Let's just say this up front: picking Ronda Rousey to beat Miesha Tate is a leap of faith. After all, what exactly do we know about Rousey the mixed martial artist? Sure, she is 4-0, but her fights combined have lasted little over two minutes. She's spent next to no time standing up and little time on the ground for that matter, her lighting quick arm bar transitions causing frantic taps.
Rousey herself has even played up the mystery, acknowledging that the less Tate knows about her skills, the better. What we do know is that she is a killer, a fearless assassin who has shown no fear inside or outside of the cage. On the other hand, she's never faced anyone with the experience level of Strikeforce bantamweight champ Tate.
That makes their Saturday night main event fight more of a guessing game than usual when it comes to predicting a winner.
Rousey (4-0) comes in as a nearly 3-to-1 favorite to unseat Tate and that's based solely off of her ability to put the fight where she wants it and finish. Unlike some of her other opponents, Tate (12-2) has a wrestling background, and according to FightMetric, has never been taken down in her six Strikeforce fights.
That's a stat that will be tested on Saturday. Will Rousey be able to pull off the trick? She's done it in every other fight, either with brute force or through judo technique. Given her background as an international judo competitor, you have to believe that anytime the fight gets in close quarters, Tate is going to be in danger of finding herself on the mat.
In her most recent fight against Julia Budd for example, Rousey jabbed her way in close, got a hold of Budd and tried a hip throw. Budd was ready for it and kept her weight back. From years in judo, Rousey has a perfect understanding of leverage, and simply readjusted, using Budd's backwards force to push her down to the mat. Within seconds, it was game over.
It's been the same sort of plan for every fight, Rousey quickly jabbing her opponent backwards as a means of getting a grip on them. She shows no fear of return fire from the woman standing across from her, but she hasn't show any polish as a striker, either.
She certainly excels in the clinch, and that's going to be an area of concern for Tate. Given Tate's background as a wrestler, it will be interesting to see if she is more interested in keeping the fight standing up or has faith in her submission defense. Tate historically has good ground and pound, but as we've seen from Rousey, she has no problem working from the bottom and attacking there.
The matchup problem for Tate comes in the fact that she's proven to be a fighter who likes to work her opponent against the fence, put them on their back and work from the top. Does that sound like a matchup tailor-made for Rousey? So it becomes a question of whether Tate willl adjust and choose to jab, use footwork and look to keep Rousey at distance, or fight her normal fight.
Against Marloes Coenen, Tate showed a decent jab and a straight right hand behind it, but spent most of the fight using those to walk into a clinch.
One thing that must be noted is that Tate found herself in a series of troubling spots on the ground against Coenen. In the first round, she worked her way out of a first-round anaconda. In the second, Coenen took her back, hooked on a body triangle and worked for a rear naked choke. She also used the position to mount her from the back and land strikes from the top. That Tate escaped the positions is a testament to her toughness, but Rousey is a bigger and stronger opponent than Coenen, and if she gets those positions, the possibilities of escaping will be slimmer.
Because this could potentially be a five-round fight, the conditioning edge must go to Tate. Against Coenen, she looked strong into the championship rounds, sinking in a fourth-round arm triangle choke to win. It's also Rousey's debut at the lower 135-pound weight class, and we don't know how the cut will effect her conditioning.
Of course, even that is speculative. So much of Rousey's game is still a mystery that it's impossible to know how good she really is. We do know that many of Tate's best qualities play into what Rousey does best. And so that's enough to guess that Rousey will get the fight to the ground and again win by submission. Given Tate's experience and toughness, it's not going to take her less than one minute, like all of her other fights. She will be tested, and maybe we'll learn something more about her. But a trend is a trend, so Rousey by arm bar.