After she destroyed the notion that Ronda Rousey was invincible, many people jumped right onto the Holly Holm bandwagon.
Suddenly the quiet, unassuming “Preacher’s Daughter” became a star in the UFC after taking Rousey’s bantamweight title. When the Las Vegas-based promotion announced that longtime “Rowdy” rival Miesha Tate would challenge Holm for the throne, a surprising amount of pundits scoffed.
Granted, many an MMA expert believed that Tate’s style would give Holm some problems, but only a handful picked her to score the upset. Most figured that Holm’s pinpoint striking and overall strength would be too much for “Cupcake” to handle, that the Jackson-Wink MMA fighter would retain her title and gear up for a second go-round with Rousey.
In the co-main event of UFC 196 on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Tate tossed a monkey wrench into the engine of the UFC’s hype machine.
“It was meant to be,” Tate gushed to the media at the post-fight press conference. “It turns out that I like gold.”
Although Tate dominated the champion in the second round after taking her off her feet and nearly sinking in a rear-naked choke, Holm was the better fighter throughout the middle of the fight. The boxer jabbed routinely and delivered plenty of front and side kicks into the challenger’s body throughout. Holm won the first, third and fourth rounds before the challenger locked in a textbook rear-naked choke to put her to sleep.
“I was under the chin before she threw me over,” Tate said. “I knew I had to hang on. She is tough as nails. Holly made me a better fighter tonight. I had to gut it out and finish the fight. That’s what I had to do.
“I made it happen,” she added. “My mentality is that it doesn’t matter how many times I get knocked down. It’s how many times you get back up.”
The obvious question going forward for Tate is: who will the new queen of the UFC defend her crown against? Will it be an immediate rematch with Holm? Or will there be a third showdown with her arch nemesis Rousey? Or will Amanda Nunes, who was victories earlier on Saturday night, be the first to try and offset the three-headed monster at the top of the division?
“I don’t have a choice,” the new champ remarked. “It doesn’t matter to me. My job is to show up and defend this belt. My job as the champion is to fight the next best people and that’s what I’ll do.”
Holm was adamant that she wants a rematch with the Washington native, but admitted that she’ll get in line if necessary. As for Tate, she has many an option at her disposal. For now, until the UFC decides who will be her first title defense, Tate said she feels like drinking Budweiser and eating cupcakes. After her come-from-behind performance, she’s earned it.