March 3, 2016

UFC 196: Miesha Tate Must Drag Holly Holm Into An 'Ugly' Fight

By Raphael Garcia

The UFC 196 card features a co-main event that is actually the most important bout of the night. Holly Holm is scheduled to defend her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship against former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate. Although this fight is going largely unnoticed and under-promoted, Tate is quietly catching the attention of fans as an interesting underdog. Throughout her career she’s made the most of being in such a position, and now she has an opportunity to do so when much of the sports world will be watching.

According to MMA Oddsbreaker, Tate is a +145 underdog heading into this fight, which is interesting when you look at the way Holm dispatched Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 and how Tate struggled against Jessica Eye at times in their UFC on Fox 16 bout. However, Tate’s skill set creates an interesting challenge for Holm, but her ability to flex those skills depends on a number of factors. 

Tate has made it clear that she is working on her footwork and striking. In her fight against Eye she displayed improved movement and boxing, even flooring Eye in the first round. However, there were some lapses in her head movement that allowed Eye to land 56 of 143 strikes. Against Holm, Tate cannot make those same mistakes, as the champion deals effective damage with her jab and straight left. Moving straight forward, as Tate tends to do, is a dangerous tact to take in this title fight.

So how can Tate expect to win in one of the biggest fights of her career? The answer is that she has to make this fight “ugly.” In speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Holm referenced Tate’s grinding style, which can make fights look unappealing. That is the exact type of fight Tate needs to make this into in order to put herself in a position to win. She can do so in a few different ways. Look at the foundation that fighters such as Randy Couture created. Wrestling from the clinch with dirty boxing to transition to takedowns is key against an effective and active striker such as Holm. No other fighter has successfully pushed Holm against the cage for extended periods of time. If Tate can do so, that will allow her to implement her wrestling better than shooting for low singles and doubles in open space.

Unfortunately, mainstream mixed martial arts fans frown on the type of fight that is needed for Tate to win on Saturday. A recent example is Eddie Alvarez’s victory over Anthony Pettis at UFC Fight Night 81. While it didn’t look exciting, Alvarez effectively used his wrestling and grappling to control a high-level striker just well enough to pull out a split decision win. For Tate, she will need to work a similar game plan -- albeit with more activity -- to take home the win and the title.

Miesha Tate’s path to a second UFC title shot has been interesting to watch. She’s continued to build and improve her game in order to stay relevant even as more women are added to the division. On Saturday she’s putting herself in a position to either shine or be counted out of the title picture for the extended future. She may be the underdog, but she still has all the tools to snatch away the women’s bantamweight title.

UFC 196
Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate

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UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz (formerly UFC 196: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor, UFC 197: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor) takes place on March 5, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 196 will be.

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