The near upset of Valentina Shevchenko by Taila Santos at UFC 275 thrilled Miesha Tate. It was also a bit bittersweet for the former bantamweight champion.
Two weeks out from her octagon debut at 125 pounds, Tate realized she was a little too late to show the world how to beat the longtime reigning flyweight champion.
“The worst thing is that I already knew it,” Tate said Monday on MMA hour. “Now the rest of the world knows it. I already believe it. I didn’t want Valentina to look any less indestructible. I wanted her to stay where everyone thought she was so unbeatable, because I already knew I could do that.
Last Saturday in Singapore, Shevchenko picked up a split decision win after the toughest title defense of his career. Santos repeatedly won grappling exchanges early in the fight and survived a tough time in the championship rounds when she suffered a broken eye socket due to an accidental headbutt. One judge gave Santos the first three rounds, but the others scored it for Shevchenko, with one inexplicably awarding the champion four rounds.
“Honestly, in my first impression, I thought Talia won the first three rounds,” Tate said. “Going back and watching it, I could see an argument where Valentina, whichever you prefer, could have won the fight. But in my mind, I still feel like Talia Santos won it. , mostly because I think the visual of the eye, which I believe is mostly from the headbutt, was calculated in the minds of the judges, however, it really shouldn’t have been, because it It was a fault, basically.
Eight years ago, “Cupcake” Tate shocked the world by defeating Holly Holm to win the UFC bantamweight title nine years after starting his MMA career. She wanted to shock him again against Shevchenko, and had seen hints of weakness in the champion’s previous title defense against Jennifer Maia. Now it was clear.
“So for me, it’s kind of like, ah, it’s been shown,” Tate said. “Now people are going to believe in me more so they can do it. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be the huge underdog. I wanted everyone to count me. I wanted no one to think five-year-old Miesha Tate retired, two kids, coming back 2-1 in the UFC, could take out Valentina Shevchenko. But now I think people can see that a little bit of what I said holds water. I don’t don’t know if it benefits me, but anyway, the game plan hasn’t changed.
If anything, it became even clearer. If Tate is able to defeat former title challenger Lauren Murphy, currently the No. 2 ranked flyweight in the UFC (and No. 5 in the MMA Fighting World Rankings) on July 2 at UFC 276, she will be catapulted into title contention. She’ll be about to realize this underdog story and cash those underdog checks.
The odds might not be so attractive next time around.
Tate has been around long enough not to let those thoughts interfere with his next task. Like her, Murphy is a strong grappler and is quite capable of grinding her down. There’s one last hurdle before she even has an argument to contest for the belt. She doesn’t expect Santos to get another one via an immediate rematch.
“I don’t think so, because unfortunately I think it’s just that Taila isn’t a big enough name,” Tate said. “And it’s sad to say. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I’m a big fan of her, especially after this performance. I thought she was fantastic. However, I just don’t think the UFC is going to do an immediate – how often do they do immediate rematches for contenders? Almost never. Now, if Taila had won, I absolutely think a rematch would happen. But I think a lot of that will be up to Valentina, and she’s already mentioned my name.
Indeed, Shevchenko dropped Tate’s name during the post-fight press conference, indicating that a second go-around with the Brazilian challenger was not his preference. For Tate, that’s the advantage of being a former champion and a proven draw.
“I know she wants to beat me – it’s no secret,” she said. “I feel like everyone wants to fight me. I’m the uncrowned queen. I’ve got the target on my back almost as big as any champion. Everyone wants to pull out the ‘Cupcake’. But we’re going to do it on July 2, and I think Valentina and I are going to stick together. That’s the plan.”
Adding another UFC belt to his collection would be an incredible achievement for Tate, who left the sport in 2016 to start a new chapter in his life. What would make it more rewarding this time around, she said, is taking it from Shevchenko.
“Valentina Shevchenko is such a dominant champion,” Tate said. “It’s so hard to do. I failed to defend. I just have so much respect for all those women and athletes who are able to successfully defend over and over again, because going with the imagery that she had, that happens in fights, and you still fight the next best person, the next hungriest person who knocked out all the competition. It is therefore not an easy task. So I have a lot of respect for her. But as far as legacy goes, that’s gonna take the cake for me.