UFC 168: Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Since dethroning Tate under the Strikeforce banner in March 2012, Rousey has been the driving force behind women's MMA. She's been labeled the sole reason females now compete inside the Octagon by UFC president Dana White and will now look to defend her UFC belt against her biggest rival.
Tate lucked into this opportunity. Following a loss to Cat Zingano in April, it appeared the former Strikeforce champion was multiple wins away from earning a rematch with Rousey. Instead, Zingano was injured and replaced with Tate, which set up the biggest fight the UFC could make right now in the women's 135-pound class.
As Rousey and Tate prepare to go at it again, it's time to take a closer look at how the two match up. Here is a closer look at where both fighters hold advantages.
Because Ronda Rousey has been so successful on the ground, her striking ability is still very much unknown.
In her five fights since she joined the Strikeforce roster in August 2011, she has landed only 19 strikes. She has showed an accurate jab in the short amount of time she has spent standing, but Rousey's game plan centers on taking her opponents down and looking for submissions.
Coming off a knockout loss to Zingano, Tate isn't the most skilled striker in the women's bantamweight division. Still, she's much more experienced in that area than Rousey.
What is concerning about Tate's striking in this matchup is that she's never been one to keep adversaries on the end of her punches. The former Strikeforce champion bites down on her mouthpiece and presses forward with flurries.
That may be prudent against opponents whom she wants to take to the ground anyway. However, she would probably be wise to keep Rousey standing as much as possible on Saturday. If Tate is overzealous with her striking, she will only help the titleholder to close the distance.
Whenever there is space between them, though, Tate should have an edge over Rousey.
In her six Strikeforce bouts prior to meeting Rousey, Tate scored 15 takedowns and surrendered zero. Against Rousey, she was grounded three times and failed to score multiple takedowns for the first time in her Strikeforce career.
As an Olympic bronze medalist in judo, Rousey is on a different level in the clinch than the rest of the women's bantamweight division. It's why so many are intrigued by the possibility of seeing her tested by Sara McMann, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling.
When measured against most female fighters, Tate is an excellent wrestler. In relation to Rousey and McMann, she still has a long way to go.
Rousey's background in judo makes her most dangerous in the clinch.
If Tate wants to find success with her wrestling, she'll need to set up double-legs from the outside with her striking. Her pressuring striking style inherently forces her into clinching, though.
Ronda Rousey is not invincible on the ground.
That was confirmed in her UFC debut against Liz Carmouche, who nearly shocked the world with a neck crank on the champion. Tate also took Rousey's back under the Strikeforce banner and could threaten the titleholder like Carmouche did, if she finds herself in that position again on Saturday.
Still, Rousey's biggest problems on the ground have come from her willingness to take risks in looking for armbars. In every fight she's had, those risks have paid off in the form of submission wins in the opening round.
Defensively, she may not be flawless on the ground, but Rousey made up for her mistakes by contorting Tate's arm in the first go-around. There's a good chance she'll find a way to do the same at UFC 168.
Although she is used to the nerves of competing in a fight of this magnitude by now, Ronda Rousey still lacks the MMA experience of Tate.
The UFC champion made her MMA debut in March 2011. By then, Tate already had five Strikeforce fights under her belt and was in line for a shot at then-champion Marloes Coenen.
Now seven fights into her pro career, Rousey has barely been forced to stand at all. Should Tate avoid the titleholder's throws early on this time around, she could test Rousey's confidence in her stand-up.
With the champ having never seen the second round, her conditioning is also still in question. If Tate finally becomes the first fighter to shut down "Rowdy's" armbar attempts, conditioning could become an important factor in this matchup.
Rematches give losing fighters excellent opportunities to improve on exploited weaknesses in order to prove they are better than they previously showed.
For Miesha Tate, that means focusing on defending the armbar that Ronda Rousey will no doubt come at her with. The problem is that Tate also knew the armbar was coming prior to her first meeting with Rousey and still couldn't deny the submission.
It's hard to trust that Tate will close every hole in her armbar defense when she couldn't before, despite probably spending a whole training camp on that the last time around.
The challenger will need to stay standing in order to prevent being submitted, but her striking approach usually doesn't allow her to work from the outside and avoid the clinch. She has scored a takedown in every fight since joining the Strikeforce roster and will likely convince herself she'll be safe looking for one again on Saturday.
Once anybody in the women's bantamweight division goes to the ground with Rousey, it's only a matter of time, though.
Prediction: Rousey defeats Tate by submission in the first round.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.