Saturday night, Cat Zingano found her future. Just a few months ago, hers was a fairly obscure name, even among MMA's diehards. But after nearly 13 minutes of action, she will be known around the MMA world. The UFC marketing machine will make sure of that after Zingano overcame a rocky start to finish Miesha Tate in a third-round TKO at the TUF 17 Finale.
The victory gives her a slot on next season's edition of The Ultimate Fighter opposite UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. At the conclusion of the season, which will air on FOX Sports 1, she will fight Rousey for the title.
"Man, I can't wait," Zingano said. "Me and her, we're both going to rumble, I know that."
Zingano was forced to turn the fight with Tate into a rumble, too.
Tate came out on fire in the first, using her wrestling and strength to turn the fight into a grind. She was able to connect with elbows and punches from the position, and Zingano looked as though she was crumbling under the pressure. But in the second, she found a way back into the fight, although Tate still seemed to have the grappling edge.
Zingano came out aggressively in the third, and scored a takedown and dominated from the top, bloodying Tate's nose with strikes. Tate worked her way up, but that ended up working against her as Zingano smashed her with a series of knees to the head. At 2:55 of the round, ref Kim Winslow saw enough.
"It came down to the third round. Cat really showed that she's able to perform a lot of pressure so I'm going to be ready for that," said Rousey, who watched the fight from cageside.
Zingano (8-0) said afterward that she was nervous for the fight, but was thrilled at all she had earned.
"To be honest, I looked up to Miesha since I started this sport," she said. "I was scared to death of her but I had no time to show it. I had to focus on being my best and finding a way to get that win."