Miesha Tate, did what she was does best. She came back.
In one of the most dramatic title finale’s in UFC history, the former Strikeforce champion choked bantamweight queen Holly Holm unconscious and with it put to sleep her lucrative rematch with Ronda Rousey.
Holm looked well on her way to making a first successful defence of the belt she stripped from Rousey back at UFC 193. She edged a tentative first round and survived nearly being finished by a rear-naked choke in the second to show remarkable composure in the third before finding her range and rhythm in the fourth.
“The Preacher’s Daughter” stuffed every Tate takedown attempt from the second round up until the fateful finale. But when the challenger scrambled in the centre of the cage, she grabbed onto Holm’s back, sneaking her arm under the champion’s chin.
When she desperately tried to break free, front flipping to the ground, Tate latched on as Holm went out on her shield, refusing to tap before being choked out cold.
It’s a victory a long time coming for “Cupcake” who has been a major player in helping to establish women’s fighting. She admitted late last year that she toyed with the idea of retirement after seeing an initially promised title shot given to Holm.
Now, though, she has options and a third fight with Rousey looms. “I knew I had to finish the fight,” said Tate who has lost twice to Rousey at UFC 168 and in Strikeforce.
“I knew I had to be perfect in the fifth round. I feel we had a great game plan. She’s very dangerous. She’s capable of catching anyone at any moment. She’s a calculated fighter. I thought I had to be like a pit bull with a bone (with the choke). I knew she wasn’t getting out of that one.”
The defeat means Holm is now the one chasing a rematch, not Rousey, who made no secret of her desire to avenge her one blemish.
“I want to fight Miesha tomorrow,” Holm said. “Everyone before this fight was saying, ‘Why are you taking this fight? You should be going for the rematch.’ You know what, I’m in it to fight.
“Tonight, I made some mistakes. I’ll fix those mistakes and come back stronger. Miesha capitalised; she’s a scrapper. I let my guard down, and it cost me the fight. I wanted to take this challenge.”
It also cost her a lucrative rematch after UFC president Dana White confirmed that the new 135lbs champion will face Rousey next.
“I think that Ronda now will fight Miesha Tate for the title. That’s what’s going to happen,” White said. “That’s what I said before this fight even happened. Whoever wins tonight will fight Ronda for the title.”
White said he texted the former champ, who was seen on social media watching the fight on her phone from a wrestling event, and she responded: “Gonna have to get back to work…”