Cat Zingano defeated Miesha Tate by TKO at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on Saturday night to earn a shot at the title.
She will meet UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey later this year for the gold, but in the meantime they'll make history on FOX's new sports channel Fox Sports 1. Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter will feature Rousey and Zingano as coaches—the first time women have had that honor and the first time women will compete on the show.
The title bout will be a big step up for Zingano but one she has earned with a perfect professional record. Rousey and Zingano will get to know each other well during filming and then prepare for battle.
This is how their fight shakes down.
I already know the lot of you will try to rake me over the coals for this, but Ronda Rousey is the better striker of the two.
Has she showed it in the cage? No, but she hasn't needed to. She has made no bones about finding the easiest path to victory. She is not going to stand and trade when she doesn't have to. She is right in this strategy. That is what gets fighters in trouble.
I am a believer in her striking. From sparring partners' accounts to coaches' analysis to video of her training, it all looks and sounds incredible. Especially when you see the current level of striking in the division. Sarah Kaufman may be the best boxer in the division, but she still shows a lot of holes in that department.
Zingano possesses good power and a diverse attack, but Rousey's technical abilities seem to be at the top of the division. When she eventually is forced to show it off, she will, and everyone's jaw will drop.
Typically, in the head-to-toe breakdowns, we group all the grappling together in one slide, and generally that is well enough. However, for this fight it needs to be broken down a little further.
Rousey is an elite grappler. Everyone knows this, and she puts it on display in every fight. She closes the distance and gets her mitts on her opponents, and it's all over. She dumps them to the mat and finishes with an armbar. She is virtually unstoppable.
Zingano is a skilled grappler in her own right, but in the clinch she is simply outmatched. And it is not even close. Rousey's positioning and all-around skills are far beyond Zingano's from that position. If Rousey gets her paws on Zingano, it is going to end up with Zingano on the canvas.
This is where Zingano has a shot. If she can avoid the armbar (good luck), she has the ability to create a lot of problems on the mat.
Liz Carmouche did a fine job against Rousey before succumbing to the armbar and nearly made it past the first round. Zingano has a more athletic build and has more options from both top and bottom positions.
Although, no one wants to be beneath Rousey on the ground.
What ultimately gives Zingano the edge on the mat is her diversity. Her jiu-jitsu skills give her more submission options than Rousey.
Rousey has good submissions, but they are currently limited. If Zingano takes top control somehow, it will turn the tide of the fight.
Zingano's X-Factor: The Moment
At the weigh-ins Zingano was shaking from adrenaline. Miesha Tate was completely calm. During her entrance she was brought to tears by the moment, and again Tate was calm.
During the first round of her fight, Zingano was visibly stiff. It nearly cost her dearly. How will she react to the moment of this big fight?
This isn't a normal second fight in the Octagon. Rousey's star power will demand significant media work from Zingano, and the added attention from The Ultimate Fighter will also play in. She has never had to deal with headlining a card like this.
Will the moment dwarf her, or will she pull off a Rampage Jackson type performance? If one remembers, Jackson was very nervous for his Octagon debut, but his second fight was against Chuck Liddell for the gold. Jackson was comfortable and won. The difference is that Jackson was accustomed to big stage and had already fought Liddell. Luxuries Zingano does not have against Rousey.
We will learn a lot during that particular fight week from Zingano.
Rousey's X-Factor: Striking
Miesha Tate is not known as a great striker, but she was able to connect on Zingano a lot. And they were clean, hard shots.
Rousey has the ability and opportunity to use her striking to stymie Zingano.
Zingano's best abilities are in the wrestling and jiu-jitsu departments. If Rousey wants to simply avoid that, she can use her technical boxing abilities to keep Zingano on the outside and touch her up. Then, if she wants, she can decide to close the distance and use her judo.
Rousey's striking can firmly cement this fight for her. It will allow her to dictate where the fight takes place and at what pace it goes. A huge potential advantage for the champion.
Zingano is the best athlete Rousey has faced. That could play heavily in Zingano making it past the first round and potentially making this a competitive fight.
I just don't think it will be enough.
As it stands today, months away from the fight, I believe the aforementioned moment will dwarf Zingano. It will make her an easy target for Rousey early on in the fight, and that will be all the opportunity she needs to finish.
Also, in the fight with Tate, Zingano was nearly armbarred—Rousey's specialty. If that same position happens in the title fight, Zingano is done. Rousey is not going to lose it like Tate did. I think Rousey is able to dominate Zingano in this fight and secure another first round armbar.
For Zingano, win or lose, this will be a big learning experience for one of the better female fighters in the division. It will help her continue to develop and become a much more dangerous fighter in the future.
Prediction: Rousey defeats Zingano via submission (armbar) in the first round