At the end of five rounds, Miesha Tate’s left eye was nearly swollen shut, and Ketlen Vieira’s UFC title hopes were still alive with a unanimous decision over the former bantamweight champ in UFC Vegas 43’s headliner.
Vieira earned scores of 48-47 twice and 49-46, leaving an impression on judges and a bloody reminder on Tate’s face, which took the brunt of her repeated counters on Saturday night at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
What the Brazilian Vieira lacked in aggression, she made up for in accuracy, using her marked height and reach advantage to tag Tate with a right uppercut and left hook. In combination with good counter-wrestling skills, she denied Tate the opportunity to use the weapon that allowed her to win the title five years ago.
“I’m here to fight the best,” Vieira said via translator after her win. “Respect my skills. I will be a champion one day.”
Once a lock for a bantamweight title shot with a four-fight winning streak, Vieira the No. 8 ranked bantamweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, had stumbled in recent outings, losing via knockout to Irene Aldana and via decision against Yana Kunitskaya in her previous outing. She needed the win over Tate to stay in the title picture, and did just that despite being nervous about facing the former champ.
“I was very hesitant,” she said. “It’s true. I did not want to be taken down, so I felt comfortable in the last two rounds. I wish I had felt the last two rounds the first two rounds.”
As for the No. 10-ranked Tate’s hope of a movie-worthy resurrection, Saturday’s result brings an adjustment of expectations. After wowing fans with a solid win over Marion Reneau in her return after a five-year layoff, Tate looked more closely like a fighter still adjusting to the demands of the current climate in the UFC women’s bantamweight division.
“I had fun,” said Tate, clutching her swollen left eye in the octagon after the 25-minute encounter. “That’s the No. 1 priority. I thought it was really close. I wasn’t sure [I had won], to be honest. I knew there was a possibility she won. Hat’s off to her. She’s great.”
Asked about her future, Tate seemed undeterred by the result, telling UFC commentator and former champ Daniel Cormier, “I had a great time tonight. What else can I say. I’ll go home and kiss my two kids. Life is great.”
Tate was the more aggressive fighter throughout the fight, prompting divergent scorecards from MMA pundits online. And at times, the ex-champ landed quality strikes, most often an overhand right that repeatedly cracked Vieira. But she also telegraphed her approach early and often, using the same entries and exits and giving the Brazilian plenty of time to fire back with combinations. Vieira’s power advantage could be seen in the impact on Tate.
As the fight went into championship rounds, Tate leaned more on the clinch and tried to get the fight southward, only to take thumping shots to the midsection that deterred the trip.
By the final round, a right hand from Vieira had mangled Tate’s nose as she tried desperately to chase down her opponent and try one last time to convince judges she had won the fight. Instead, she wound up finding air as Vieira cruised to the final bell, confident in a win she ultimately secured by a comfortable margin. For all the uncertainly online, there was none inside the UFC APEX.