Preview: UFC Fight Night 198 ‘Vieira vs. Tate’

Vieira vs. Tate

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas for one more show before it takes a Thanksgiving break, and the UFC Fight Night 198 main card offers up a solid five-bout lineup. The headliner mostly leverages Miesha Tate’s star power with little else, though the matchups themselves are well-made and intellectually interesting. Tate draws a tough test against Ketlen Vieira and attempts to prove her comeback is for real, while prospects Sean Brady, Taila Santos and Adrian Yanez all have major opportunities to answer some questions and show they have title contender upside. The worry? The stylistic battles themselves could make for griding, ugly fights, but Yanez’s presence and the Rani Yahya-Kyung Ho Kang bantamweight affair should hopefully provide enough action to keep the pace flowing and have the promotion end its November schedule on a high note.

Now to the UFC Fight Night “Vieira vs. Tate” preview:

Women’s Bantamweights

#7 WBW | Ketlen Vieira (11-2, 5-2 UFC) vs. #8 WBW | Miesha Tate (19-7, 6-4 UFC)

ODDS: Vieira (-117), Tate (-103)

It will be interesting to see how far Tate can take this comeback. She started 2016 as the top contender for then-bantamweight champion Holly Holm, who herself was coming off of the memorable knockout of Ronda Rousey, but despite all the hype behind “The Preacher’s Daughter,” it was Tate who pulled off a come-from-behind submission victory to crown herself the new 135-pound queen. The good vibes were short-lived. Tate’s stay at the top wound up just being a bridge to the reign of Amanda Nunes, who quickly dispatched the Tacoma, Washington, native a few months later; and after a disappointingly flat performance against Raquel Pennington, Tate shockingly announced her retirement at just 30 years old. Life seemed to be treating Tate well, so it was just as much of a surprise when her return was announced out of nowhere earlier this year. It figured to be a worthy gambit as long as Tate still had her head in the game. Frankly, women’s bantamweight is not a deep division and really had not changed much since “Cupcake” hung up her gloves. One fight in, the comeback has gone well, as Tate put on a one-sided victory against Marion Reneau in July. While Reneau was a worthy enough first step, the combination of her age and low-output style made her about the best credible opponent for Tate to face in her return. This time around, Tate gets a stouter challenge against Vieira in a five-round fight, which should help answer the questions surrounding the former champion as a potential title challenger.

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Upon making it to the UFC in late 2016, Brazil’s Vieira went from unknown prospect to title contender in short order. After a few grinding wins to get her into the rankings, Vieira pulled off victories over Sara McMann and Cat Zingano that had her firmly in the championship mix at the beginning of 2018. Vieira easily could have snuck into a title fight against Nunes as the best available option, but instead, “Fenomeno” went through what were essentially two lost years of her career. Injuries kept her out of action for over a year and a half, and Vieira’s return fight in late 2019 saw her get knocked out by Irene Aldana. Since then, Vieira has struggled to recapture the momentum she had before her injuries. She handled Sijara Eubanks without much effort, but an ugly decision loss to Yana Kunitskaya in February has knocked the Brazilian down a few pegs in the bantamweight pecking order. It is a bit of a surprise that Vieira gets a main event assignment here, but this does provide an opportunity for her to get the highest-profile win of her career.

While this is a solid litmus test for Tate, this does not figure to be a pretty fight no matter which way it goes. Vieira’s performances are more than the sum of their parts. She mostly finds success with some big single strikes and a grinding clinch game that does not seem like much on paper, but everything fully clicks when backed up with her size, strength and confidence. Still, that dependence on her physicality has given her a clear ceiling at times, most notably in that Kunitskaya fight, as the Russian was a large enough athlete to make those clinch exchanges even, thus turning the match itself into a toss-up. Tate figures to have both the physicality and the wrestling acumen to hold her own with Vieira and likely take the initiative in terms of hunting down takedowns, but there are a few questions about the former champion. How well will she handle getting cracked by Vieira? Tate’s toughness was a calling card for most of her career, but her last few pre-retirement fights were marked by poor reactions to taking damage. Tate seemed to be over those issues in the Reneau fight, but Vieira has the type of power where they still have to be a lingering concern. Then there is the question of Tate’s ability to go five rounds, which is essentially unknown at this point. Tate has proven enough that she deserves the benefit of the doubt against an opponent who mostly just provides physicality as a challenge, but there is plenty of trap potential. It does not figure to be especially clean, but the pick is Tate via decision.

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