Scott Neumyer looks at what it will take for the champ to keep her belt
Miesha “Takedown” Tate and “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey will step into the cage Saturday to face off in what is easily the most highly anticipated bout in women’s MMA since Gina Carano lost a now-controversial bout to Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in August 2009.
And while the verbal sparring between Rousey and Tate has been raging for months, fans everywhere will finally get to witness a fight with more than just words. These women are primed and ready to go to war. Rousey may, somewhat inexplicably, be the heavy betting favorite at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey, but if Tate sticks to the five keys to victory below, she should be able to vanquish the rowdy one and hang onto her Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship. No matter the outcome, I suspect the MMA fans will be the ultimate winners.
1. Push the pace of the fight and take Rousey into deep waters
Rousey has a total of 2:18 of in-fight professional MMA experience. That’s less than half of a full round in the pro cage. Tate, on the other hand, has 14 professional MMA fights, six of which have gone at least three rounds or more. That’s a hell of a big difference in pro fight experience and it will be to Tate’s advantage to use it for all she can in Saturday’s bout. Not only is Rousey unproven past the first round of action, but this will also be Rousey’s first MMA bout at 135 pounds. No one knows just how much weight she’ll have to cut and how much that will affect her performance. Tate has proven that she has the cardio and mental toughness necessary for a multi-round battle. She needs to push the pace of the fight from the start, test Rousey’s resilience and take her challenger into deep waters to give her the best chance at victory.
2. Avoid the clinch
As far as everyone knows, Tate is the stronger wrestler in this fight. She’s got the wrestling pedigree, and she’s used it in previous fights to get her opponents to the ground and dictate where the fight takes place. That said, everyone also knows that Rousey is one of the best, if not the best, judo players in not only the United States, but the entire world. You don’t win an Olympic medal with your dashing looks. No, no. Rousey is a beast when it comes to judo, and that’s why Tate needs to avoid the clinch at all costs. She needs to keep her distant and only attempt to take Rousey down from a distance. Single-leg and double-leg shots are the name of the game here. The closer Tate brings the fight to Rousey, the better chance “Rowdy” has to get her arms around the champ. And once she’s got those arms around her, she can use her judo skills to put Tate on her back. Avoid the clinch, Miesha.
3. Hit Rousey consistently and aggressively
Two minutes, 18 seconds of in-ring professional MMA bouts doesn’t give you a lot of time to get punched in the face, especially if you’ve already taken your opponent down and are positioning to sink in an armbar. Rousey has proven that she can get in tight quickly, take her opponent to the ground and submit her. She has yet to prove that she can take a punch. Remember how indestructible Brock Lesnar looked when he was exploding into takedowns and avoiding strikes? Yeah? Me too. Do you remember how mediocre he looked once people starting punching him in the face? Yup. Who knows what kind of toughness Rousey brings to the table? She could have the best chin on the planet, but we’ve yet to see it tested in the cage. Tate needs to utilize her ever-improving striking to put the pressure on her opponent. Once she puts her mitts on Rousey’s noggin a few times, we’ll be able to get a better sense of just how much the challenger can handle. It might not be too much.
4. Use wrestling to put Rousey on her back
We said it before, and it’s true: Tate has the advantage in wrestling. She’s been taking people down with single- and double-leg shots for years. Rousey’s used to in-close jockeying for leverage. She may not be quite as ready to sprawl and defend a quick shot from across the cage. Tate needs to go out there and use her speed advantage to put Rousey on her back before delivering a little bit of the classic Tate ground-and-pound. Rousey’s proven that she knows how to handle being on her back, but not for more than a few seconds before cinching in those armbar victories. If Tate puts her there, stays out of trouble and lays down a few hammerfists, it could be good night, Ronda.
5. Avoid Rousey’s submission attempts
Rousey has seven MMA fights – four professional and three amateur. She’s won every one by armbar submission. If Tate hasn’t spent the last three months preparing how to avoid and escape the armbar, then she should fire every single one of her training partners and coaches. She should be a third-degree black belt in armbar defense at this point. That said, Rousey clearly knows her way around the submission game and, as far as we know, that’s her best route to getting that championship belt around her waist. Tate needs to be smart, be patient and avoid Rousey’s submissions at all costs. Put “Rowdy” Ronda on her back, beat her up a bit, but be very wary of leaving any arms or legs hanging around for too long. If she can do that, there’s a good chance that Miesha Tate will be defending her bantamweight championship again in a few months.
Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey takes place at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The main card airs Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern on Showtime. The preliminary card airs at 8 p.m. on Showtime Extreme.