Everything you need to know about the upcoming big fight.
Ronda Rousey will defend her UFC title when she faces Miesha Tate for the second time in her career. (Mike Stobe/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Ronda Rousey has fought seven times as a professional mixed martial artist. She has won seven times, each in the first round, each via armbar submission.
Miesha Tate understands the stark simplicity of that resume because she's a part of it.
When Rousey and Tate meet inside the octagon at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 28 (10 p.m. ET, PPV), it will be a rematch of their March 2012 fight for what was then the Strikeforce women's bantamweight championship. Tate was the belt holder going in, but Ronda took it from her. And when the UFC absorbed its corporate cousin promotion and launched a women's division, Rousey was named champion.
The 26-year-old Rousey (7-0, 1-0 in the UFC) is relatively new to mixed martial arts, having made her pro debut in March 2011. But she came to the sport with an elite pedigree as a two-time Olympian in judo and a 2008 bronze medalist. After winning the Strikeforce belt in her fifth pro MMA fight, she defended it once -- a 54-second sub of ex-champ Sarah Kaufman -- before transitioning to the UFC. Her one title defense since then was her first true test inside the cage. It ended the same way all of the others had, of course, but Rousey had to fight her way out of a treacherous position before twisting Liz Carmouche's arm to get the tapout 4:49 in. "Rowdy Ronda" stands at No. 7 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings and No. 10 in the UFC's media-voted tally.
Tate (13-4, 0-1 UFC), No. 5 on the SI.com women's bantamweight list and the No. 2 contender in the UFC rankings, earned this title fight by default. In August, she lost her UFC debut to Cat Zingano, who then was slotted to coach against Rousey on the first coed season of The Ultimate Fighter and challenge for the belt afterward. But Zingano injured a knee in training, so Tate, 27, was brought in to replace her. The UFC and television partner Fox likely saw ratings gold in the mounting animosity between Miesha and Ronda. Their rivalry turned out to be perhaps the most heated between coaches in the reality show's history.
And now they meet again, in the co-main event of UFC 168, which is headlined by another rematch: Chris Weidman defending the middleweight belt against the man he took it from in July, longtime pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET) and the card's other bout will stream on the UFC's Facebook and YouTube pages (6:30).
On fight nights, Ronda Rousey walks out to the octagon to Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation." So don't think she gives a damn about what you or I thought of her pouty performance on The Ultimate Fighter.
This is a woman who has made it to where she is by being self-driven and resilient. She's plenty talented as well, of course, but her strong-headedness takes her even farther than her formidable physical gifts would otherwise carry her.
Raised by a mother who was the first American to win a world judo championship, Rousey went on to reach the height of that very sport in 2008 by medaling in the Olympics, becoming the first American woman to do so. That made her a hot property when she jumped into MMA, and after just four pro fights -- won via submission in 25, 49, 25 and 39 seconds -- Ronda was given a shot at Tate's belt. Too soon? That's what Miesha thought, and while she wasn't alone in that opinion, her dismissive attitude toward the interloper fueled a rivalry that has only grown more bitter.
Meanwhile, Rousey has only grown in stature. She's become the apple of Dana White's eye, not simply because the UFC president loves dominant champions but because he sees an uncommon star power that transcends the octagon. That something special was nicely summed up on Thursday by White's buddy Jim Rome after Rousey was a guest on his CBS Sports radio show. "She's got 'star' written all over her," said Rome. "She's got so much 'it' and so much charisma. She's so smart. She's so quick. She's so tough and so intense, and then she hits you with this smile that's like a million watts."
The "it" factor also has shone in Rousey's late-night television appearances with Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien, and her star power has taken her to the ESPN the Magazine 2012 "Body Issue" and to Hollywood, as she has both The Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7 in production. This month she was one of only two athletes named to theTime "30 Under 30: World Changers" list.
But how much of that will fizzle if Rousey fails to take care of business next weekend? Maybe we'll see. But odds are we won't.
*Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Other Numbers To Count On
0: Stands for the number of Rousey's opponents who have lasted until the end of the first round. It also stands for the number who have managed to avoid being finished with an armbar. Tate is one of seven victims of "Rowdy Ronda," but one of only two to make it out of the first minute.
56: Rousey's accuracy percentage with significant strikes, with perhaps the most significant part being how much more on target she is than Tate, who lands at a 40 percent rate.
20: Tate's takedown defense success rate, which puts her at great risk of being taken to the canvas -- a.k.a. Ronda's workshop.
Rousey defeats Tate for the Strikeforce championship
In last year's meeting, Tate was aggressive from the start, coming across the cage and landing a bracing jab before the fight was five seconds old. Miesha stayed on the offensive, and Rousey quickly adjusted. When Tate next closed the distance, Ronda used her judo to take the fight to the ground. She worked her way into position to secure an armbar, but Tate got free and seized a dangerous position behind Rousey. It was a good fight for most of the first round.
