Sunday, April 14, 2013

Never judge a book by its cover

As the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. That would be the perfect way to describe Saturday night's women's fight at the UFC TUF Finale between Cat Zingano and Meisha Tate (pictured above respectively). To the casual fan the photo may depict anything from Swimsuit models to Zumba instructors; however, nothing could be further from the truth.

These two ladies, beautiful ladies I might add, are professional mixed martial arts fighters at the highest level and they both proved so on Saturday night. For two and a half rounds in a featured bout on the card, these ladies stole the show and just solidified that women's MMA does belong in the UFC. UFC President Dana White obviously thought so as he awarded them the 'Fight of the Night' honor resulting in each winning an additional $50,000 bonus.

Zingano (8-0, 4 KO's 3 subs) and Tate (13-4, 3 KO's 6 subs) had a lot to prove and a lot on the line as well as they competed in only the second women's MMA fight in UFC history. Following women's champion Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche's historic first ever fight back in February that produced a ton of excitement in less than a full round, Zingano and Tate just about tripled that going nearly three full rounds. In the end Zingano outlasted Tate, but it wasn't without a fight.

Tate, the former Strikeforce bantamweight (135 lbs.) champion, who was looking to garner a rematch with Rousey to whom she lost her title, was aggressive from the outset. She came right at Zingano, figuring her wrestling/ground & pound style and overall experience would be too much for Zingano; and for a round and a half it looked as though she was right. She consistently took down Zingano and also appeared to be beating her to the punch while standing.

The first round was clearly hers, while the second was more of a toss up because Zingano was able to reverse her bottom position on the ground midway through the round. However, while she was on top she did not fully escape as Tate had a hold of her leg, more specifically her ankle, and was working towards a possible heel hook submission. Nonetheless, Zingano proved resilient, as she did throughout, not panicking and striking back effectively while her leg was being contorted; inevitably she escaped and ended the round on top.

That seemed to be where the tide turned because in the third round it was Zingano who shot for a quick take down and worked her own ground attack. For nearly two minutes she smothered Tate who later admitted, "Zingano felt pretty heavy on top." Tate eventually got out and worked her way back to her feet, but that would be the beginning of the end for her.

As she rose, Zingano delivered four successive knee strikes to Tate's pretty face that forced her to drop to her knees again and attempt a faint shot towards Zingano; however referee Kim Winslow had seen enough and she stopped the fight at 2:55 of the third round. The knees and the stoppage were not without controversy though.

In the post fight press conference, Tate voiced her displeasure at the referee's stoppage stating she was only doing what Winslow instructed her before the fight and that was to show she was still alert and active when in trouble. As for the knee strikes, she did not protest, but did bring up that she had been told the initial knee strike may have actually come while her hand was still on the mat; thus making it an illegal strike to a downed opponent.

As stated Tate did not protest, but she was obviously disappointed as she lost not only her opportunity at a title rematch with Rousey, but much more. The winner of their fight was already appointed a slot opposite Rousey as a coach on the upcoming season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality TV series. This will be the first season featuring women coaches and fighters; it will also be the first season featuring a coed house as both men and women will be featured in the upcoming season.

With Dana White's announcement that the upcoming TUF season will also be featured on the new Fox Sports 1 network, which means an even broader audience, Tate lost a lot more than just a fight Saturday. However, after the disappointment and bruises wear off, both she and Zingano can be proud of their effort. They clearly showed they are more than just a pretty face, which is why we should never judge a book by its cover.

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