UFC 200 finally settles on a main event, between Tate and Nunes this July 9, 2016 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One sentence summary:
Phil: Hey, it's the main event(?)
Dayne: Well, we did all expect the women's bantamweight title to be the main event of UFC 200 a year ago....
Record: Miesha Tate 18-5 Amanda Nunes 12-4
Odds: Tate -250 Nunes +210
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
David: Miesha Tate isn't the most unlikely of champions, but I could never envision her winning gold in a division that Ronda Rousey's in. She found the loophole obviously, but where usually we get impatient when a world weary challenger wins the title (like Serra, or Rashad), Tate's rise to the top feels almost appropriately incendiary. In that way she's the spiritual kin of Bisping; we almost respect the story more than the fighter. I don't know that Miesha's first title defense will be successful but I do know that her journey will continue to fascinate.
Phil: Even more than Bisping, it's been a career characterized by sheer dogged intransigence. Not only did she lose to Rousey via two of the most vicious stoppages we've seen, but she had to battle back in virtually every fight since, including the fight against McMann where Tate got her orbital broken in the first round. Add in the last minute desperation choke against Holm, and you have someone who'd be my personal pick for the gutsiest, hardest to break fighter in the sport.
Dayne: Tate is perseverance personified. Whether you like her or not, she deserves admiration for her refusal to give up on herself or her dream as she became world champion after everyone had written off that possibility following her second loss to Rousey. She needs to come out on top in a third fight with Rousey to change the narrative of her legacy as second fiddle, but being runner-up in the annals of history isn't a bad place to be. Just ask Matt Hughes. Now the question is whether that will ever happen.
David: Nunes started out as your token violent striker who could only be successful if she could avoid those Hector Lombard rounds. But she's very quickly turned things around. She's always been fairly well rounded, but she's a single dimension threat who forces opponents to fight within that single dimension.
Phil: The story with Nunes has simply been when her technique, fight IQ and discipline would catch up to her obvious physical gifts. ATT is one of the best camps around, and she's making tangible fight-to-fight improvements. The question is whether they come fast enough.
Dayne: There isn't a more violent force in the division than Nunes. The issue has been that the storm only lasts for a short while before petering out. Survive the storm and Nunes is a sitting duck. She has made strides to have more staying power later in fights, but the narrative is still the same for her.
What's at stake?
David: Both women will remain in good standing even in defeat. Nunes will still threaten everyone below Tate with those TNT fists, and Tate will keep getting high profile fights.
Phil: If Tate loses, are we looking at another belt which gets lost by a dominant champion, then gets passed around among all the other upper-level fighters?
Dayne: Tate assuredly won't get a third shot at Rousey if she falls here as Rousey won't fight for anything but the title. Then again, no one predicted her getting the title during the reign of Ronda. Nunes will float around the top of the division with a loss, but getting another title shot will be difficult given her lack of marketability.
Where do they want it?
David: Tate does a little bit of what Jon Jones does (yea yea, insert your cocaine is a hell of a drug references here); which is fight opponents just enough on their axis to be acquainted, but not intimate with their rhythm. There's a dash of Randy Couture in there somewhere, game planning less for execution so much as for attrition. Miesha doesn't have a power striking game, or slam dunk Marcelo Garcia submission wrestling. What she has is a sense of craft, and fortitude. Her boxing has steadily improved over the years (she's much better at distance management and posturing, something that's identifiable in the way she seems to land with more power these days), but she's still at her best grinding in the clinch, and grappling for a sustained attack that's not restricted to just submission attempts.
Phil: She's brilliant at slowly working her way into the fight, making up for what she (still) lacks in pure technique with a mind which never stops looking for the different pathways to victory. Her game fits together pretty nicely, with the classic phase-shift and overhand being the centerpieces. Her offensive clinch and chain-wrestling are excellent, and her top game is truly top-shelf, perhaps the best in the division, where she keeps crushing pressure and can pass, pound or submit at will.
Dayne: Tate isn't a master in any particular phase of MMA. What she is is good enough in all the phase that she is going to have an advantage on her opponent somewhere and she's going to to exploit that at some point. She has come a long way in terms of executing strategy as well which coincided with her current five-fight win streak and few are better at making in-fight adjustments. There is a reason she hasn't picked up a finish in before the third round since graduating from the Strikeforce Challengers program. All that said, wrestling is her foundation and will always be her greatest strength. Not because she is the most technically sound or powerful, but because it represents the grit and determination that defines her.
