The biggest fights that could be made lost their luster on Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean that the fans didn’t get an epic night in exchange.
Now, with two epic upsets in the books, we look forward toward what is next for Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and the rest of the night’s stars.
The co-main event was the longest fight of the night and arguably brought the most drama.
In the first round, Holm seemed to get the better of the feeling out process, outpointing Tate and avoiding the takedowns.
The second round saw the momentum swing in Tate’s favor as she was able to get the champion to the ground and maintain top position comfortably. While she didn’t inflict devastating damage, her late submission attempt gave the building the kind of juice that had been lacking during the undercard.
Holm controlled the distance in the third, fourth, and fifth and it was here that I was most disappointed. So many factors had conspired to keep Tate out of the title-match, now with her opportunity slipping away she seemed to just allow Holm to control the pace.
A late takedown attempt changed everything. Tate found her way to her opponents back but had to earn the submission attempt as Holm executed a forward flip in an attempt to shake her loose. The champion elected to go out on her shield and did not tap as Tate locked in the rear-naked choke that sent Holm into unconsciousness.
Tate’s victory was the culmination of a dream for a fighter who twelve months ago was considered all but irrelevant in the division. But even now, the shadow of the sports biggest cross-over star looms over her future.
The gold may be around Tate’s waist, but it remains Ronda Rousey’s world. For the same reason that McGregor was given top-billing over the title fight, Rousey will get the next shot whenever it may be. She is that valuable to the company.
Now, common sense is that the UFC will look to put Tate-Rousey 3 together in the same manner that they did with the welterweight title several years ago. At the time, Georges St. Pierre vs Nick Diaz was the biggest money fight in the division. When GSP was sidelined for a year, Carlos Condit fought Diaz and earned his shot at the undisputed title. GSP faced Condit on his return, but fought Diaz afterward despite the fact that the latter had lost his previous fight.
Rousey-Holm 2 is a huge payday down the line for the UFC. But it makes more money with the belt on the line so it stands to reason that the trilogy between Rousey and Tate will take place first.
Of course, that is assuming that Rousey can defeat Tate a third time. The odds are in her favor after having defeated the champion twice before in dominant fashion. That said, Tate has never looked better and was certainly at her career-best in defeating Holm. With Rousey coming off such a monumental loss, one that could affect her mentality in the cage, the champion has her best chance to finally exact her revenge on the MMA superstar.
For Holm, being patient here may be more crucial now than it was after defeating Rousey. Assuming Rousey can defeat Tate again, the biggest bout on the radar would be the rematch with Holm. Despite coming off a loss, Holm is still high enough on the rankings and holds enough interest that the UFC could conceivably put her right back in a title match despite coming off a loss.
Now, she puts another big pay-day and her potential title-shot at risk if she chooses to fight in the interim against someone like Amanda Nunes who was also victorious on Saturday night.
For now, Miesha Tate has silenced the doubters who said she could not come through for herself in big moments. But there’s unfinished business with Ronda Rousey that can’t come soon enough.