Miesha Tate kept her title hopes alive with a dramatic come-from-behind win over Sara McMann at UFC 183, rallying back from a listless first round to outgrapple the Olympic wrestler and nearly send McMann home early with a pair of tight guillotine attempts. And to make matters more impressive, Tate did all of her best work after being badly injured in the fight's opening minutes.
"I have a really bad headache right now," Tate said with her hand shading her eyes at Saturday's post-fight press conference. "She clipped me pretty good in the first round and actually broke my orbital bone in two spots, so I can't look down and this bright light over here is not very comfortable, to say the least. She's as tough as they come, and she can pack a punch, that's for sure.
"I know it doesn't look bad, but it feels pretty crappy."
McMann's improved stand-up proved to be a welcome surprise from the usually single-minded wrestler, as she repeatedly blasted Tate (16-5) with hard overhand rights throughout the bout's opening frame.
Tate managed to recompose herself and rally enough to secure the majority decision victory, but after the bout she was transported to a nearby hospital, where doctors told Tate that her injuries would likely require at least four to six weeks to heal.
Conveniently enough, Tate's recovery timetable runs right through her rival's next dance date, as UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will look to defend her title for a fifth straight time on Feb. 28 when she takes on Cat Zingano in the main event of UFC 184.
Tate has made no secret that her goal is to earn a third shot at Rousey. She's fought and lost twice before to her TUF 18 coaching rival, but in doing so became the only women to drag Rousey outside of the first round at UFC 168.
Now, with three consecutive wins in 10 months, Tate is inching ever closer to her goal, even if she doesn't believe she's there yet.
"I suppose it depends who wins," Tate said. "If it's Ronda, obviously I think I have a little bit more work to do. If it's Cat, I think a better argument could be made. So we'll see who wins out of those two. But I've already told everyone that I'm willing to do what it takes to get back to that. I'm not asking for it right now. I'm not asking for any handouts. I'm willing to put my nose to the grindstone. I'm willing to beat all the other top contenders until I am the only option left if that's what I have to do."