In the wake of Anderson Silva‘s (likely) career-ending leg break at UFC 168, it seems that many of us have glossed over the absolute nadir of game-planning that took place in the evening’s co-main event. I’m talking, of course, about Miesha Tate‘s insistence on repeatedly initiating the takedown against Ronda Rousey: Judo Savant. It was quite possibly the worst strategy ever attempted in a UFC title fight, and one that frustrated and confused us to our wit’s end.
I don’t know if it was ego, terrible corner advice, plain stupidity, or some combination of the three — although the fact that Tate changed her nickname from “Takedown” to “Cupcake” following her previous loss to Rousey suggests that ego surely played a part — but there is simply no excusing Tate’s baffling gameplan last Saturday. For someone who said she “fantasized” about KO’ing Rousey, Tate seemed all but against engaging Rousey in a straight up battle on the feet. For someone who said she would “shoot herself in the face” if she lost via armbar again, Tate seemed all too willing to play Russian Roulette with the Olympic judoka (#nailedit), diving in on takedowns only to be reversed, flipped, slammed, tossed, and bamboozled by Rousey on all but one occasion.
Just take a look over the Fightmetric report for the fight. Better yet, watch these highlights. Do either of these suggest that Tate had fought Rousey before, or spent the past few months studying every aspect of her opponent’s game? Given the long and very bitter history between the two, it was utterly mind-blowing to watch Tate, a six year veteran of the sport, fight as if she had never heard of this Rousey character’s incredible Judo game before.
In Tate’s “strongest” round (the first), Rousey was still able to complete three out of four takedowns, yet Tate’s corner insisted that she was “breaking” — you know, kind of like how Tate told boyfriend/trainer Bryan Caraway to “coast” for the third round of his eventual decision loss to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC on FUEL 8. It was apparently all the (false) confidence Tate needed, as she would open the second round with a few punches before tying up with Rousey and being tripped to the mat with ease.
At this point, one would think that Tate would abandon the grappling game and attempt to keep things standing, where she was at least achieving moderate success with her left hooks and jabs. Wrong. Tate would shoot on yet another takedown only moments later, get hip tossed, and spend the rest of the round fending off Rousey’s submission attacks while getting her fill of knuckle sandwiches in the process.
By the third round, Tate was understandably exhausted. She was physically (and perhaps mentally) broken, and it was only a matter of time until Rousey secured her patented finish. But while the champ also appeared to be getting the better of the standup throughout the fight, Tate was at least able to return fire in that department. On the ground, however, she was a fish swimming against a riptide. She was delaying the inevitable. And it was a shame to see such a talented fighter fight so below her level.
Of course, I cannot state enough how much respect I have for Tate, or how much I enjoyed the fight for that matter. Tate was able to drag Rousey into deeper waters than anyone (including herself) had done before, and she should be commended for her grittiness. But the strategy she brought into the biggest fight of her life and quite possibly the last title fight of her bantamweight career was insanity by definition — Sisyphean, you might say — and completely validated her massive underdog status heading into the fight. While I’m sure that there’s plenty of fight left in Tate, I pray that she takes more away from this loss than she did the first one. Mainly, don’t play into your opponent’s strengths.
At the end of the day, Rousey vs. Tate II more or less confirmed why the women’s bantamweight division could desperately use a Holly Holm-type fighter. Rousey’s victories, while entertaining, have mainly come against fighters brave (or stupid) enough to grapple with her (*cough* message for Sara McMann *cough*). If the UFC ever wants to see a fighter truly push Rousey to the limit — which, maybe they don’t — they’ll need to find someone with a strong enough standup game to outgun the champ and an even stronger wrestling in reverse game to keep her at bay. They need a female Chuck Liddell (*shudders*), so to speak. We know McMann has the grappling prowess, and we know that Cat Zingano packs a wallop on the feet, but until the UFC finds their female Chucky, it’s just going to be Rousey vs. Grappling Dummies 1-16.