On a main card riddled with championship implications and rematch hoopla, Ronda Rousey is set to defend her women's bantamweight title and seven-fight win streak opposite hungry contender Miesha Tate.
As one of the world's most popular fighters, including men, Rousey has transcended the sport of mixed martial arts. With movie deals in the book, magazines covers on the shelves and money in the bank, she has a lot riding on her tantalizing rematch with "Cupcake."
Now, Rousey was able to break Tate's arm back in 2012 in Strikeforce, but Tate is destined to come to the cage more prepared and drastically improved at UFC 168.
That means "Rowdy" has to be more vicious and tactical than ever before. If she isn't, there's going to be a universal shift in the women's division entering 2014.
Here are three keys to victory for the champ as she gears up for a well-rounded opponent.
Don't exchange early
Tate is one of the best strikers in the women's bantamweight division. She has heavy hands, loves to throw in bunches and knows when to grit her teeth and stay in the pocket.
Rousey, on the other hand, although she has evolved her striking skills over the past few years, doesn't truly possess those accolades. Instead, she's often flustered on her feet and forced to turn away from dirty, in-your-face exchanges.
For Rousey to be exceptionally effective Saturday night, she needs to do everything in her power to slip away from Tate's range. She can't allow Tate to find her rhythm early and gain the confidence to strike freely.
Circling out, staying patient, keeping her emotions in check and sticking to her game plan are all ways Rousey can ward off her opponent's aggressive style.
Don't be afraid of a war
So much has been said about Rousey's sensational streak of seven-straight first-round finishes by way of armbar.
But what often eludes the senses is the fact that she's never been pushed beyond Round 1. She hasn't had to display the heart, determination and sheer will to persevere through pain and adversity in order to capture victory.
Now while she's been so skilled and fortunate enough to not have to do that, it's alarming that we've never seen it.
However, considering how athletic and well-groomed the champion is, she'd most likely flourish in such an environment. She shouldn't aim for that outcome, but if the fights get there, all Rousey has to do is believe in her skills, listen to her corner, feed off her training and remove herself from the pressure, and she'll be able to welcome war with open arms.
Play the angles
Whether it's to evade Tate's striking prowess, inflict her own damage or corner her opponent against the cage to secure a takedown, Rousey needs to play every angle with calculated perfection.
As a very athletic and well-rounded fighter, Tate can get it done on almost any level. She can throw in the clinch, grapple from top or bottom position and fight her way out of very precarious situations.
That means that Rousey will have to get off first come Saturday night. She has to be able to set the pace, take the first step and put the pressure on Tate.
All of that will be possible if "Rowdy" can successfully play the angles to close the distance, get in and out of strikes, secure unsuspecting underhooks and create an uncomfortable setting for the challenger.
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