For a few minutes after watching Miesha Tate pull off a gutsy come from behind victory over then women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm last weekend, fight fans were able to forget about the implications of what had just happened and enjoy the moment.
Tate, who was the epitome of the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” cliché in MMA, had just won a title that had seemed so far out of her reach at points that even “Cupcake” herself may have had some doubts about her chances of obtaining UFC gold. It wasn’t even a year ago that Tate’s pair of losses to then champ Ronda Rousey had left the former Strikeforce champion stuck in a sort of cruel limbo. The UFC wasn’t keen on making a third fight between “Rowdy” and Tate, despite the fact that “Cupcake” had done the work needed in order to earn another title fight, and it didn’t seem like a possibility while Rousey was queen of the division.
When Holm took out Rousey in November, it was a godsend for Tate. Not only was Rousey knocked from her throne, but she decided to take some time away from the Octagon before making the jump back into the title picture. That left Holm without her most obvious opponent, and although many fighters would have waited for the big-money fight opposite Rousey, Holm was eager to get back into action. Suddenly, Tate was sitting with a huge opportunity in front of her, one that she took full advantage of at UFC 196.
By claiming the title from Holm, Tate was able to silence her doubters and prove that she was championship material. However, while the win was obviously the best moment of Tate’s career and undoubtedly was one of the best MMA highlights of the last few years, it was also the worst-case scenario for the UFC.
There was no bigger fight for the UFC to make than the rematch between Holm and Rousey. Once the shock from Tate’s win started to wear off, the common question amongst fight fans became, “What now?” Does Holm deserve an immediate rematch? Should Rousey get a chance to regain her belt next? Do they fight each other for a shot at Tate? There’s no real right answer. The UFC has claimed that Tate vs. Rousey III is next on the docket, but there’s no guarantee that the plan will remain intact until the fall when Rousey is scheduled to return.
After watching his potential cash cow of a fight between Holm and Rousey go up in flames last weekend, UFC President Dana White almost assuredly will not allow Tate to step into the cage again without it being opposite Rousey. While the fan interest for a fight between the two former Strikeforce champions may not have been particularly high before Rousey lost her belt, Tate’s win over Holm likely changes the fight’s appeal in a big way. It may not be as compelling of a storyline as the initial rematch between Holm and Rousey would have been, but there’s still enough drama and intrigue between “Cupcake” and “Rowdy” to get fans aboard with another bout.
There’s already a very real argument to be made that Rousey and Tate are already the stars of the biggest rivalry in women’s MMA history, and a third fight would just provide another chapter to an already great feud. Rousey chasing the title is a fantastic storyline for the UFC to jump on, and the fact that “Rowdy’s” greatest rival was the one to take out the only women to defeat Rousey gives this fight the intrigue it needs. If Tate would have gotten the title shot against Rousey last November, the question on everyone’s mind would have been how long Tate could avoid the armbar before becoming a victim yet again. By beating Holm, “Cupcake” has been able to not only become a viable opponent for Rousey again, but she has also opened the door for people to question whether or not she’s finally become a complete enough mixed martial artist to defeat Rousey.
Another bout between Tate and Rousey definitely has what it takes to get fans interested, and since that’s the case, it really is the best fight for the UFC to make at this point. While giving Holm a rematch against either woman would make sense, there’s a lot more money to be made for everyone involved if “The Preacher’s Daughter” was given a winnable fight that allows her to insert herself back into the picture to fight the winner of an eventual title fight between Tate and Rousey.
If Rousey is able to pull off the win, the UFC is back in a great spot and able to promote a rematch between Rousey and Holm — the rematch the company wanted in the first place. If Tate can pull off the upset — and yes, even with the belt around her waist, a Tate win over Rousey would be considered an upset — it sets up a rematch of a fantastic match between Tate and Holm, and this time both women would have the prestige of holding a win over Rousey as a feather in their cap.
This is the only win-win situation the UFC is going to get out of Tate’s recent victory. If the UFC were to force any other women’s bantamweight title fights to take place in the meantime, it would more than likely end up taking a ton of money off the table. It may not be the fight the UFC wanted, but Tate vs. Rousey III is far and away the best option the promotion has in front of it at the moment.