David: Nunes is a bit of throwback. But she's modern in the most important ways. Nunes owns a number of slick ways to end a fight, but her ability to dominate from range while possessing counterpunching aptitude is what makes her more than just an arbitrary challenger. She's almost as brutal in the clinch, but that overhand right left combination is as good a two piece there is in MMA. But what often goes unmentioned, however, is her volatile dominance in top control. Well, it doesn't go unmentioned actually but my point is that if she suddenly decided to be a wrestler, she might be even more effective. She nearly crushed Zingano with the ‘ole Shogun ground lunge technique. Her wingspan allows her to reach for punches you otherwise can't throw on the ground. Her defensive abilities are average on the ground (though she's only lost once by submission, back in 2008, in her MMA debut), but offensively she knows how to shuffle, scramble, and pressure.
Phil: Nunes has a good amount in common with Gadelha, the other Brazilian female title challenger this week. Primarily this is defined by the fact that she's simply an amazing athlete, in comparison to a champion who is slightly undersized and underpowered for the division. Like Gadelha, her kickboxing is definitely improving in leaps and bounds, with a more defined counterpunching game, and sharp leg and body kicks.
She's still not done developing, however. Most notable is that she seems a little interstitially vulnerable, occasionally giving up takedowns or making split-second errors in terms of grappling defense as opponents close in on her. Often she's able to simply overpower them, but it definitely bears watching.
Dayne: Aside from Rousey, there isn't a more physically gifted woman in the bantamweight division than Nunes. She won many of her early contests with her physical gifts alone, overwhelming opponents with her combination of speed, strength, and aggression. She'll pepper her opponents with vicious kicks in hopes of getting them attack where she can spring her overwhelming combinations in a swarming manner. That's the part everyone is aware of at least.
Her most dangerous aspect is her ground and pound which she lays on thick and heavy when she can achieve an advantageous top position. Trips and are her go-to's to get the fight to the ground. She is a capable guard passer, but only goes far enough to start landing strikes rather than securing the best position possible. While she'll take a submission if it is there, she isn't going to look to create them.
Insight from Past Fights:
David: The Cat Zingano fight. It's as much a blueprint for victory as it is for defeat. Early on, you see just how dominant Nunes is. Even Zingago who people recognize as a strong, durable fighter is bullied to the ground with a counter takedown and hurt from Nunes going beastmode on the ground. After that, her cardio fades, making Cat's takedowns more readily accessible. Nunes is an adept kicker, but she makes a lot of mistakes many fighters still do when throwing leg kicks: chambering them too close to their opponent. Tate will have to time potential kicks while surviving on onslaught if she wants to win, which is as tough a challenge as there is in MMA. After all, I'd describe Tate as tough more than durable.
Phil: Cat Zingano fight, Tate edition. This showcased Tate's significant problem with both Rousey and Zingano- she's just not that big or powerful with comparison to both of them, and they were able to go into the grappling phase (Zingano) and trade standing (Rousey) and have her coming off worse both times. The story of this fight is basically defined here, then: Nunes with the physicality advantage early, Tate with the guts and cardio advantage late.
Dayne: Nunes took a much more measured approach against Valentina Shevchenko, fighting an effective fight for two rounds as opposed to the usual one or one-and-a-half. She took what was there in each round to get ahead on the scorecards. Though she didn't have enough energy in the final round after blowing her wad (thank you Joe Rogan) trying to put away Shevchenko with ground and pound in the second, she still had enough in reserve to fight a defensive fight in the final round to take a decision. Nunes is fighting more economically and showing a better gas tank as a result. It still isn't great, but it shouldn't be the death knell everyone seems to think that it is.
Phil: The only thing I can think is that while Nunes' gas tank has been poor, this is something that challengers tend to fix up on when they come in for their first title fight. It's like Jones once said: "seeing the belt gives them super powers."
David: If Nunes' gas tank becomes a factor, it's not because she isn't prepared, but because Tate is as good an attrition fighter in MMA as there is.
Dayne: Tate seems to love being champion, perhaps more than she loves being a fighter. She has been at just about every UFC promotional event, traveling all around the world in the process. She has even started a podcast since taking ahold of the belt. Is she getting enough time to train properly? Being champion is more than just being a fighter. These are the same same pitfalls that played a factor in Rousey losing the belt last year.
Phil: Came very, very close to picking Nunes here. Her physicality and improving technical striking may mean she builds up either an unnassailable lead or a finish early in the fight. However, I'm still not quite convinced by her takedown defense, and Tate doesn't let people up when she gets them down. Miesha Tate by submission, round 4.
David: My issue with Tate is that unlike Jones, fighting your opponent's fight is only efficient is you're either supernaturally tough, or technically proficient. Tate is one of those, but not both. Tate always had a good chance to beat Holm because Holm isn't a powerful striker. Nunes is as blistering a striker there is. Tate usually gets rocked in her fights anyway. I don't see how she could ever recover when she does. Amanda Nunes by TKO, round 2.
Dayne: I know the popular pick is to go with Tate and I completely understand why as she is the better all-around fighter with resilience for days. But this seems to be the era of one-and-done champions. Tate's tendency to start slow + Nunes' early onslaught = new world champion. Nunes by TKO, 1st Round