When Cat Zingano beat Miesha Tate via TKO (2:55 of the third round) at the season 17 finale of The Ultimate Fighter on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Zingano earned the chance to fight UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for the title.
Not only did Zingano beat Tate, but the 30-year-old women’s MMA star also proved that she will be one of the toughest fights Rousey has ever faced.
Many in the MMA world had Tate as the favorite in this bout because of her expertise in submissions—with most admittedly looking past this bout to a possible matchup with Rousey and her armbars—but Zingano proved to be too tough to tap.
After Tate failed to force Zingano to give up after putting her opponent in both a kneebar and an armbar, Zingano's skill and awareness helped her outsmart Tate and stay one step ahead of the skilled fighter.
The ability to know when a submission attempt is coming and avoid it will be what Zingano must depend on most against the ultimate armbar queen, Rousey.
Zingano does not want to be added to Rousey’s already extensive list of victims.
While Zingano proved that she can wiggle out of even the best submission attempts, it was her ability to strike with both her arms and her legs that was the difference. Once back to their feet, Tate didn’t have a chance to stop the offensive onslaught of her challenger.
It was Zingano’s knees to Tate’s face that ultimately brought an end to the fight, and that is something that Rousey has yet to truly face. Zingano realizes that she must attack with her striking as hard as she can out of the gate to keep the champion at a distance and avoid her judo-throw skills.
As seen by the way Zingano handled Tate, Rousey is in for a rough night if she underestimates her talent.
With the victory, Zingano will now go on to coach against Rousey on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. That close interaction should help build this main event for the UFC title as the biggest women’s MMA fight in history.
With so much on the line on Saturday night, Zingano proved she is going to give Rousey the fight of her life.