Saturday, March 3, 2012

Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey preview: Battle for the SOUL of Women's MMA

It's hard to believe, but there is a fight this weekend going on that is probably bigger than the UFC on FX event yesterday. (BTW I went 3-2-1 on that card. I'll have thoughts on that McCall-Johnson madness soon.)

While the flyweights' debut in UFC was a big deal, tonight is only the second time a national MMA promotion will be putting on a women's bout as their main event.

This in it's own right is important, but what's even more important is that this could determine the direction of women's MMA for the foreseeable futute.

Strikeforce Women's World Champion
Miesha Tate
Strikeforce Women's 135-lb. World Champion Miesha Tate (12-2; 3 KO, 5 Sub) faces off with Ronda Rousey (4-0; 4 Sub) in what will be her first bout since dropping down to the weight class.

Tate was hoping to avenge a loss earlier in her career by facing Sarah Kaufman, but following a slew of trash talk and chest-beating, Rousey was able to gain the next shot. This is despite the facts that all four of her professional fights were in another weight class, and she's never been in a bout that's lasted longer than one minute.

One thing I'll give her, though, is she's not a hypocrite. Rousey has admitted she used her mouth and her good looks to jump her way into this match, but she believes that this is what women's MMA needs.

Her stance is simple: She's not for sexing up the matches, but men tune in for good-looking women, so if she can get them in that way and show off her skills in the cage, it's more eyeballs and a way to strengthen the sport. It's no different from the way men like Chael Sonnen sell their fights with nonstop talking.

"The Arm Collector" Ronda Rousey
On the other hand, Tate has been vehement in her beliefs that Rousey simply does not deserve a title shot.

She believes that Kaufman, a former champion who has only lost once in her career, earned the title shot; and Rousey, who has never even seen the middle of the first round, is too untested and inexperienced to have a title shot handed to her.

I'll attempt to summarize Tate's main point here: By putting someone in a title match for effectively selling her mouth and body over someone who has worked at the craft for years, Rousey is setting the division in reverse. She's allowing women's MMA to be about sex appeal more than about the women who practice the craft, and making it difficult for less attractive women to succeed in the sport.

Many people compare Rousey's rise to Brock Lesnar's in the heavyweight division, but Lesnar had won in the weight class, and had to run through a four-man tournament to earn the title.

Rousey has beaten up four below-average fighters (all via armbar submission) and now is getting a title shot against one of the top three pound-for-pound women on the planet.

Personally, I wanted to see a Tate-Kaufman rematch, but I'd be lying if Rousey's Olympic judo background could throw the champion for a loop.

From an MMA standpoint, this is an incredible match: an Olympic judo bronze medalist facing off against possibly the only female to win a national high school wrestling championship.

The thing is, Tate won't be able to stay on the ground once she takes Rousey down because of her submission ability. Tate will instead have to use her takedown defense to keep the fight standing.

Tate hasn't won by KO in some time, and it will be difficult against Rousey, who certainly will have a size advantage after the post-weigh-in period. However, don't expect much from Rousey either, who is virtually untested standing up.

My guess is this goes five rounds, and although Rousey has shown endurance at the Olympics, I can't picture her conditioning matching the champion's. I say Tate narrowly wins by decision.

Lightweight Bout: K.J. Noons v. Josh Thomson

Apparently, Strikeforce's Facebook has advertised that this has implications on a title shot. That's right: Melendez's top two contenders are two guys he's definitively beaten, in his last match if you're talking about Noons.

Hey, Nostalgia Critic, got anything to say to Coker about how weak his lightweight division is?

Anyway, Noons showed me no reason to think his skills are even close to elite in his fight with Melendez, and I would rather see Thomson get a rubber match with the champion, so on principle I'll say Thomson wins by decision.

Undercard Women's bout: Sarah Kaufman v. Alexis Davis

Yes, that is written correctly. Kaufman has gone from title contender to leading the undercard. That said, Davis is no slouch, being a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a black belt in Japanese Jiu Jitsu.

These two have fought before, with Kaufman winning via TKO. My guess is that Davis will not be as willing to trade with Kaufman this time and has a strategy to take her to the ground. Granted, Kaufman is also a brown belt in BJJ, but Davis has to like her chances better on the ground.

My guess is Davis will have a chance to win this fight, but the fight will go the distance. Kaufman will want to prove herself, but this is a motivation issue for her. I think Davis avenges her loss and ekes out a decision.

Other main card fights:

Welterweights: Paul Daley v. Kazuo Misaki - Daley finally steps up here and wins by KO in the second round.

Middleweights: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza v. Bristol Marunde - One is a former champ. The other I can barely find anything on. I'll take Jacare to win via Submission in Round 1.

Middleweights: Scott Smith v. Lumumba Sayers - The comeback kid gets back on track here and picks up a KO victory in Round 3.

No comments: