MMA: Miesha Tate

Cat Zingano looks forward, stays positive

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
4:35
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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UFC female bantamweight contender Cat Zingano says she doesn't dwell on what was once hers.

Seventeen months ago, Zingano (8-0) made her UFC debut against Miesha Tate at "The Ultimate Fighter 17" finale in Las Vegas.

Zingano won the bout via TKO midway through the third round, solidifying herself as the division's No. 1 contender and next in line to face defending champion Ronda Rousey. Prior to the title fight, the two were scheduled to coach the 18th season of TUF against each other.

The following month, Zingano, 32, blew out her right knee while training and was replaced on TUF by Tate. She had her sights set on Rousey again in January when her husband, Mauricio, took his own life in Denver. Zingano returns to the Octagon for the first time since the tragedy this weekend in a bout against Amanda Nunes at UFC 178 in Las Vegas.

She remains one of the most attractive options to fight Rousey (10-0), who dominated three opponents in her absence. If it happens, it will be more of a new opportunity than a reclaimed old one. After all that has happened since she last fought, Zingano feels little connection to what her status was in April 2013.

"Everything is different," Zingano told ESPN.com. "I'm not even thinking about any of that. I just want to keep going. All of that was what was next back then and now it's not anymore. I'm focused on what's really next."
[+] Enlarge Cat Zingano
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesInjuries and personal setbacks -- including the suicide of her husband, Mauricio, temporarily stalled Cat Zingano's career.

What's really next this weekend is a familiar opponent in Nunes (9-3), whom Zingano was scheduled to fight at a Strikeforce event in September 2012. The bout never happened when the entire card was canceled after an injury to the main event.

For Zingano, the familiarity stops basically at Nunes' name. Fighting out of Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, Zingano says she has never game planned specifically for opponents -- and that included Nunes.

"Even when we were scheduled to fight, I didn't study her," Zingano said. "I never study my opponents. I don't watch film. I don't game plan. I just constantly try to learn and improve with each fight.

"I'm looking at every opponent like I'm fighting myself. I train for me. I train to be the best in the world. That's how I fight."

Despite the severity of the damage to her right knee, which actually contributed to a left knee injury as she overcompensated, Zingano said she was always confident she'd return full strength. She elected to undergo regenerative stem cell therapy in October, which consists of injecting platelet-rich plasma into the area in lieu of a standard meniscus scope.

As most athletes who have endured a knee injury will testify to, it took time for Zingano to regain confidence in the joint. While she obviously feels comfortable enough to step back into the Octagon, she admits it's a daily process that is still ongoing.

"It was a really simple thing I did to injure myself, so to get back to big things was a struggle," Zingano said. "But breaking through those barriers was huge and it made me feel even stronger. It's day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Some days are better than others but I'm always moving forward; never going backwards."

Moving forward will inevitably land Zingano in a title fight against Rousey, sooner rather than later. While it's certainly still a goal of Zingano's to hold a UFC belt, it's not the end all, be all to her this weekend. This weekend is about keeping her eyes straight ahead and not looking behind her.

"Every fight is always different," she said. "There is a different element in everything. That adaptation, that feeling of dealing with fear, anxiety, nerves, excitement, power -- it's different each time. I'm learning from it constantly and making it a part of my life."

Tate happy to be free of Rousey drama

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
11:05
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Ronda Rousey, Miesha TateJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesMiesha Tate, right, is more than happy to move past Ronda Rousey and the drama that came with her.

LAS VEGAS -- On one hand, of course Miesha Tate is less than satisfied when it comes to her long-standing rivalry with current UFC champion Ronda Rousey.

On the other, she sounds very much ready to move past it.

Tate (13-5) is looking forward to a drama-free bout against Liz Carmouche at a UFC on Fox event on April 19 in Orlando. The buildup so far has been in stark contrast to the circus that surrounded her title fight against Rousey at UFC 168 in December.

“I really like being matched up with Liz,” Tate said. “It’s so refreshing. She has great sportsmanship. I get along with everyone from her team. It’s nice to just not have anything else to focus on. No drama. For most of my life, I’ve been a drama-free girl.”

Drama has not been kind to Tate inside the cage. She gives full credit to Rousey for beating her twice (in March 2012 and again in December) but, as any competitive fighter likely would, believes she could have performed better.

She appeared to essentially play into Rousey’s strengths in the second fight, by loading her weight onto Rousey’s hips during constant attempts to take her down.

Tate says that was never part of her game plan. She wanted to force a standup fight with Rousey, in a way that played to her strengths. She tried for a practice or two to learn a stick and move approach but it felt, well, weird.
[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
Ed Mulholland for ESPNMiesha Tate, bottom, admits she departed from her game plan against Ronda Rousey.

“That’s just not my style,” Tate said. “We tried for like a minute to be like Lyoto Machida and it did not work out. I was like, ‘OK, this is not for me.’

“I’m a very forward-style fighter. I like to get in the fight and be in the fight.”

Tate’s team devised a strategy that still allowed her to be aggressive, but in a tactical way. Looking back on the fight, Tate says the game plan was working, until she grew too eager to take Rousey down to win what she thought were close rounds.

“I felt like I had to do something more decisive,” Tate said. “I wanted that takedown to make it so that I won the round for sure. That’s just what happens in the haste of a fight sometimes. It doesn’t come out as clean as it did in training.

“That’s why I think [Georges St-Pierre] is one of my favorite fighters. He seems to be able to stick to a game plan and execute it flawlessly, whether it’s exciting or not. He does it with perfection every single time. I’m like, ‘How do you do that?’”

After tapping to an armbar in the third round, Tate extended her hand to Rousey, who refused to shake it and turned away. It seemed like a move based on a personal rift, but Tate took it as a sign that Rousey didn’t respect her as an opponent.

“That’s on her now and I’m fine with that,” Tate said. “I extended my [hand]. That at that point signified me saying, ‘You got the fight tonight. Congratulations. I respect you.’ She didn’t want to give me the mutual fighter respect.”

In 2014, Tate isn’t concerned with whether or not she has Rousey’s respect. She’s relocated her training camp from Washington to Las Vegas, where she works at Xtreme Couture with coaches Bryan Caraway, Robert Follis and Jimmy Gifford.

She hasn’t given up her dream of winning a UFC belt, but says she’s probably three impressive wins away from another title shot.

“I think that’s fair,” Tate said. “If I beat three top people: Liz, (Cat) Zingano and (Sara) McMann or something like that. Those are the best girls in the division right now. Beating those girls would establish I’m the No. 1 contender.”

If all that happens and Rousey is still wearing the belt, Tate says she’ll fight her “as many times as [the UFC] will allow.” Until then, she’s happy to have her life back to normal -- drama-free.

McMann's skills might bridge Rousey gap

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
12:39
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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It’s difficult not to see flashes of Royce Gracie in Ronda Rousey.

In November 1993, an undersized Gracie mowed through a field of competitors at UFC 1 behind Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills his opponents simply did not understand.

Rousey (8-0) has accomplished a similar feat in female mixed martial arts through 2013, finishing all eight of her professional fights in the same fashion -- arm bar. It’s not the exact same thing Gracie did 20 years ago, but there is a common theme.

As a U.S. bronze medalist in judo in the 2008 Olympics, Rousey has an ultraspecific, unique skill. Her opponents are forced to catch up, cramming judo sessions and defense of the arm bar into their preparations, and it’s an extremely wide gap to make up.

"

I think that every other girl in the division has a very hard and long road to learning how to stop a high-level throw. I don't have that same problem.

" -- Sara McMann,
on Ronda Rousey's judo skills
It is for this reason that Rousey’s next fight against the virtually unknown Sara McMann at UFC 170 on Feb. 22 deserves your attention. That wide gap, finally, won’t exist.

“I think that every other girl in the division has a very hard and long road to learning how to stop a high-level throw,” McMann said. “I don’t have that same problem.”

McMann (10-0) is free to roam the United States with her 4-year-old daughter and go unrecognized. She has fewer than 16,000 Twitter followers and has never been hailed as the face of women’s MMA.

What she has done is take a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. wrestling team. She has spent her life on a wrestling mat and was introduced to judo in the late 1990s, well before she ever heard the name Rousey.

“My best friend in college my freshman year, when I was 17, had done judo before she started wrestling,” McMann said. “She used to put on a highlight tape, and we would sit and watch it and say, ‘Wow, that is so beautiful.’

“She would show me different things and apply her judo to wrestling. I would see other judo girls do it too. I knew about judo long before this.”

That background contrasts sharply with other Rousey opponents. Sarah Kaufman began her career in her late teens in kickboxing classes. Liz Carmouche played noncombat sports in high school before starting to train MMA in the Marine Corps.

Miesha Tate, considered a strong grappler in her own right, fought Rousey in March 2012 and last month at UFC 168. She began wrestling in high school. She was taken down six times by Rousey in the rematch and submitted in the third round.

McMann, who watched that fight with the knowledge she would face the winner, said she saw nothing significantly wrong with Tate’s technique. It was even worse -- she was using the wrong technique to begin with.

“I don’t think there was anything technically wrong with the double leg she was hitting. It was more the technique she selected,” McMann said. “When you feel a person who can throw you, it’s a lot smarter not to load yourself on them.

“Single and double legs, they absolutely load you onto their hips. Some of the times when [Tate and Rousey] locked up, I was closing my eyes. But it takes years of experience [to know that], going against people who are trying to throw you.”

Many will write off McMann’s chances in the fight based on name recognition alone. Others might say the title opportunity has come too quick and she’s simply not ready for it. Oddsmakers have opened Rousey as a more than 4-to-1 betting favorite.

Without question, there are reasons to predict a third title defense for Rousey, but the suggestion McMann isn’t ready is a loaded one.

On one hand, more time to develop is never a bad thing. On the other, you might argue that her competitive background actually makes her the only woman in the world ready for Rousey.

“When Ronda grabs Sara, she’s going to feel something she hasn’t felt since the Olympic Games,” said Daniel Cormier, UFC light heavyweight and former U.S. Olympic wrestler. “She’s going to feel somebody who is a lifetime athlete, as she is.

“Ronda’s biggest advantage is that she’s a lifetime athlete. I’m not saying all these girls aren’t athletes, but Ronda hit the nail on the head when she told Miesha, ‘You wrestled for your high school team, and I went to the Olympic Games.' Well, Sara went [to the Olympics], and she placed too.”

More revelry than rivalry in Rousey-Tate II

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
8:04
AM ET
Huang By Michael Huang
ESPN.com
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Ronda Rousey defended her UFC women’s bantamweight title on Saturday and again reminded the MMA world of her Olympic pedigree.

With multiple judo throws and hip tosses, Rousey defeated a game Miesha Tate at UFC 168: Weidman-Silva II at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The win earned Rousey Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses, totaling $150,000.

In the postfight news conference, UFC president Dana White announced Rousey (8-0) will face Sara McMann (7-0) at UFC 170 on Feb. 22.
[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
Ed Mulholland for ESPNMiesha Tate found herself in dire straits on the occasions she went to the ground with Ronda Rousey.

While Rousey once again won with her patented arm bar, it was the ease with which she took down Tate that was on display.

Tate started off aggressively, trading strikes with Rousey to keep the fight standing. But inevitably, Rousey pushed toward the clinch, tying up Tate, who took down Rousey at 3:26 of the first round.

But even after getting the takedown, Tate ended up on defense more than offense, as Rousey’s jiu-jitsu was markedly improved. She attributed this improvement to training with jiu-jitsu gurus Rener and Ryron Gracie during her last two fight camps.

Tate also seemed a much improved striker, landing 48 percent of her strikes, up from the 41 percent she averaged while competing in Strikeforce. However, Tate’s wrestling instincts kept her going to the ground with Rousey, and Rousey kept hip tossing Tate to the mat.

In the end, Rousey was able to sink in the arm bar for the win in the third round.

“I have no excuses,” Tate said. “[Rousey] was the better fighter tonight.”

Rousey said her problem has been trying not to rush her attacks and approach. However, entering Saturday's bout Rousey had defeated all of her opponents so handily, she’s never had to slow herself down. Against Tate she needed to regroup and remind herself to take her foot off the gas.

“Judo matches are just five minutes long. So I always felt like I had to get it done in a hurry,” Rousey said. “In the third round, I learned to be patient. My coaches always say to pay attention to what you’re doing and do everything for a reason.”

WHAT’S NEXT?


UFC fans know what’s next for Rousey, but what about Tate?

Now 0-2 in the UFC and a loser in three of her last four fights, Tate has lost twice to Rousey, who originally took the Strikeforce bantamweight championship from Tate in 2012. Thus, the odds are long that she’ll receive a third shot at Rousey anytime soon. With just two women’s divisions in the UFC, Tate really has nowhere to go.

“I don’t really know what’s next. Every day people try to climb up a hill. I see Mount Everest,” Tate said. “But I try to walk away from this with my head held high. I just need some time to figure it out.”

Rousey, on the other hand, relished the opportunity to fight so quickly again.

“Dana approached me about this and I wanted to do it,” Rousey said. “I’m in the best shape of my life. I don’t want to sit on the shelf. It’s the perfect time to go back-to-back. I feel like I could fight again tonight.”

As for the feud with Tate, Rousey’s victory should have ensured the end of any sort of “rivalry” talk, for a rivalry isn't a rivalry when it’s so one-sided. Further, Rousey seemed to soften her stance on Tate and offered compliments in her postfight interviews.

“I need to commend Miesha. She did a great job tonight. She’s an amazing fighter. She really is,” Rousey said.

However, when Tate extended her hand in a gesture of sportsmanship after losing to Rousey, she refused to shake Tate’s hand.

“Once you insult my family, I can’t shake your hand,” said Rousey, referring to some of the practical jokes Tate played on Rousey’s coaching staff during filming of Season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter." "But I really respect her, and I think she did an amazing job tonight.

"For me, family comes before anything, even the boos and cheers of the crowd. I think it would disrespect my family if I shook her hand. I said she did an amazing job. But I can’t shake the hand of someone who spits on my back. Until she apologizes to my family, I won’t shake her hand."

Rousey might have been the overwhelming favorite coming into the fight, but the crowd made it very clear who was their favorite, as cheers came for Tate, but boos muffled Rousey’s postfight interview. Ultimately, TUF 18 might have represented a sea change in Rousey’s brand and role as an antihero champion. Regardless, there’s no question it helped sell the fight.

“I was aware of the role I was in,” Rousey said. “The best analogy I can give is it was like how Batman knew he had to look like the bad guy and allow Two-Face to be the good guy because that what was needed at the time.”

And she’ll take boos, which she says might help her as she begins training for McMann. Her Olympic pedigree has helped her cope with that part of the business as well.

"When I was doing judo, I got booed in 30 different countries around the world," Rousey said. "Cheering is something new for me. I’m much more motivated by proving people wrong."

Plenty of reasons to watch Rousey fight

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
11:21
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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It's been 11 years since UFC star Ronda Rousey rolled on a judo mat with her mom, world champion AnnMaria De Mars. These were the sessions in which Rousey developed her earliest inkling of what it took to be world-class, an Olympian. What it felt like to struggle and fall short. What it took to persevere. Parent versus offspring, one-on-one hoops in a driveway, this was not.

Then one day at a judo club in West Los Angeles, De Mars, sprightly and vicious, whose competitive demeanor a friend once described as "wicked intention," underestimated her kid.

"I don't remember how it happened," Rousey said. "I don't because she didn't even let me know she was hurt. She fractured her wrist and was like, 'Eh.' My mom's tough like that.

"She told me years later that she broke her wrist. She didn't let me know anything hurt, but that was the last time she rolled with me."

"

If Miesha got Ronda in a choke, she would have to choke her unconscious. She would have to kill her for Ronda to stop ... Ronda still has that 'I will kill you and eat you in front of the referee if that's what it takes to win' attitude.

" -- AnnMaria De Mars, Ronda Rousey's mother.
De Mars, 44 at the time, mentioned nothing because she wanted to avoid giving Rousey heartache. Either way, toppling mom wasn't a trophy. This wasn’t a case of knocking the queen from her perch and feeling good about it.

"I didn't know, so there wasn't a day when I said, 'Oh, I got Mom today!' " said the UFC champion, who puts her belt on the line Saturday in a rematch against Miesha Tate in Las Vegas. "I don't even remember what day that was. Or how it happened. I feel bad about it though."

Rousey did recall that they were doing "randori judo" -- essentially open sparring. Her world champion mother described the situation more along the lines of technique drilling. The point was: Mom didn't think her fierce daughter could finish a throw against her.

Then it happened.

"I didn't really think I was going to go, you know, so I put my hand out and she caught me," De Mars said. A rookie mistake. Among the first things a judo student learns -- any practitioner of martial arts, really -- is how to fall. The point is to foil gravity while keeping bones intact and craniums from hitting the floor. De Mars would "always, always, always tell kids don't reach for the mat."

But that didn't stop her from pulling a white-belt move and sticking her hand out.

De Mars didn't let on in the dojo about the injury. Or at home. But sitting at her desk typing was a different story. Eventually she realized it wasn't something she could just shake off. Rousey wouldn't find out until a couple of years later. By then she was 17, striving to compete internationally, and had accordingly increased her intensity and level of training.

Rousey was "skinny and scrawny" and, as she is today, gifted athletically. She did fine against adult women, in part because -- like mother, like daughter -- she just attacked. Said De Mars: "Even if she didn't always score, the fact that she didn't give up, those kids will eventually get you."

As Rousey matured, she was purposefully steered toward more challenging training. Mom was an aging parent, and too small, the size of an average 13-year-old. Not only did she want to avoid competing as hard as she could against her child, she knew that her diminishing speed wasn't going to help Rousey prepare for the future.

"Unless you're a crazy person, I don't think you could ever go 100 percent against your kid," De Mars said. "When you're younger, you think your parents are invincible. You go all out. But as a parent, I'm sure every dad that ever wrestled with his young son, you think you're going hard but really you're not. I think that's even more true in a sport like judo where you could seriously get hurt. When I was competing, yeah, I'd break your arm. But obviously I'm never ever, ever going to hurt my kid. I might push her face in the mat, something like that, because I want her to be ready if somebody does that to her.

"I wanted her to work with people that would challenge her more, and as you get old and slow you just can't. I think she understood. She's a pretty smart person."

As Rousey prepares to fight Tate again, she's the best known, most financially successful female mixed martial artist on the planet. With this comes exposure, and thus far the media seem to be consumed by Rousey. She's temperamental, incapable of making a passable poker face, unbearably competitive, and a great quote.

After beating Liz Carmouche in February to become the first woman to hold a UFC belt, Rousey spent much of 2013 in front of the camera, taping TUF in Las Vegas with Tate, and working in feature films “The Expendables 3” in Bulgaria and “Fast & Furious 7” in Atlanta. Questions about focus and priorities were largely dismissed by Rousey and her camp heading into Saturday’s contest.

"Ronda does not need to be reminded she has a fight coming up," her mother said.

The prospect of beating up her rival is enough motivation. Rousey dislikes Tate, perhaps even more than TUF -- she said her youngest sister, Julia, would need to be held at gunpoint before she would appear on the show again. De Mars, not surprisingly, noted that the show "pissed Ronda off,” and said if she had been in her daughter’s spot, “someone would have been hit with a chair.”

There's no doubt that Rousey's image has changed for the worse after TUF, a “calculated business move” on the part of the show’s producers, De Mars suggested.

There are plenty of reasons to watch Rousey fight, including disdain. If the UFC champion can continue to compete at her highest level, people surely will continue to care enough to love or hate the 5-foot-6 fighter.

"There's a difference between wanting to win and being willing to die in a cage, and when Ronda said [she was willing to die] people thought it was hyperbole," De Mars said. "No. No. If Miesha got Ronda in a choke, she would have to choke her unconscious. She would have to kill her for Ronda to stop. She will not.

"I think that many people who are competitive at the very top, they have that. It's more important to them than anything. When they lose that, that's when you retire. It's time to go. That's why I quit competing after the worlds. I did this. I'm done. I'm going home to have more babies. Ronda still has that 'I will kill you and eat you in front of the referee if that's what it takes to win' attitude."

Rousey-Tate among best female rivalries?

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
7:35
AM ET
By Andrew R. Davis
ESPN Stats & Information
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On Saturday, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate will face off for the second time in their careers when Rousey defends her UFC women’s bantamweight title against her biggest rival. The Rousey-Tate rivalry is by far the biggest one in women’s MMA and could be the biggest in sports today.

In its simplest form, a rival is a person or thing that tries to defeat or be more successful than another. With Rousey, however, it goes beyond that.

Her dislike for Tate goes back to 2011, when the two began feuding in interviews and on social media. Tate claimed that Rousey was not deserving of a shot at Tate’s Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title, while Rousey argued that Tate’s style was boring. In terms of drawing eyes to women’s MMA, Tate-Rousey was the fight that needed to be made.

On March 3, 2012, the fight headlined a major MMA card for the first time since 2009. Rousey went right for her signature arm bar, but Tate escaped before gaining control with strikes. With less than a minute left in the round, Rousey secured another arm bar. This time, Tate refused to tap, resulting in a dislocated elbow before she succumbed to the hold at 4:27 of the first round. Rousey was the queen of women’s MMA.

Their paths would not cross again until May 2013, when Tate replaced Cat Zingano as the opposing coach to Rousey’s team on “The Ultimate Fighter.” At that point, they renewed their rivalry.

As they prepare to rematch in the co-main event of UFC 168, both fighters have respect for the other's accomplishments in women’s MMA but have made no changes to their personal dislike for each other. No matter the decision, the eyes of the world will be on women’s MMA in the future, much like other female rivalries have changed the sports world among women.

In the 1970s, women’s tennis was invigorated by a rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Their first matchup took place in 1973, and the two proceeded to play 80 singles matches from 1973 to 1988. In almost one-fifth of their matchups (14 of 80), a Grand Slam championship was on the line. Evert dominated the early part of the rivalry, winning the French Open over Navratilova in 1975, and gaining semifinal victories in the 1975 US Open and Wimbledon in 1976. The two women would meet in the 1978 Wimbledon final, where Navratilova would finally triumph over Evert in a major championship.
[+] EnlargeChris Evert and Martina Navratilova
Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesDespite an intense rivalry, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were cordial and managed to maintain a friendship off the court.

As the rivalry moved into the 1980s, it was Navratilova’s time to shine. She won 15 of her 18 singles titles in the 1980s and defeated Evert in the final to win eight. Evert would win three titles by defeating Navratilova in the final. Their last four Grand Slam matchups would take place in the semifinals, with Navratilova holding a 3-1 advantage.

In their 80 matchups, Navratilova held a 43-37 advantage and defeated Evert in 10 of 14 Grand Slam finals. Their rivalry on the court was not matched off it, though, as the two became very good friends over the years.

Two sports figures who were also the center of a great women’s rivalry were UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma and former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. While both were centerpieces of the rivalry, the game on the court contributed even more. The Huskies featured Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Swin Cash. The Lady Volunteers were led by Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, Kara Lawson and Candace Parker. The two teams were both perennial contenders for the national title from their first matchup in 1995 to the 22nd and final matchup in January 2007. In four of those games, the national championship was on the line, and UConn won all of them. During the heart of the rivalry, at least one of the teams made the NCAA Final Four in every season. The Huskies won five titles during that span, while the Lady Vols captured two national titles.

