"You shall not pass!" shouted Gandalf, spiking his scepter into the ground and stunning Balrog, a flaming demon hot on his trail. The wizard stood as keeper of a bridge, refusing access in the midst of a hurried chase and protecting his pals in the process.
Later, comically so, Jason Segel did it as well. This time there were sweatpants involved, no demons of any kind (save for perhaps those of a man who was avoiding productivity at all costs) and nothing to keep beyond his own living room.
On Saturday night in Orlando, Florida, Miesha Tate spiked her own scepter into the ground. She spiked it into the center of the Octagon live on Fox, declaring herself keeper of the top of the women's bantamweight division in a world where Ronda Rousey is the runaway champion and everyone else is fighting for second place.
Hey, someone has to be the gatekeeper.
Super happy to have my first ufc win!! Join me at my afterparty! http://t.co/CghwvRdowi— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) April 20, 2014
That's not meant to be an insult. Not even a little bit, actually. Tate was among the greatest challengers to Rousey, enduring a 10-minute brawl before being stopped in their second meeting at UFC 168.
It's clear that, as far as the UFC's women's bantamweight division goes, Tate is among the best. The other side of that coin though—the one that comes with being a recycled challenger—is that even with a win, her value may be in creating new stars instead of earning another crack at gold.
The division—despite how exciting it is and how closely clustered everyone is outside of Rousey—is shallow. Not shallow in terms of talent—shallow in terms of actual size. The promotion only has 20 women under contract.
That means everyone in every role gets clumped together more, and those roles that would go to lower-ranked men in deeper divisions are held by higher-ranked individuals in the women's class.
It's conceivable that fighters could be "in the mix" as Dana White likes to say, but that they're just as much a gatekeeper based on what they've done in the past and what others around them are doing.
Where is Miesha Tate in her division?
That's Tate's situation: She's a highly ranked fighter with some name recognition and an actual fanbase but one with two prominent losses to Rousey when the whole world was paying attention.
Sure, in theory and based on ranking, she's still close to a rematch, but past history outweighs that theory and ranking, and her value comes more in separating the wheat from the chaff.
For example, what is Jessica Eye? She's close to breaking into the top of the division, and a fight with Tate might provide an answer one way or another.
What about Amanda Nunes? People in the know have been saying she was coming for a while now, so is she here yet? It's hard to imagine Tate wouldn't be a way to find that out.
How about scrappy upstart Jessica Andrade, a young brawler with a pair of UFC wins already who might be sellable to her home market in Brazil? You don't think Tate, both in name and in style, would be a good test for her?
While every fighter is always looking up and ahead, nipping at the heels of those ranked higher or holding a title, Tate needs to be conscious of those who are coming behind her. Sure, the possibility of a title fight isn't totally remote, but she's had her chances, and it may be time for others to jump the queue.
With her win on Saturday night, she secured the right to keep the gate to the upper echelon of the women's bantamweight division. Considering the formidable foe she is, from here on out she will indeed decide who shall pass and who shall not.