakes. It is how she obtained possession of the belt after all. I’d still favor Rousey to beat Tate, but I can’t be sure that would be the outcome by any means.
If Tate-Rousey is the next title fight, the UFC needs to book Holm on the same card as insurance. Either Tate or Rousey is a great rematch for Holm that people would pay big money to see. The question is who to book her against. I don’t like the idea of putting her with Amanda Nunes, as Nunes represents a fresh face who could challenge for the title soon. If I’m the UFC matchmaker, I’m a little skittish about putting her in the cage with Cat Zingano either as Zingano is very much capable of beating Holm, which would potentially kill the potential for a rematch with either Tate or Rousey. Though I know it breaks the typical Joe Silva rule of matching winners against one another and losers against one another, I’d actually favor a fight with Liz Carmouche. Carmouche still has good name value even if she hasn’t lived up to the hype of her name (she is just 2-3 in her time in the UFC) while offering Holm a solid opponent whom she would likely get a win against without killing off a potential title contender. Here’s the kicker though… I see her facing Tate after that regardless of whether or not Tate wins or loses against Rousey. Tate will be happy to defend against Holm whereas I see Rousey choosing to have another extended stay in Hollywood to put off the potential rematch as long as possible. Holm is a fighter and isn’t going to sit on the shelf if she can help it (as she showed defending unsuccessfully against Tate). She’ll be 35 this year. With the clock ticking on her career, she’ll want to maximize her potential earnings (as will the UFC) and fighting Tate while waiting for Rousey would be a great way for her to do that.
[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]
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