The Early Look: Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes at UFC 200
Credit the UFC for the making bantamweight title fight that should happen, next. Amanda Nunes may not be a world-famous name yet, but she's the deserving No. 1 contender at 135 pounds.
She's won five out of six in the UFC, and three straight. At her best, she's a dominant terror with battering ground strikes and excellent pressure.
The 27-year-old is also only getting more mature and big-fight ready with each contest. Furthermore, behind the scenes, Tate vs. Nunes has been a long-discussed and proposed fight, so both women have likely been studying one another for quite some time.
Finally, the timing is right for both fighters, and this should be a great scrap between two strong grapplers who are not afraid to strike on the feet. You have to give the edge to the defending champion, but Nunes is very capable of taking home the world title to the American Top Team, in my opinion.
Miesha is now a two-time bantamweight world champion and has more big-fight MMA experience than perhaps any other woman in the world. We know she'll deal with all the pressure, media attention, extra obligations and bright lights well.
We also know that she won't slow down in the late rounds. Against Sara McMann, Tate survived a broken orbital bone in the first and wore down the wrestler to earn a decision win after three.
Against Holly Holm, Tate was behind on the scorecards in the fifth, but still had it in her to out-hustle the defending champ, get her to the ground and choke her out. Tate has fight in her until her dying breath, and has the conditioning to back up that spirit.
Nunes is also a fighter, through and through, but time will tell how well she'll be able to handle five rounds. The Brazilian is a power player, and so far has been best right out of the gates.
When she can't finish an opponent with her scary early onslaughts, she has sometimes slowed down, afterward. Against Cat Zingano, it cost her the fight.
In her most recent bout against Valentina Shevchenko, however, Nunes slowed but didn't relent, and still earned a decision victory. That's great progress, and she'll need to make another leap somehow in her ability to go into deep waters, here.
That is, unless she can take Tate out early. Which leads us to this ...
Once Amanda Nunes gets on top of you, she does serious damage.
Amanda Nunes' advantages:
I believe that Nunes is capable of beating anyone on any given night, in large part because of how she jumps on opponents so effectively right from the start. If she connects with a big punch early, hurts Tate and can take her down, Nunes has the ground striking power and base to finish "Cupcake" right away.
I think that's a real possibility. Nunez may very well be the physically stronger fighter in this matchup with the bigger striking power, both on the feet and on the ground.
I'm curious whose takedowns will succeed first and more often. Tate is a fantastic wrestler, especially in the scramble.
Nunes has solid takedowns and they are only getting better under the tutelage of her coach Mike Brown. So is her Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
I think Nunes can hurt Tate if she keeps her on her back for more than 15 seconds, but I wonder how good at getting up Nunes will be if she is taken down. I'm also curious as to the approaches both women will take in this fight.
They both have excellent coaching (Tate with Robert Follis and Nunes with Brown) and will likely come in with well thought-out game plans. I'm not smart enough to put together a strategy for either woman, however, so I'll be very interested to see where each fighter thinks the other is weakest, and how they will try to force the fight into that area.
Does Tate believe she's more technical on the feet, leading her to try and test Nunes there for awhile? Does the champion believe that the challenger won't be as dominant a ground fighter off her back as she is on top, and therefore look to consistently take it to the mat?
Does Nunes believe it is only a matter of time before she connects with power on Tate on the feet, meaning she will be patient, watching out for takedowns, and picking her shots? Or might she look to press the action from the start, score as much as she can with her fists on the way in, then pressure Tate to the mat and look for a finish?
Prediction: I think these women match up evenly in many ways and I can see either winning. I give the edge to the champion, however, based on what we've seen from both, because I think Tate is tough to take out early and that she's the more proven fighter in late rounds. With that said, Nunes improves a lot from fight to fight, so it is impossible to know how good she'll be by fight night. In the end, gun to my head, I take Tate by decision after a thrilling back-and-forth fight.