Although the teams have not played since 2007, the rivalry still is talked about as the greatest rivalry in women’s team sports. It has also transcended other sports, as the two schools have agreed to meet in men’s basketball and football since the dissolution of the women’s basketball rivalry.

Another rivalry that gained not only the attention of their sport but also national attention was Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The rivalry started in 1991, when both women began to place in major skating competitions in the United States and around the world.

In January 1994, the rivalry went to an entirely different level. Kerrigan was struck in the knee while training and had to drop out of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships that were held the next day. Harding would go on to win the gold medal and one of the three U.S. spots, but Kerrigan would also garner a deserved spot from the U.S. Figure Skating governing body. Days later, Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly ,were under FBI investigation with other accomplices. Over the course of the next month before the 1994 Olympic Games, Harding continued to practice for the Games while under intense media scrutiny. Kerrigan got back on the ice and eventually to the Olympic Games in February along with Harding.

At the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Harding had a disastrous short program when the shoelace on ones of her skates broke. She ultimately finished eighth overall. Kerrigan had a great short program and was the leader going into the long program before finishing second to Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul.

In March 1994, Harding plea-bargained to avoid jail time, and in June, she was stripped of her U.S. title and given a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Because of the media attention and Kerrigan’s triumphant return to the ice, figure skating saw a significant increase in fans and viewership during future Olympic competitions.

Rousey riled up ahead of Tate rematch

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
7:15
AM ET
Huang By Michael Huang
ESPN.com
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Ronda Rousey and Miesha TateJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesDespite spending weeks under the same roof, Ronda Rousey still hasn't warmed to Miesha Tate.

Winning is so important to Ronda Rousey that she delayed Christmas.

Well, that might be stretching the truth. But Rousey did say she and her family will be celebrating Christmas on Jan. 2, 2014, with her Dec. 28 title bout against Miesha Tate so close to the holiday.

“We’re sort of pretending it’s not Christmas right now,” Rousey told ESPN.com on Christmas Eve. “My nieces are all excited right now for it, but we’re going to get this fight done and celebrate after.”

The UFC women’s bantamweight champion is no Scrooge; she’s just laser-focused on the fight.

It’s been a busy year for Rousey. She had almost as much going on outside of the Octagon (filming "Fast and Furious 7") as she has had in it. And all during the Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” viewers witnessed a different side of Rousey -- one that was caustic, abrasive, confrontational and at times seemingly immature. She’s taken showers of criticism and perhaps lost a few fans along the way. She was particularly dismissive of Tate, which subsequently defined very clearly who was wearing the black hat and who was wearing the white hat in Season 18, much to Rousey’s chagrin.

She says what viewers saw was definitely not who she is at home.

“That whole show was out of context,” she said. “My first priority was to help those kids develop and win fights. But when I saw her being disingenuous to the kids, I thought it was morally wrong, and my inner mommy took over.

“I wasn’t concerned with creating controversy. But everything was edited in a way that made it look like I was doing that and put my team in a negative light.”

Look, I cant just shake someones hand and smile in her face when I know theyre stabbing me in the back. But I wont take her lightly. This is a fight, and Im training for a title defense.

-- Ronda Rousey, on UFC 168 opponent Miesha Tate

Make no mistake, there isn’t any love lost between Rousey and Tate. But while some deem Rousey dismissive of Tate’s abilities, others might simply see a fighter with supreme confidence in herself, especially against an opponent she’s beaten handily in the past. The fact that Rousey sincerely dislikes Tate only accents that dismissive perception.

“Look, I can't just shake someone's hand and smile in her face when I know they’re stabbing me in the back,” Rousey said. “But I won't take her lightly. This is a fight, and I'm training for a title defense.”

Undefeated in the UFC, Rousey has taken a different approach in her strategy for this fight. Rather than only studying how to beat Tate, she’s studied her own fights and figured out with her coaches how to beat ... herself.

“Opponents vary so much, you can get overconfident, take unnecessary risks,” Rousey said. “Instead of looking at how to beat Miesha, we studied how to beat me. Because against Miesha all I did was basically take her down and arm-barred her. Actually, I thought it was funny her nickname was ‘Takedown,’ and I took her down so easily.”

Indeed, Tate’s 20 percent takedown defense is subpar for a fighter with the deep wrestling background that Tate possesses. This is especially dangerous considering Rousey’s prolific takedown rate (per 15 minutes) of 8.01. Tate will have to keep the fight standing -- something with which Liz Carmouche had some success against Rousey 10 months ago.

Rivalries and show-womanship



The other factor to keep in mind is Rousey’s flair for promoting fights. Indeed, when Gina Carano piqued interest in women’s MMA with her abilities and good looks, Cyborg for her brutality, neither Carano or Cyborg was ever as vociferous in promoting of the sport as Rousey has been. Certainly Rousey has been backed by the promotional machine that is the UFC -- an advantage Carano never had in Strikeforce -- but in the fight business, that show-womanship has proved critical, along with Rousey’s championship abilities.

Admittedly, Rousey knows that’s part of the game. But Rousey-Tate II is co-main event.

“Look, it’s hard to sell a fight like this, especially considering I’ve beaten her already,” Rousey said.

And rivalries can’t be one-sided. Rousey’s first-round submission of Tate seemed so lopsided, it’s comes as little surprise Rousey is a minus-800 favorite coming into the fight.
[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesSelling the rematch between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate has been difficult, considering how easily Rousey handled Tate in the first bout.

But Rousey is used to having a target on her back; even throughout her judo career there was always one judoka she’d meet up at different levels and tournaments all around the world. And when there is that rivalry, it gets her that much more focused.

“It makes me sharper,” Rousey said. “The rivalry kind of helps you focus on that one person. And since I’m familiar with her, sure there’s some extra motivation there, more than if I was fighting some random chick in a tournament.

“This is a combat sport. You’re one on one with someone. It’s hard not to be focused and motivated on that one person you’re facing.”

But motivation is different than emotions.

“I don’t ever walk into the Octagon with emotion,” Rousey said. “I don’t try to recreate emotions before the fight. It’s just business as usual for me. You can’t walk in there distracted by emotion. There’s no space for it.”

So for all the vitriol and diatribes from fans and commentators about the “rivalry” between the two, don’t expect a flood of Tate-hate to envelop Rousey as she enters the Octagon on Saturday, although she admits her coaches did indulge her one day during fight camp. It was reminiscent of a prank Tate pulled on TUF.

“They did put a picture of Miesha on a heavy bag other things, so I got to beat on that for a day,” Rousey laughed. “It was only a day, and that picture got destroyed.”

A history of the UFC rematch

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
11:12
AM ET
By Andrew R. Davis
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive
Royce Gracie and Ken ShamrockNagao SusumuThe "Gracie challenge" laid the groundwork for what became the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC was to crown its first ever superfight champion on April 7, 1995, at UFC 5. Royce Gracie, the three-time tournament champion against Ken Shamrock, whose only loss was to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master at UFC 1 in just 57 seconds. The two men fought for 36 minutes, with Shamrock gaining a takedown shortly into the fight and holding top position for the remainder of the 31-minute period. A five-minute overtime settled nothing and the fight was declared a draw. Despite being in top position, Shamrock landed 10 significant strikes (98 in total). And so began the legacy of the UFC rematch.

Over its 20-year history, the UFC has had more than 100 rematches. Some bouts such as Gracie versus Shamrock have changed the course of UFC history.

