The co-main event of UFC 196 is a five round title fight between UFC Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm and former Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate. Holm is fighting for the first time since her upset victory over former champion Ronda Rousey in November. Tate, meanwhile, enters the contest on a four-fight winning streak, including a dominant decision victory over Jessica Eye this past July. Holly Holm (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC, -345 favorite) Holm is now a little less than four months removed from her spectacular upset victory over longtime champion Ronda Rousey. Not many observers gave Holm a chance in the match-up because she did not look all that great in her first two UFC fights and had never faced someone of Rousey’s caliber in MMA. However, she finally showed her true potential for the first time since joining the promotion by knocking Rousey out early in the second round with a vicious head kick. Prior to her victory over Rousey, Holm’s Octagon experience consisted of two decision victories over Raquel Pennington and Marion Reneau. “The Preacher’s Daughter” will defend her title for the first time on Saturday night against longtime veteran Miesha Tate. The 34-year old is the most credentialed striker in the women’s bantamweight division. While she is known for her tremendous boxing accomplishments, including numerous world titles, she actually started out as a kickboxer. That is evident by her fighting style, as she heavily relies on her kicking game to both inflict damage and keep the range that she desires. Holm utilizes several types of kicks to the head, body and legs of her opponent, including oblique kicks, side kicks, switch kicks, and roundhouse kicks. While her kicks have proven to be her most dangerous weapons, she obviously has tremendous boxing as well. Holm’s straight-left hand and right hook are her power punches and she does an excellent job of striking and quickly getting out of the pocket. The Albuquerque, New Mexico native’s footwork and movement were on full display in her fight against Rousey, as she rarely allowed Rousey to corner her or initiate a clinch. Even when Rousey was able to corner her, Holm was able to use her strength and size to shrug the former Judo Olympian off and create distance. While Holm is obviously talented offensively, she is a little more hittable than one might think. She was hit with some decent shots by both Pennington and Rousey, and was even dropped by Pennington in the third round of their fight. The former boxing champ’s striking credentials have been well-earned. However, there is a lot we do not know about her ground game. We have yet to see Holm in any prolonged grappling sequences that may expose a weakness in her game. While Holm’s strength, takedown defense, and footwork make her difficult to get to the canvas, she has not yet faced a high level wrestler. Tate is undoubtedly the best wrestler she will have faced thus far in her career. Miesha Tate (17-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC, +285 underdog) Longtime veteran Tate looks to put a stamp on her career by capturing the UFC Bantamweight Championship. This fight will be her first shot at the title since coming up short against Ronda Rousey at UFC 168 in December of 2013. Tate has been very impressive since that loss, recording four straight decision victories over Liz Carmouche, Rin Nakai, Sarah McMann, and Jessica Eye. A dominant performance against Eye was supposed to earn her a title shot against then-champion Rousey, but the UFC elected to go with Holm instead of a third Rousey fight. A win over Holm would likely get her the rematch against Rousey that she has long desired. Tate is a well-rounded fighter that has showed constant improvement inside the Octagon. Training out of Extreme Couture under Coach Robert Follis, the 29-year old is one of the toughest and most durable fighters on the roster. Tate is an underrated submission grappler who has a variety of takedowns in open space and in the clinch. From top position, she maintains a strong base, passes well, and can hit the occasional submission. Tate is also adept at taking her opponent’s back, especially in scrambles. The area where she has improved the most, however, is her striking. The Washington native works a stiff jab and heavy right hand, which was responsible for dropping Jessica Eye in her most recent fight. While she has improved her offensive striking, Tate is still very hittable as she does not possess the greatest head movement or footwork. Excellent conditioning, toughness, and durability are staples of her game. Thoughts This is an interesting matchup because Tate presents Holm with a completely different challenge than Rousey. While Rousey and Tate are both excellent grapplers, Tate employs more traditional takedowns. Rousey, on the other hand, needs to establish a clinch in order to hit one of her trademark judo throws. Tate may be able to have success in this matchup if she can either make the fight ugly or drag Holm to the canvas, where Tate should hold a sizeable edge. If Tate is not able to get Holm down or make this a dogfight, Holm will likely be able to win most of the rounds or even find a stoppage along the way. The more likely scenario involves Holm using her superior footwork and striking to take home a clear decision. The Prediction: Holly Holm defeats Miesha Tate via unanimous decision.
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