Photo Credit: Ultimate Fighting Championship
The word pioneer get’s thrown around a bit, sometimes deserved, sometimes now. One definition is “develop or be the first to use or apply”. In MMA we tend to sort of stretch that definition in the sense that we consider multiple people to be pioneers, not just “the first”. While stretching it, it’s accurate because in a sport that requires one on one, one person can not do it alone. In women’s MMA there are a few names mentioned when talking about pioneers on the female side and one of those names has to be Miesha Tate. She was among those doing it way before it was popular, way before promotions like Invicta were running all-female cards. After her recent loss to Raquel Pennington, Miesha announced her retirement from the sport, the former UFC and Strikeforce champion has faced any big name you can think of while building an outstanding record and leaving a legacy that will be around forever. In lite of her retirement I wanted to list the top ten defining moments of her career. These are my personal picks, Miesha may have her own and others may have their own. This is just one person’s perspective, the perspective of someone who followed Miesha’s career way before she became a household name.
10. Victory by unanimous decision over Jessica Eye on UFC on FOX 16. The July 25th, 2015 bout saw Tate coming in riding a three fight winning streak. The winner of the bout was thought to possibly be the next challenger for the bantamweight title. Going in, many figured standing Eye would hold the advantage and Miesha on the ground. However late in round one, Tate dropped Eye, showing she could in fact stand with the skilled striker. From then on, Tate dominated the entire fight and in fact laid the groundwork to beating Eye as she lost three ina row after that with Julianna Pena and Sara McMann doing exactly what Tate did to defeat her. The win would propel Tate to a title shot against Holly Holm (more on that later).
9. Victory over Julie Kedzie. The August 18th 2012 bout was Miehsa’s first since her defeat to Ronda Rousey, her first loss in almost three years. Her comeback fight was no easy task as she faced fellow women’s MMA pioneer Julie Kedzie. While Kedzie was not a household name, to those who followed the sport, she was among the elite. The fight was incredible with both fighters getting things done until Miehsa secured the armbar in round three to win the fight. THe bout would be her final under the Strikeforce banner as her next would be in the UFC.
8. Defeated Jan Finey by decision. To build a successful pro career you need your first professional win. Tate’s first win came over Jan Finney on November 24th of 2007 for Hook N Shoot. While Finney may have not the best record, she has fought as tough of competition as anyone with names like Cyborg, Carmouche, Holm and Baszler on her resume as well as of course Tate. Did anyone know after that fight what was going to become of Miesha Tate? Probably not, but this was the first of many victories for one of the best female fighters in history.
Photo Credit: Fitness Gurls/LHGFX
7. Loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205. Not every defining moment will be a victory. However this has to be on the list, if not for the fight itself, but what came after. The bout, which took place November 12th of this year featured Miesha against Raquel Pennington who after winning three straight- could have been four as many felt she defeated Holly Holm- had gone from being considered an underrated fighter to being considered a real threat in the division. Pennington fought a very smart fight and Miesha couldn’t get her offense going. After the fight, Miesha announced her retirement, saying she didn’t want to do this anymore. While any fan of Miesha was sad to hear it, they could take solace in the fact that she got to go out on her terms, her way, something not everyone gets to do.
6. Standing up to Dana White. Perhaps I am overly romanticizing it with calling it that, but in a sense, that is what it is. When Tate was clearly deserving of another bout for Ronda Rousey’s title, winning a fight deemed for the number one contendership, she expected that bout. However the UFC boss seemed to be leaning towards giving it to Holly Holm, who at the time was less deserving of a crack at the title. Tate hinted that maybe she would just retire then if she wasn’t going to get what she had earned in the cage. Did she retire? Obviously not, but she stood up for what was right and what was earned and it gained her respect. While others may have tried before, Tate was the most high profile fighter up till then to really speak out about such a thing, surely knowing there could be negative consequences. That took the same amount of courage that she displayed inside the cage.
5. Defeats Marloes Coenen. The July 30th, 2011 bout with Coenen was for the Strikeforce title. Coenen came into the bout off of back to back victories over Sarah Kaufman and Liz Carmouche and was considered by many to be the favorite to leave the cage still holding the title. Tate fought an incredible fight, an exciting fight, before beating the submission specialist at her own game submitting her with an arm triangle in the fourth round and would lead to her first fight with Ronday Rousey.
4. Round two victory over Zoila Frausto. I probably have this ranked higher than most would but to me the bout was significant. It was the first time Miesha was exposed to a big audience on a Strikeforce Challengers card. The bout took place on March 26th of 2010 and featured Tate against a then unbeaten Zoila Frausto. It was expected to be Miehsa’s wrestling against Frausto’s Muay Thai. After a fairly competitive round one, Miesha was able to secure the armbar in round two for the win. The victory exposed Tate to a big audience and began her big rise in popularity. Things may have turned out differently, at least short term had Miehsa not won.
3. Miehsa coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC decided to build towards the Miehsa Tate vs Ronda Rousey rematch by having the two fighters coach on their reality show The Ultimate Fighter. It would expose both to a huge audience and also help build drama towards the fight. Another thing it did was expose both fighter’s personality to the fans who only knew them inside the cage. Tate came across very well on the show and it showed as she seemed the crowd favorite when they entered the cage for their rematch.
Photo Credit: Ultimate Fighting Championship
2. Loss to Ronda Rousey on August 8th, 2012. While some may say Ronda Rousey got women into the UFC, the real truth is Ronda Rousey AND Miesha Tate got women into the UFC. Ronda and Miesha’s bout for Strikeforce was a huge success both in terms of ticket sales and viewers. The fight was such a huge success that it propelled Dana White to bring women into the UFC after early stating it would never happen. Ronda alone would not have accomplished it, she needed the right opponent to get interest in the fight and Miesha was that person. Miesha did not win the fight but gained respect by staying in the armbar much longer than most anyone else would and in defeated gained popularity and propelled women’s MMA to where it is now.
1. Defeats Holly Holm for UFC bantamweight title. Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey with a brutal knockout to win the title, but it was a fight many felt Miesha deserved. Holm was obviously riding a huge wave of momentum and many expected her to be the next big thing. Miesha had other ideas. Riding a four fight winning streak, Tate had her own momentum. After a very close four rounds, Tate finally got the fight exactly where she wanted it in the fifth round and secured the rear naked choke. Holm did all she could to escape it and to her credit, never tapped before Tate put her to sleep and becoming the UFC champion, something her career would have seemed incomplete without as she had put in the work to at least for a short time deserved to be considered the champion.