Battles that Changed History

UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell 2

[+] EnlargeChuck Liddell and Randy Couture
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesChuck Liddell, left, stopped Randy Liddell in the 1st round to win the UFC light heavyweight title in their rematch.
After coaching the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, Randy Couture versus Chuck Liddell 2 took place almost two years after their first matchup, won by Couture. Couture was poked in the eye early on, but after being checked by the doctors, the fight continued. Couture went on the offensive, but it was Liddell who would counter and knockout “The Natural” at 2:06 of the first round to win the UFC light heavyweight title. Liddell would avenge another loss in his first defense against Jeremy Horn, then defeat Couture, Renato Sobral and rival Tito Ortiz before falling to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 71. Both Liddell and Couture would be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

UFC 65: Hughes vs. St-Pierre 2 (aka Bad Intentions)

Matt Hughes had defended his UFC Welterweight Title twice when he fought Georges St-Pierre for the second time at UFC 65. Hughes won the first matchup at UFC 50 by way of armbar, with one second remaining in the opening round. In the rematch, St-Pierre dominated, outstriking Hughes 45-10 and landing a brutal head kick and punches to dethrone the champion. Hughes would fight St-Pierre at UFC 79 and lose again, his last shot at a UFC title.

UFC 77: Silva vs. Franklin 2 (aka Hostile Territory)

[+] EnlargeAnderson Silva and Rich Franklin
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAnderson Silva, right, destroyed Rich Franklin in their rematch, finishing him in the 2nd round to keep the UFC middleweight title.
In 2006, Anderson Silva was relatively unknown to the UFC audience when he UFC fought Rich Franklin, who was making his third title defense. Silva destroyed “Ace” in the clinch, landing 26 of 28 strikes, ending with a devastating knee at 2:59 of the first round. The rematch would take place in Franklin’s hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the result was just the same. Silva was 27 of 29 from clinch position, ending the fight with knees to the body at 1:07 of Round 2. Silva would defend the title eight more times before being knocked out by Chris Weidman at UFC 162, leading to Saturday night’s rematch.

UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir 2

By November 2008, Brock Lesnar had become the UFC heavyweight champion. But there was one man who had his number: Frank Mir. Mir defeated Lesnar by heel hook at UFC 81, and after Mir became interim champion, it set up the rematch at the UFC’s century mark event. Lesnar would control the action from the opening bell, bloodying Mir and outstriking the interim champ 47-4 in significant strikes. Lesnar would make one more title defense before health issues and losing the title led to his departure from MMA in 2011.

UFC 100 would be a night of redemption for Lesnar, much like these rematches.

Battles of Redemption

UFC 49: Belfort vs. Couture 2 (aka Unfinished Business)

Randy Couture was the UFC light heavyweight champion when he defended his title against Vitor Belfort at UFC 46 in January 2004. The end of the fight was marred in controversy when the doctor halted the bout just 49 seconds into the opening round because of a cut on Couture’s eyelid from a Belfort punch. Belfort was awarded the title because of the doctor stoppage, resulting in an immediate rematch in August. In the rematch, Couture gained two takedowns and damaged Belfort on the ground, ultimately leading to a doctor’s stoppage after the third round. Couture landed 33 of his 50 significant strikes on the grounded Belfort.

UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn 2

UFC 46 also saw another title change in the co-main event when BJ Penn submitted Matt Hughes to win the UFC welterweight title. Penn would leave the UFC because of contractual issues, but would return in March 2006. He would again fight Hughes at UFC 63, but the result was much different. Hughes was the UFC welterweight champion, and proved why in defeating Penn by TKO stoppage in the third round. They would rematch once more in 2010 with Penn winning by KO 21 seconds into the fight.

UFC 83: Serra vs. St-Pierre 2

[+] EnlargeGeorge St-Pierre
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAfter losing to Matt Serra at UFC 69, Georges St-Pierre stopped Serra in the rematch a year later to regain the UFC welterweight title.
There’s something about UFC upsets and guys from Long Island. Long before Weidman and Silva, there was Matt Serra. Serra won season 4 of the Ultimate Fighter, meaning he would get a crack at Georges St-Pierre and the UFC welterweight title. Serra would pull the upset, but eventually would face St-Pierre again at UFC 83. The rematch was again one-sided, this time to “GSP” as he took Serra down four times and landed 42 significant strikes to Serra’s three en route to a second round stoppage due to knees. St-Pierre would remain the UFC welterweight champion until vacating the title on Dec. 13.

UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2

The matchup against Weidman will be Silva’s third rematch in his MMA career. In his second set of rematches in 2010 and 2012, Silva fought Chael Sonnen and picked up two victories. But the first fight was three minutes away from going to Sonnen. At UFC 117, Sonnen gained takedowns in each of the first three rounds and had Silva on his back in the final round up on the cards when Silva forced a tap out with a triangle choke and armbar. Many thought Sonnen had Silva’s number when the two would rematch at UFC 148, but the Brazilian had other ideas. Sonnen landed 76 total strikes on Silva while the champion threw just two, missing both. But Silva battled in Round 2, eventually striking after a Sonnen slip and finishing the fight with knees against the cage.

All of those battles took place over time, but some rematches remain timeless for their bad blood and exciting results.

Timeless Rematches

UFC 61: Ortiz vs. Shamrock 2 (aka Bitter Rivals)

While Ronda Rousey-Miesha Tate may be the preeminent feud of today’s MMA, it all started with Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. The two fought at UFC 40 in 2002, at the time the most watched UFC PPV of all time. The fight was one-sided as Ortiz dominated Shamrock for three rounds before the fight was stopped. The rematch took place 3 1/2 later at UFC 61 after the rivalry reignited on Season 3 of the Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz, in the middle of his career, beat the aging Shamrock with strikes 68 seconds into the first round. They would rematch in October 2006, and again Ortiz pounded Shamrock into a stoppage. But the rivalry and the bad blood is what kept the feud going for almost 10 years.

UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2

[+] EnlargeChuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesTito Ortiz, right, wasn't able to avenge his defeat to Chuck Liddell, falling again in the rematch 2 and a half years later.
Ortiz made another enemy in Liddell in 2004 when the two met at UFC 47. Liddell outlanded Ortiz in both rounds of the fight, eventually putting the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” down with strikes at 38 seconds into Round 2. The rematch would take place almost 2 1/2 years later at UFC 66 for Liddell’s light heavyweight title. Liddell’s striking was again on display, landing 49 significant strikes to 21 for Ortiz. The end came in the third round with Liddell in mount position raining strikes down on Ortiz. The two were scheduled to fight at UFC 115 after coaching Season 11 of the Ultimate Fighter, but Ortiz was injured and replaced by Rich Franklin.

UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson 2

In 2003, Liddell was sent to Japan by the UFC to represent the company in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. Liddell would face “Rampage” Jackson in the semifinals and the winner was expected to face Wanderlei Silva in the final. Jackson would defeat Liddell by TKO due to corner stoppage in the second round. Fast forward to 2007, and Jackson became the No. 1 contender to Liddell’s UFC light heavyweight title. Once again, Jackson would catch Liddell with big punches, putting him to the mat and winning the bout 1:53 into the first round.

UFC 125: Edgar vs. Maynard 2 (aka Resolution)

The rivalry between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard began in April 2008, when Maynard beat Edgar by unanimous decision. Edgar would go on to win the UFC lightweight title from Penn in April 2010 and would defend it against Penn in August. After winning that rematch, it was time for UFC 125 and a rematch against Maynard, the only man to beat him. Edgar was knocked down three times in the opening round and Maynard looked to be on his way to another win. But Edgar battled back, outstriking Maynard 95-71 in significant strikes and earning a split decision draw. The two men would fight one more time in October 2011, but this time the clear winner was Edgar by fourth-round knockout.

This Saturday night, UFC 168 is headlined by not one, but two of these rematches. Will they be battles of redemption for the challengers, Silva and Tate? Or will Weidman and Rousey continue to cement their places as champions and put their foes out of the title picture for good? Either way, these fights will become part of the ever growing legacy of the UFC rematch.

UFC 168 by the numbers

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
6:31
AM ET
By Andrew R. Davis and Joseph Kilduff
ESPN Stats & Information
In perhaps the most anticipated rematch in UFC history, Chris Weidman makes the first defense of his UFC middleweight title against the man who ruled the division for 6 years, 8 months and 22 days, Anderson Silva. In the co-main event, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has a rematch with her rival and fellow "Ultimate Fighter 18" coach Miesha Tate.

