UFC Women’s Bantamweight ChampionshipMiesha Tate (18-5) vs. Amanda Nunes (12-4)
THE MATCHUP: Nunes’ biggest problem is one that has plagued her throughout her career: her stamina. While Nunes’ last fight was a decision win, her first in 16 bouts, she nonetheless tired badly. Since that fight was also Nunes’ first as a full-time fighter with a top camp, the problem does not seem to be one entirely bred of conditioning. Rather, Nunes seems to struggle to reserve her energy; given the chance to finish, she invariably goes for it. This approach has resulted in 11 first- or second-round finishes, but it has also seen Nunes grab a lead, only for it to slip through her fingers three times in the last five years.
A vulnerability to tough and adaptable opponents would be a death sentence against Tate were it not for Nunes’ excellent finishing ability. Nunes is not only athletic and powerful as a striker, but she is skilled, too. She moves quite well, taking angles and using them to launch smooth combination attacks. Nunes is a vicious low kicker and a capable wrestler, as well -- if one who takes too many risks. On the ground, Nunes has an aggressive, high-pressure jiu-jitsu game. Though she only has two submissions to her credit, Nunes puts her grappling to work in nearly every fight, landing punishing strikes from top position.
Still, that stamina is something to worry about, especially in a five-round fight. Tate is not a flawless striker, but she adapts exceedingly well to her opponents, with the exception of Ronda Rousey; and even then, Tate more than doubled the amount of time she spent in the cage with the “Rowdy” judoka. Tate is very durable and grows less hittable -- and more powerful -- with time.
Of course, wrestling is Tate’s real strength. One of the few true wrestling specialists in the division, “Cupcake” can hit a variety of takedowns, though she specializes in traditional leg attacks. Tate tends to finish with a double-leg from any position and usually winds up in half guard or side control on the ground. Though grappling has always been Tate’s forte, she has not stagnated in that department. The control she showed in her fight with Holly Holm was her best ever, and she was neither too reckless nor too complacent from top position. That willingness to adapt came into play on the floor, as well, as Tate experimented with different ways of taking the fight to the ground and different ways of securing the rear-naked choke.
THE ODDS: Tate (-261), Nunes (+212)
THE PICK: If anyone can knock out Tate, it is Nunes. She is not only powerful but accurate and arguably more technical on the ground. Unless Nunes can put away Tate in the first or second round, however, she will experience an inevitable slide into the jaws of defeat. Tate is tough and smart; she is capable of absorbing punishment and wise enough to find ways around it, all while pushing a pace and pressuring her opponent. Nunes will have her moments and will most likely win the first round, but the longer this fight goes, the more likely a “Cupcake” win becomes. The pick is Tate by fourth-round submission.
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