When we last left our heroes...From day one, the worry about the women's BW division was that it wasn't deep enough. Not only was there no depth, but fan interest would rely on Ronda Rousey and that's it.
I don't know that the BW division is 'deep' in the traditional sense. With so many fresh faces, it's hard to make the claim on the contrary. But I do know that it has been one of the most interesting divisions in the UFC, sex be damned. There has been a wealth of interesting fights, and this one is no different.
Thus far, Tate has led a relatively successful career, despite the limited number of bouts. She absolutely earned her title shot with Rousey in 2012 in Strikeforce. However, she's only won one professional bout since then over Julie Kedzie. She lost to Cat Zingano in a solid back and forth bout, and then circumstance shone down upon her, and she took on Rousey for the anticipated rematch.
Needless to say, Tate absolutely needs a win here. It's not just about avoiding the pink slip (which won't happen if she loses: she still has solid name value). It's about rehabilitating her image; some fans see her as a fighter who hasn't earned her keep.
Carmouche is also in an interesting spot. Like Tate, her credibility feels inflated by her strong performance against Rousey, and yet she's coming off an emphatic loss to Alexis Davis. Both women need a win because a loss would be devastating psychologically.
What both women can do: I don't spend much time reading the play by play threads (the abundance of fantastic gifs and humorous pictures are sometimes just too much for my awful desktop), but I sense that Tate is a very heavily criticized fighter. It's not that she doesn't deserve it, but I do feel it creates the impression that Tate is some kind of underachiever. I happen to think she's quite talented.
If you look at her recent losses, she's only looked out of her element against Rousey, who armbars all carbon based life. Even in her rematch with Ronda, she was fairly competitive. Although she exchanges too often, she possesses a nice one-two. She's a gritty fighter who isn't prone to surrender. She didn't tap against Ronda in the first fight until her arm was a sour punch straw.
Her grappling is good too, thanks in part to her FILA background (where she silver medaled in 2008). I'd emphasize taking Ronda's back, but Ronda seems like she uses it for bait. Carmouch actually did something with back control, nearly pulling her head off like a pissed off 8th grader punishing his cobra commander action figure. Carmouche's strength was on full display there. Speaking of Liz, she's at her best when she can achieve top control. She's got a good right hand, and just looking at her, you know she can hurt you in a punch in the face contest, but she should get this fight to the ground.
What both women can't do: Of course, the big knock on Tate is that her sense of strategy seems questionable. Not only has she garnered criticism for her in-cage exploits, but for her coaching exploits as well. Between telling her fighter to basically coast, and knowing full well that Rousey is really good in the clinch, but initiating each clinch anyway to make Ronda's life easier...there's a lot to talk about.
I feel like I'm in an awkward spot to criticize fighters for certain strategies. Yes, I think it was an awful, aggressively wrong thing to do to initiate each clinch against Ronda, but fighters (and athletes in general) don't operate on the same wavelength during competition: they have to have the kind of confidence and self-belief that farts in the general direction of reason and logic.
Miesha's comments post-fight were telling. She needed to know she could hang with Ronda on the ground (I think her flirtation with back control is probably a big portion of that) because she needed to tell herself she could. So yea, I can cut Tate some slack here. Still, Miesha would do herself some favors to pretend like she's an expert in sabermetrics, and that said analysis can be successfully applied to MMA.
As in, avoid trading big punches with Liz. Tate is a lot like Davis in certain ways: she's tough, can exchange punches, and is technically proficient on the ground. This is a very competitive fight, but I like Tate to eek out a decision via better scramble grappling.
Predictions: Miesha Tate by Decision.