Here are the numbers you need to know for the fights:

7: Silva had been undefeated for more than seven years before losing to Weidman. Silva had not lost since January 2006, when he was disqualified for an illegal kick against Yushin Okami. "The Spider" has never lost consecutive fights in his 38-fight career.

37: Weidman landed 37 percent of his significant strikes in the UFC 162 fight, which was slightly below his average of 42 percent. Weidman was the busier of the two fighters, throwing 55 total strikes to Silva’s 32.

7: Silva has won seven knockout-of-the-night awards in his UFC career (most all time). Weidman has won knockout-of-the-night honors in each of his past two fights, including knocking out Silva for the first time in the Brazilian’s career.



3: Weidman attempted three takedowns against Silva, succeeding on one occasion. "The All-American" has landed at least one takedown in all six of his UFC fights. With that takedown 30 seconds into the fight, Weidman attempted two submissions and held Silva on his back for 2 minutes, 10 seconds.

4: Fighters from the state of New York who have held UFC gold (Jon Jones of Rochester, Rashad Evans of Niagara Falls, Matt Serra of East Meadow and Weidman of Baldwin). Weidman and Serra are the only UFC champions to come from a Long Island-based gym (Serra-Longo Fight Team).

7: Number of arm bar submission victories Rousey has recorded in her career, all in the first round. Rousey is the only fighter in the UFC to have won every one their fights with the same finish. Rousey has five arm bar submission victories under the Strikeforce/UFC banner, the most of any fighter in the promotions.

5: Number of UFC champions to coach "The Ultimate Fighter" and then defend their title against the opposing coach. The challengers are 3-2 in those fights, but the champions have retained in the previous two.

1: Rousey and Tate have both fought one common opponent, Sarah Kaufman. Tate lost to Kaufman by unanimous decision in 2009 under the Strikeforce banner and Rousey defeated Kaufman by first-round arm bar in 2012 to defend the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title.

78: Twelve of Tate’s 17 fights, including her previous four, have ended by way of KO/TKO or submission. All seven of Rousey’s fights have ended in a submission. 78 percent of fights involving Tate or Rousey, including their previous fight, have ended by KO/TKO or submission. Tate is 6-1 in fights ending in a submission (with her only loss to Rousey) and 3-2 in fights ending in a KO/TKO.

1: Tate gained one takedown in the first fight with Rousey. Although Rousey was able to take down Tate three times before getting the submission, Tate is the only fighter who has been able to take down Rousey. After her takedown, Tate was able to take Rousey’s back and hold the dominant position for just under a minute.

Statistical support from FightMetric

Tate: Rousey is 'not invincible'

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
6:57
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Miesha TateJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesMiesha Tate thinks she can beat UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the rematch.

The armbar: It’s the signature submission hold of UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. She has finished all seven of her professional opponents in the first round using the technique.

Even the woman who will coach opposite Rousey on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which begins Wednesday night at 10 ET on Fox Sports 1, knows what it feels like to be caught in that armbar. Former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t feel good.

Rousey lifted the Strikeforce bantamweight title from Tate via an armbar on March 3, 2012. Tate has been attempting to become champion ever since.

Tate believes that the time has finally arrived to reclaim her status as best women’s bantamweight mixed martial artist. She is more confident than ever of dethroning Rousey and promises the armbar won’t come into play a second time around when they meet Dec. 28 at UFC 168 in Las Vegas.

With each training session, Tate discovers something new about the mistakes she made in the loss to Rousey. She says she won’t make them again. If Rousey is to retain her 135-pound title, she will have to do so with something other than an armbar.

“I learn a lot in every fight, but especially the ones that I lose,” Tate told ESPN.com. “I know the mistakes I made in that [first] fight, and I do believe they are fixable. I’m working on them all the time.

“And I’m keen to the mistakes she made. [Rousey] is not perfect. She makes mistakes in fights, too. It’s a matter of who can exploit them better. In the first fight she was definitely able to exploit the mistakes I made better.

“But I’m much more familiar with her style; I’m much more familiar with judo. I’ve learned a lot. There are things that I’ve taken note of.”

I have the skill-set to beat her. She's not invincible by any means. I know that being emotional and being mean-spirited does not serve me well inside the Octagon. So, I'd rather go in there with a positive outlook.

-- Miesha Tate on fighting Ronda Rousey for the second time.
Tate acknowledges that Rousey won the psychological battle. She was able to get under Tate’s skin, which eventually took her out of her game.

Rousey never hides her feelings. If she doesn’t like you, she will let you know it right away. Rousey doesn’t like Tate -- and the feeling is mutual.

The difference now is that Tate refuses to lose her cool. Rousey can no longer throw Tate off her game, at least mentally. This rematch will come down solely to skill.

And Tate likes her chances in that arena.

“Ronda isn’t particularly stronger than anyone I’ve fought,” Tate said. “But she’s very good at what she does, she’s very smooth. And I’m very well aware of that.

“I wasn’t able to put it all together in time for that fight. Knowing that now and admitting to the mistakes that I made, and not being emotional.

“I have the skill-set to beat her. She’s not invincible by any means. I know that being emotional and being mean-spirited does not serve me well inside the Octagon. So, I’d rather go in there with a positive outlook.”

Being a coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" helped Tate further develop and maintain a positive outlook. Watching her fighters grow and improve brought Tate great joy.

But it wasn’t a one-way street. Teaching allowed Tate to closely examine her own techniques. And she corrected a few flaws in her game.

“I feel I retain more when I teach,” Tate said. “I learn more because I really have to dissect some things; I have to dissect a move, whereas before I was just doing it. Now that I have to think about them, I’ve learned how to do certain moves better.”

Rousey on Cyborg: Only diehards want it

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
1:32
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Ronda RouseyAP Photo/Jae C. HongRonda Rousey doesn't think about Cris Justino, but she's ready for the challenge.

SEATTLE -- An acting role in the Hollywood movie “Expendables 3” is definitely on Ronda Rousey's radar. A rematch with Miesha Tate at UFC 168 is, too.

Newly crowned 145-pound Invicta champion Cris Justino, aka “Cyborg,” yeah, she’s also on Rousey’s radar -- but just barely, she says.

“I mean yeah, she’s always on my radar,” said Rousey at this weekend’s UFC event. “But I have a really, really full plate and she has nothing to worry about but me.”

Rousey (7-0) downplayed questions regarding a future fight against Justino, saying if Justino wants it, “she needs to get off her a-- and try to make (it) happen.”

Justino returned from a one-year drug suspension in April and recently claimed the inaugural 145-pound Invicta title in a TKO win over Marloes Coenen.

She was stripped of the Strikeforce featherweight title following a positive drug test in December 2010. She was expected to still fight in the UFC when the suspension was up, but instead requested her release from the promotion.

Justino (12-1) has constantly said she is unable to physically cut to 135 pounds. Her management has cited that as the primary reason behind her UFC departure.

Rousey was clearly aware of Justino’s recent win over Coenen, but didn’t seem overly impressed. She also reiterated she has more important things on her mind.

“I have a lot of things going on,” Rousey said. “She’s fighting random chicks. I mean, Marloes -- it took her longer and more energy to beat Marloes than it took Miesha (in July 2011).

“It’s only the MMA diehards that want to see that fight. I have so many things going on. If she really wants to make that fight happen, I’m here.”

UFC president Dana White told reporters he has had no recent contact with Justino or her manager, former UFC light heavyweight Tito Ortiz.

“I have not heard from her manager,” White said. “I have not seen any press conferences. So, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on with Cyborg.”

Fight of the midyear: Grice-Bermudez

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
12:43
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
Archive
video

The first adjective Matt Grice uses to describe that grueling, split-decision loss to Dennis Bermudez on Feb. 23 at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif., is “fun.” Awesome time.

