By the time Miesha Tate
steps in the cage to challenge for Marloes Coenen
's Strikeforce women's welterweight title on July 30, it will have been nearly a year since her last fight.
For most fighters, that's about the point where the dreaded ring rust starts to be an issue. But in this case, at least according to Tate, inactivity might prove to be a virtue.
"I've had a lot of opportunity to study her and see where her game is at," Tate said of Coenen. "This time, since I haven't fought for a year, I think it will benefit me because she'll be expecting and game-planning and preparing for the fighter I was a year ago. I switched camps, I've been training in Sacramento with Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes and Brian [Caraway] and all the guys at Team Alpha Male, and the amount of growth I've had in this past year, I'm just a completely different fighter."
It also helps that Tate got a chance to see Coenen fight as recently as March, and in a contest where she struggled early on. That was supposed to be Tate's title shot until an injury forced her to withdraw. Instead, Strikeforce slotted the relatively inexperienced Liz Carmouche
in against the 135-pound champion, and for the better part of three rounds Carmouche roughed Coenen up with superior wrestling and ground-and-pound skills.
The fight served as something of a scouting report, Tate said, and even though Coenen pulled out the win via a fourth-round triangle choke, the challenger was encouraged by what she saw that night.
"I think Liz is a somewhat greener version of me," Tate said. "What happened to [Coenen] in that fight, that was what I'd already suspected of Marloes. She kind of got exposed in that fight as far as some of her weaknesses."
The problem for Tate, and for Coenen, is that while Zuffa seems interested in continuing the women's division under the Strikeforce banner for now, there's no telling what might happen once Strikeforce's contract with Showtime runs out and Zuffa is forced to make some decisions about the future of the organization.
That's why there's more pressure than ever on the female fighters to show that they are a viable draw, Tate said -- though they get precious few opportunities to make that point.
"The thing about this, as with any fight card, for the men there's going to be exciting fights and boring fights," said Tate. "Just like [Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum], there were exciting fights and boring fights. But the women only get one shot. We usually only get one [women's] fight per fight card. Sometimes it might be boring, just like the men, but then all of women's MMA gets judged on that one fight. So yeah, there's a little more pressure on that one fight to really shine, so that not everyone goes away with a bad taste about women's MMA overall."
That pressure to perform -- along with the anxiety about long-term job security for female fighters under the Zuffa banner -- makes this title fight an even bigger deal for Tate. Not only does she have to worry about making the most out of her long-awaited crack at the belt, she also has to put on enough of a show to make the powers that be appreciate her value.
It isn't an easy burden to bear, Tate admitted, but it's not as if she has much choice.
"I know we'll probably be around at least as long as the Strikeforce and Showtime contract is still in motion. After that, I don't know. I really want to go out there and put on a spectacular performance against Marloes just to show that we're really talented athletes and we bring it every fight. We're entertaining, and we can sell tickets. Bottom line, that's what it comes down to."