It has been a roller coaster of a year for Miesha Tate.
She bought her 2016 calendar with UFC President Dana White actively encouraging her to retire. She surprisingly received a title shot a few months later, then took the belt from Holly Holm in dramatic fashion at UFC 196 with a rear-naked choke in the final frame.
A three-match with Ronda Rousey was teased, but never came to fruition, which then saw her pitted against Amanda Nunes. A series of issues with other fighters saw her fall into the main event of one of the company's biggest shows, UFC 200. That seemingly fortunate turn was undone as she unceremoniously dropped the title in the first round.
To cap it all off, she was attached to fight former protege Raquel Pennington, who trained under her on The Ultimate Fighter season 18, at UFC 205 in a critical fight for her career, in a no-win situation. A victory would do little more than keep her in current spot, while a loss would send her into a career free fall.
Tate, for better or worse, wasn't going to allow that to happen.
Pennington came out hard early, popping her jab well and clipping Tate repeatedly in the process. After moving into the clinch, however, Pennington started working for a guillotine choke, which Tate somehow defended by kicking off the cage and flipping upside down repeatedly. Tate would eventually break free, score a takedown and work for back control in the clinch, but Pennington showed impressive strength, holding Tate off the ground and pinning her to the cage until the end of the round.
The second round started off the same way, with Pennington throwing hands with confidence and Tate struggling to keep up at range. Tate once again absorbed hands but weathered the punishment to get into the clinch. The fighters traded control of the center of the cage, with Tate landing harder shots and Pennington working volume.
Tate opened the third by pulling guard and working for submissions, transitioning back and forth from armbar to triangle. Pennington defended, but Tate continued working to turn the fight into a grappling match for minutes on end, with mixed success. They returned to their feet with a minute left, with Pennington turning up the volume late, nailing Tate with punches and closing the fight with some frenetic ground-and-pound.
The final horn sounded with the outcome fairly clear. While Tate was game, she had little to offer offensively. The scorecards reflected that, with Pennington taking a unanimous decision to the tune of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
With her days as a contender functionally done and few intriguing opponents available, Tate told Joe Rogan that her days as a competitor are done. "I'm announcing my retirement...I've been doing this for over a decade," she said. "It's not my time anymore. It's the future's time."
That may or may not prove true with time. Plenty of fighters have retired, only to get back into the cage after a lengthy vacation.
Either way, the women's bantamweight division is lesser now than it was a day ago. While Tate was never a spectacularly gifted or athletic fighter, her savvy and grit made her one of the most enduring fighters in the sport.
She will be missed.