“One of the most fun fights I’ve ever been in,” Grice said. “Just competing with a person of that caliber. We’re all there to test ourselves, and I feel that fight tested me a lot -- my willingness to continue and keep going. To me, that’s fun.”

ESPN.com’s fight of the midyear was a landslide win for Grice and Bermudez. It’s a funny thing, “Fight of the nights.” Sometimes, stylistically, you can predict them. Oftentimes, however, they appear totally random -- as was the case with Grice and Bermudez.
[+] EnlargeDennis Bermudez
Ed Mulholland for ESPNDennis Bermudez, right, and Matt Grice took turns testing each other's chin for three full rounds.

Grice, for one, has no idea how to describe exactly what happens between two fighters that can turn a technical martial arts contest into a spirited brawl. He does know, however, that physical and mental endurance are involved.

“That definitely wasn’t in the game plan, you know?” Grice said. “Take a bunch of punches and give a bunch of punches. You just get in the zone."

Bermudez got full mount on Grice in the first minute of the fight. The two exhausted one another against the fence throughout, fighting for underhooks and throwing knees and punches to the body. It continued like that for the next 14 minutes.

One of the most incredible things about the fight was that both had enough left to stand and trade punches in the final minute. The pace of this featherweight bout was insane from the beginning.

Grice dropped Bermudez with a perfect left hook in the first round.

Bermudez’s corner told him, “We need this round, you’ve got to go for it,” as he came off his stool for the final round. Across the Octagon, Grice’s corner’s last words were, “Don’t stop. Don’t relax.”

“I think more than anything in that third round, it was survival tactic, Grice said. He hurt me right off the bat in that third round. Every time I would recover a little bit, he’d hit me with another one that would put me out. He was in great shape, too, because he threw a lot of punches in that last round.”

Grice appeared out on his feet at least three times in the final round.

“I looked up at the clock with 47 seconds left and thought, ‘Man, where did the rest of this round go?’” Grice said. “I came off the cage and hit him with a left hand and for the last 30 seconds or so we flurried.”

According to FightMetric.com, Bermudez landed 120 total strikes to Grice’s 82. It was, by far, the most times either had been hit in a UFC bout.

No. 2: Johny Hendricks UD3 Carlos Condit, UFC 158 (March 16). This was an angry Hendricks. The kind of Hendricks you get when you give away his title shot to a recently suspended welterweight, coming off a loss. Condit wasn’t backing down, though. Amazing fight.

No. 3: Wanderlei Silva KO2 Brian Stann, UFC on Fuel 8 (March 2). Stann may have been able to play this safe and gone after Silva late -- but we’ll never know because he chose to do the opposite. One would have thought Stann’s chin would have held up better than Silva’s, but that wasn’t the case, as it was the Axe Murderer left standing after a firefight.

No. 4: Cat Zingano vs. Miesha Tate, TUF 16 Finale (April 13). Tate will give you a fight. She’s relentless and for two rounds, it worked against Cat Zingano. In the third, with a reality show and title shot on the line, Zingano delivered a highlight TKO.

No. 5: Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve, UFC on Fuel 8 (March 2). The weigh-in photo of these two ranks among the most comical in UFC history. The actual fight ranks among the best of the year. For Hunt to get inside that reach, chances were he’d have to absorb a little punishment along the way. That’s pretty much what happened, until Hunt delivered the walk-off home run shot.

Latest upsets good for flagging TUF show

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
12:37
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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video
Two new stars were unexpectedly born Saturday night, when Kelvin Gastelum and Cat Zingano each beat the odds at “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 live finale in Las Vegas.

After beginning the season as the show’s last pick, Gastelum turned the heavily favored Uriah Hall into MMA’s latest straw man by upsetting the talented striker via split decision to win the TUF 17 crown. Zingano similarly rocketed out of obscurity and rebounded from a tough first round to TKO Miesha Tate in the third, claiming the chance to coach opposite Ronda Rousey on Season 18 and eventually challenge for her women’s bantamweight title.

As far as plot twists go, these were both better than we might have expected from the UFC’s flagging reality show -- a pair of surprise endings that suddenly made the hoary old institution of “The Ultimate Fighter” feel more relevant as it prepares to jump from the FX Network to the fledgling Fox Sports 1.

Credit Zingano as not only the biggest winner but the biggest catalyst for change. A week ago, she might have been an appropriate pick as a contestant on TUF’s next season, which will jump yet another reality-show shark by having men and women live, competing side by side, when filming begins this summer. Now Zingano will have a full slate of hourlong episodes to introduce herself to the UFC faithful as coach, and she’ll do it starring opposite the biggest sensation of women’s MMA. Not to mention, if the early returns of her gutsy performance against Tate and exuberant postfight interview are any indication, she stands a decent chance of coming off as the more likable half of this particular coaching tandem.

Zingano's participation will offer a fresh angle to fans, who had already heard Rousey and Tate give each other an earful leading up to their March 2012 Strikeforce title fight. In the same way that the caustic feud between Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans made Season 10 of TUF borderline unwatchable, the Rousey-Tate beef was best consumed in smaller quantities. Our brief glimpses of Zingano’s personality suggest she might not play the trash-talk game, which portends good things for making Season 18 endurable.

Small victories.

Things turned in the exact opposite direction for Hall, who did as much to derail his own hype this weekend as Zingano did to kick-start hers.

Hall came into his bout with Gastelum as perhaps the most highly touted TUF finalist ever, drawing speculation he’d be an instant title contender in the middleweight division.

Unfortunately for him, that narrative fell flat when the 28-year-old member of Team Tiger Schulmann fought as if he wholeheartedly believed it, eventually conceding the decision to the underdog after a performance during which Hall looked great in flashes but entirely pedestrian the rest of the way.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that just like Zingano’s win, Hall’s loss could ultimately prove to be positive, both for himself and for TUF at large.

Why? Two reasons: First, because Gastelum's victory demonstrated that amid all the babble about Hall, there might actually have been more than one noteworthy fighter on this season's show. If TUF's role in the UFC is to produce new faces for the company to promote, then the live finale worked like a charm. Instead of yielding Hall as the one breakout star we were counting on, TUF 17 gave us two interesting prospects (Hall and Gastelum). Make no mistake, that’s a win-win.
[+] EnlargeAl Powers
Al Powers for ESPNUriah Hall, left, will get a chance to mature as a fighter-- without the pressure of having to meet or exceed the growing expectations.

Second, as much as we’re all mourning the demise of Hall's myth in the aftermath, the stakes here were actually very low for him. Truth is, he didn’t lose much over the weekend except for the pressure of being “the next big thing” and the opportunity to get locked into the TUF winner’s notorious “six-figure contract.” He’ll still almost certainly get the chance to be a UFC fighter, and now he’ll begin his career in the Octagon under far less scrutiny and likely against far easier competition than if he’d slayed Gastelum in 30 seconds as we all expected.

Think about the alternative for a moment. Pretend Hall blew through Gastelum without breaking a sweat. This morning we’d all be trumpeting him as a contender at 185 pounds and agitating for him to leap into a bout with a top-10 guy. Knowing what we know about him now, how do we think that would’ve worked out for Hall? Answer: not well.

No, far better for Hall to get the time he needs to mature as a fighter and a competitor.

Over time, if he grows and improves and stops fighting like a man who thinks he can’t be beaten, perhaps he can still come to be regarded as TUF 17’s greatest talent, in the same way guys like Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard arguably surpassed the winners of their respective seasons when viewed through the filter of hindsight.

Upsets have long been a mixed bag for “The Ultimate Fighter.” In this instance, wins by Zingano and Gastelum made the end of TUF 17 and the beginning of TUF 18 seem simultaneously exciting.

For a show that appears so intent on running itself into the ground, that was a welcome change indeed.

