In just the second women's bout in UFC history, the victor would receive an automatic title shot and coaching role opposite UFC bantamweight women's champion Ronda Rousey on the upcoming co-ed season of The Ultimate Fighter. With such career changing rewards on the line, Tate and Zingano engaged in a furious, back and forth battle that ignited the crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and ultimately earned ‘Fight of the Night' honors.
Tate entered the third frame ahead on two judges' scorecards -- both Glenn Trowbridge and Patricia Morse Jarman scored it 20-18 in favor of the former Strikeforce champion -- however Zingano stormed back, blasting Tate with a series of knees to the head that forced referee Kim Winslow to intervene with just two minutes remaining.
Even in her bloodied and battered state, Tate immediately protested the stoppage. She later echoed those sentiments when asked if she believed Winslow stepped in too soon.
"I do," Tate bluntly responded. "But I just know how I felt inside the cage. I haven't had a chance to actually go back and watch it, but [Winslow] came in and told me before we left the locker room that, ‘If I warn you to move, all I need to know is that you want to stay in the fight.' And I felt that I did that. I got from the bottom, up. I got kneed a few times on the way, tried to shoot another shot, and the fight was stopped. I didn't feel like I was out of the fight."
Adding to Tate's frustration was a tweet she received from a fan following the decision. Within the tweet, the fan enclosed a screenshot that appeared to show Tate's fingertips on the ground as Zingano smashed a knee into her temple. If the screenshot proved correct, Zingano's knee strike would technically be illegal under the Unified Rules, as Tate would qualify as a downed opponent.
"It all happened so fast in the fight, I don't really recall. I don't consciously think it was illegal," an exasperated Tate said when asked about the knee, before turning her thoughts back to Winslow's stoppage.
"I'd like to see it but I don't think it's going to change the result. You know what I mean? I'm pissed to say the least. I'm definitely not happy. And, I mean, f--k, I still feel like I was in the fight. I don't, for one second, feel like it should have been stopped. But I'm a fighter. I wanted to keep fighting.
"[Winslow] told me, ‘Show me something.' I don't know what you want. You know, I sat up, I shot a double, I got back to my feet. I took some damage because of that, because I was trying to listen to the referee, and she f--king stopped the fight. What do you want, you know?"
For her part, Zingano didn't remember the knee in question, but held no doubts about Winslow's stoppage.
"I wish we could show me the fight before we do any [interviews], because I really go in there, and it's kind of like, I remember little bits and pieces of the fight, but I don't have a whole sequence of things that happen, at all," Zingano said.
"I don't feel like whatever we're talking about is what won me the fight. I think that I won. I think that I went and I kneed her. I think that her face shows it. I think (there's) no doubt in my mind that was my fight. I came back and I finished strong, and I don't have any excuses for how I did tonight."
As for UFC President Dana White, the Zuffa boss was borderline ecstatic about the excitement the women once again brought into the Octagon. Though he erred on the side of Zingano when it came to the issue of the stoppage.
When asked if he had any problem with it, White stated plainly, "None, whatsoever."
"Let me tell you what, Miesha Tate is tough as hell," he explained. "She ate some nasty knees. What'd she eat, five or six, seven knees before they stopped that fight? It was time to stop that fight.
"You know me. If I didn't think the refs did a good job, I'd tell you. They did a good job tonight. Not 100-percent, but they did a job considering the bad situations tonight, when people were in bad situations, they did a good job to stop the fights."