But with about a minute and a half left, Rousey used a hip toss to take Tate back into her office. And once on the mat, Ronda transitioned into a cleaner armbar position and finished with a gruesome, elbow-dislocating submission.
What did we learn? Well, although Rousey has been dismissive of her opponent's skills -- "I'm an Olympic athlete and she's a high school wrestler," she said on Jim Rome's radio show on Thursday -- Tate did show that she can at least pose a challenge on the canvas. And for the record, Miesha does have international competition on her resume, having won a silver medal at the 2008 FILA grappling world championships.
But that was then and this is now. Rousey was a few weeks short of a year into her pro MMA career when she first tangled with Tate, who already had 14 fights under her belt in a career dating back to 2007. Miesha has since has a tough time, pulling off a late submission to dodge an upset by Julie Kedzie, then getting TKO'd by Cat Zingano in a bout she was winning. As for Ronda, she's had another year of training and two more victorious fights. An Olympic-level athlete can do a lot with that.
Ronda Rousey spent a few minutes with SI.com on Thursday evening:
SI.com: Nature vs. nurture is a debate among psychologists. Are we born a certain way, or are we shaped by the way we're brought up? I raise this subject with you because you were born to a woman who was an elite athlete, so it's in your genes, but your mom also raised you. So how much of your success was upbringing, and how much was your destiny?
Rousey: I don't really think it was destined, because my sisters didn't do sports to the extent that I did. They weren't really that interested. But I was interested, and that's why my mom invested the time and energy. I was predisposed to have the physical abilities to do this, maybe more so than other kids. But my mom, in addition to being a champion, has a Ph.D. in psychology, and I was given a helpful environment. So yeah, I benefitted greatly from circumstances outside my control, but ultimately the decision to pursue this was mine.
SI.com: You mention both the physical side of competing and the mental. How do you weigh each factor's importance when an athlete is competing at the highest level?
Rousey: People say it's 90 percent mental because everybody at this level is in amazing shape. So it comes down to who can best use their physically refined body. In fighting, the best is not the one who's strongest or jumps the highest; if that were the case, we'd have a bunch of bodybuilders and long jumpers in there. You have to be at a high tier of physical ability, but what separates all those high-tier physical specimens is the mental part.
SI.com: One aspect of your mental game that I've heard you talk about is your ability to compete with no emotion.
Rousey: Yes, when I step in the cage, I have no 10-minutes-ago or 10-minutes-from-now, I'm entirely in the present. I'm just observing everything, with no opinion. I have no emotion.
SI.com: Is maintaining that going to be harder for you than ever this time? Have you ever competed against anyone you disliked as strongly as you dislike Miesha?
Rousey: There were plenty of people in judo who I didn't like and I fought all the time. I've been competing since I was 11 years old. This isn't my first rodeo. And ever since I was a little kid, I've always had rivals. There was another kid in my age division, and we always fought each other in the finals. And if I was at a tournament, and that other kid wasn't there, I would actually be less focused and perform not as well.
SI.com: OK, before I let you go, one more thing. I've heard that after you won your Olympic medal in judo but before your MMA career got started, you worked as a bartender. So a man walks in your bar and says to you, "Mix me a Miesha Tate." What are you putting in his glass?
Rousey: [Laughs.] Well, there was one customer who always was very, very rude, and never tipped me. And he always demanded a chilled glass for his beer. So I would take this cup, spit in it, rub the spit around, and put it in the refrigerator to let it chill. Then I'd pour him a beer into his chilled spit cup.
SI.com: So we're calling that drink a Miesha Tate?
Rousey: It's spit and beer.
Rousey is the huge favorite, with a -800 money line (bet $100 to win $12.50) to Tate's +550 (bet $100 to win $550).
If her prefight words match her true training camp actions, Tate seems to have put all of her eggs into one basket. Or one arm sling or cast. Miesha has said she's focused her energy on stopping the armbar, which is her way of telling us she believes Rousey is a one-trick pony. That's a reasonable supposition, considering that Ronda has done nothing but armbar everyone within reach. And I suppose neutralizing the big weapon would at least make this a fight. But unless Ronda loses her head -- will her bitter dislike for Tate filter into her no-emotion mental game? -- I have a hard time imagining her walking out of the octagon without the championship belt. Rousey by Peruvian necktie ... no, just kidding, it's going to be another armbar.
Rousey used her trademark armbar to defeat Tate when they fought in March 2012. (David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about Rousey vs. Tate II on Twitter. Track the hashtags #RouseyTate2 and #UFC168 to see who's tweeting what about Saturday's fight.
· Preliminary card (5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Chris Leben vs. Urijah Hall, middleweight; Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson, lightweight; Dennis Siver vs. Manvel Gamburyan, featherweight; John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada, welterweight.
· Online prelims (4 p.m. ET, UFC's Facebook/YouTube pages): William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker, welterweight; Robbie Peralta vs. Estevan Payan, featherweight.
· Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow, and Joe Rogan will provide analysis for the PPV and prelims on Fox Sports 1, Facebook and YouTube. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 2.
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