The main card of The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale will feature the second women's match in UFC history, between Miesha Tate (13-2) and Cat Zingano (7-0), and the winner will face Ronda Rousey, the UFC Women's Bantamweight champion following a season coaching The Ultimate Fighter.
Tate is a familiar face to many MMA fans, she has been Rousey's foil since their match just over a year ago. Tate is a born wrestler, growing up she joined boy's teams when there were was no girl's wrestling available. She trains with Urijah Faber's Team Alpha Male, a camp of wrestlers turned MMA fighters. Tate turned pro in 2007 and has collected an impressive resume, including a submission win over Marloes Coenen. Most recently Tate defeated Julie Kedzie in August of last year. She is hands-down one of the best female fighters on the planet right now.
Cat Zingano only recently emerged to the upper levels of womens MMA with her win over Raquel Pennington at Invicta FC 3. She and her husband, Mauricio Zingano, own a BJJ academy and she has held some of her camps at Tiger Muay Thai. She has both competitive BJJ experience and Muay Thai fight experience, and was considered one of the top 125-pound fighters before she moved up to compete at Bantamweight.
Tate's striking is not often seen because she is so frequently working for a takedown, but she has shown the standard Team Alpha Male stand up game. Tate works a lead hand, but the centerpiece of her striking is the overhand right. Since the recent arrival of Duane "Bang" Ludwig as the new head coach there have been signs of Alpha Male fighters diversifying their striking, and Tate already has made more use of kicks than most Alpha Male products. Her biggest problem is that when she gets in trouble, she has a tendency to bite down on her mouth piece, wing punches and duck her head forward, which could be dangerous against a skilled striker, but she is very good at using her wrestling to avoid true danger on the feet.
Zingano employs a strong Muay Thai attack on the feet, often leading with a kick to set up strong, straight punches. She has good power in her punches, can elevate her kicks, and has good knees in the clinch. Zingano is aggressive and pressures her opponents from bell to bell. On the feet Zingano should enjoy an advantage, but it will be interesting to see if Ludwig's stewardship of Alpha Male has allowed Tate to make strides in her striking.
Tate's wrestling has been paired with very good submission grappling skills. Marloes Coenen is one of the very best female grapplers in MMA and Tate went right at her on the ground and submitted her. Tate passes guard well, and once in dominant position is very aggressive looking for submissions. She is excellent in the scramble and very good at catching the back. Tate is also pretty able off her back, but she is more likely to scramble and try to wrestle her way out of that situation than play guard.
Zingano has a good guard game, she gets angles very well with her hips and has good flexibility in her legs. On top Zingano is dangerous with heavy striking and a good submission attack. The biggest problem is Zingano's wrestling. She does have some dynamic takedowns, but she has been stuck in clinch for long periods working for takedowns.
The Match Up
The wrestling clearly favors Tate and that very well could be the deciding factor of this fight. Zingano has better striking and could hurt Tate both on the feet and on the ground. But none of that matters if Zingano is on her back. Tate is the better pure grappler, but the factor that could swing things in Zingano's favor is her striking power. If she is able to hurt Tate on the feet and get on top of her, Zingano could end up winning this fight. The more likely outcome is Tate getting a few takedowns, breaking Zingano down a bit, and then either catching a submission or coasting to a decision.
Fight Prediction: Miesha Tate by Submission, Round 2.