Miesha Tate ready for her turn in Octagon

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
1:00
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Miesha Tate Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Getty ImagesBefore Miesha Tate can secure a rematch with rival Ronda Rousey, she must get past Cat Zingano.
LAS VEGAS -- Grocery lines can be awkward when you're a female mixed martial artist.

Miesha Tate, like any UFC fighter, wears the occasional black eye in public. It used to be, in a grocery line, for instance, she would receive a concerned-but-not-sure-how-to-react look from bystanders.

Lately, though, it's more of an I-wonder-if-that-girl-fights-for-a-living look, which is proof (and satisfying proof, at that) to Tate that the presence of women's MMA is growing.

"I've noticed people seem to have the wheels turning now, instead of the worried look I used to get," Tate told ESPN.com. "I think they are starting to think, 'Maybe she's a kickboxer. Maybe she does MMA.'"

"People are starting to wrap their mind around the idea that women do combat sports. It's been kind of cool to see that process."

Tate, who will face Cat Zingano in the second-ever UFC female fight at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on Saturday, has spent a lifetime experiencing that process.

As a high school freshman in Tacoma, Wash., she joined the boys' wrestling team by "default" because it was one of just two sports offered. A handful of other girls floated on and off the team, but Tate was the only one who stuck with it.

Her current boyfriend, UFC bantamweight Bryan Caraway, is widely credited for introducing her to martial arts, but it was actually a persistent neighbor who got Tate to take the first step.

"A neighbor of mine did karate and said, 'Hey, come try this out,'" Tate said. "I had never seen the UFC, and I wasn't interested at first, but she kept being persistent, so finally I went to appease her and learned some jiu-jitsu, and it was awesome."

Fate continued to push Tate toward a career in MMA. She attended her first amateur event as a spectator in 2006, still convinced the striking aspect of the sport wouldn't appeal to her.

By the time that first event was over, Tate was already signed up for her first fight.

A lot of people [watching UFC 157] just saw Ronda Rousey, Ronda Rousey, Ronda Rousey, but we haven't had the second UFC fight yet. At this point, people are probably just becoming fans of Ronda but I hope to change that April 13.

-- Miesha Tate, on growth of women's MMA entering her UFC debut
"I said, 'This isn't about violence or blood, this is about competition,'" Tate said. "It was really beautiful to me. I could see myself doing it, and lo and behold, the referee got on the microphone and announced an all-female fight card in three weeks.

"I gave him my info, and three weeks later, I was fighting."

Fate, it seems, was also intent on providing Tate with a rival in the form of current UFC champion and U.S. judo Olympian Ronda Rousey. The two fought in March 2012 for Tate's Strikeforce title, resulting in a first-round submission win for Rousey.

Rousey has been such an overbearing topic for Tate during interviews, she consciously has started to steer conversations away from her. It's not just that she's sick of talking about Rousey, but she's also eager to show the sport is deeper than one athlete.

"I think [UFC 157] came across probably more as a big moment for Ronda Rousey [than women's MMA] because she's really been pushed hard," Tate said. "But people who read into it more than just who's on the poster, I believe it carries that energy of women's MMA as a whole.

"A lot of people just saw Ronda Rousey, Ronda Rousey, Ronda Rousey, but we haven't had the second UFC fight yet. At this point, people are probably just becoming fans of Ronda, but I hope to change that April 13."

Nerves not a factor for Zingano's UFC debut

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
12:34
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Cat ZinganoIsaac Hinds According to Dana White, women's contender Cat Zingano is still in line for a crack at the title.
Walking into an arena for the first time as a UFC competitor can be unnerving. No previous event can fully prepare a fighter for what he or she is about to experience.

As the fighter emerges from the locker room, she is greeted by a large, vociferous crowd, of which only a small number of onlookers are aware of her previous MMA accomplishments. All the success that fighter has achieved prior to this moment matters little to the UFC faithful.

The newcomer is viewed as a curiosity, at best, but not a true mixed martial artist until she has chalked up a significant victory inside the Octagon.

So the UFC newbie -- veteran or not, champion elsewhere or not -- is again in a position of proving her worth.

That's not all: There is also the matter of what a victory in a UFC debut can do for that fighter's career, especially from a financial standpoint, including greater endorsements and other high-profile opportunities beyond the MMA world.

UFC is the big time, and success there can result in unimaginable rewards. Now that's pressure -- the kind that can buckle the knees of even the most seasoned fighter.

But there will be no prefight jitters Saturday night for Cat Zingano when she makes her UFC debut. Self-doubt has never been an issue for her, and it's not about to arise now. The UFC fight-night environment will differ from any she has experienced, but it won't cause Zingano to suddenly lose her nerve or focus. There is no fear running through her veins. She knows what's at stake Saturday night against Miesha Tate and fully embraces the opportunity.

Zingano has worked too hard to get to this point and isn't about to squander it. Besides, she's already had a tiny taste of what it's like inside the arena on fight night during a UFC-promoted event.

"It's exciting to fight in UFC," Zingano told ESPN.com. "I went to watch the Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche fight and got a really good feel for the energy in the arena and how bright and exciting it is. I got to experience that, and I think that's a really good thing.

"Going into UFC is an incredible opportunity. But every fight I go into is just a fight. It's just me versus them, and my will versus their will, and who's going to break and who's going to get their hand raised."

Every fight I go into is just a fight. It's just me versus them, and my will versus their will, and who's going to break and who's going to get their hand raised.

-- Cat Zingano, on how she is approaching her UFC debut
Zingano vows that she will not be the one to break at the TUF Finale 17 in Las Vegas, where Tate, a former Strikeforce champion, will be standing across from her in a UFC women's bantamweight title eliminator with the winner getting a shot at the champion Rousey.

This being the most important, highest-profile bout of her career won't cause Zingano to break out in a cold sweat or question whether she has bitten off more than she can chew. Zingano approaches this fight the same as any other -- it's her against another fighter who is determined to knock her head off, if necessary, to get a win.

That's the fight game. Zingano has competed seven times professionally. On each occasion, she has walked away unscathed.

There is no reason, in her mind at least, to doubt that Saturday night will be any different -- UFC debut or not. Zingano is foremost a fighter, and the UFC community, especially Tate, is about to find out just how good of a fighter she is.

"Miesha Tate has no area in which I feel she is stronger than me. I'm better than her on the feet, on the ground," Zingano said. "I am very disciplined in my conditioning. I'm very comfortable fighting from any position -- off my back or on top -- my footwork, everything. I'm a few levels above her.

"I have something she's not going to be able to handle in every scenario. I'm very confident in everything that I bring into the cage.”

While she has demonstrated above-average fighting techniques in each bout -- submission, knockout and decision wins dot her résumé -- Zingano isn't ready to call herself a full-fledged professional mixed martial artist.

There are still a few more lessons she would like to complete. But as has been the case thus far, Zingano expects to continue receiving high marks from her instructors.

"I'm not going to lie to myself," said Zingano, who is 7-0. "I'm always going to be true to my roots. I'm a wrestler and have been a wrestler since I was 12 years old. That's always in my back pocket. If ever I get into a sticky situation that I'm uncomfortable with, I have [wrestling]. But I'm not satisfied with having just one style, being one-dimensional. I'm a student who wants to learn everything.

"I consider this [period] my college education. These are the years I could have been at a university getting my Ph.D. That means knowing everything about the human body in order to be able to function as a successful [fighter]. I know that I have good skills as far as my ground game, but I want to test myself in uncomfortable situations where I'm not as well-rounded as some of these other girls. If you beat somebody in an area they are good at, that feeling that is irreplaceable."

That could mean besting Tate on the ground. Tate is among the best wrestlers in women's MMA. But Tate also possesses solid submissions and striking.

In many ways, Zingano and Tate are mirror images of each other. The biggest difference is that most MMA fans are familiar with Tate.

But they are about to get a heavy dose of what Zingano can do in the cage. She won't be an unknown entity in UFC circles after Saturday night.

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