Taila Santos’ near-upset of Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 275 thrilled Miesha Tate. It was also a little bittersweet for the former bantamweight champ.
Two weeks away from her octagon debut at 125 pounds, Tate realized she had arrived a little too late to show the world how to defeat the long-reigning flyweight champ.
” The worst thing is that I knew it already,” Tate stated Monday at The MMA Hour . It is now known by the entire world. I already believe this. I didn’t want Valentina to look any less indestructible. I wanted her to stay where everybody thought she was so unbeatable, because I already knew I could do that.”
This past Saturday in Singapore, Shevchenko took home a split decision win after the toughest title defense of her career. Santos repeatedly won grappling exchanges in the early part of the fight and survived a tough stretch in the championship rounds when she suffered a broken orbital due to an accidental headbutt. Santos was awarded the three first rounds by one judge, while Shevchenko won the second round. The other judges scored Shevchenko’s victory for Shevchenko. One of them, however, gave Santos four rounds.
“I honestly, in my first impression, thought that Talia won the first three rounds,” Tate said. “Going back and watching it, I could see an argument where Valentina, depending on what you favor, could have won the fight. But in my mind, I still feel like Talia Santos won it, especially because I think that the visual of the eye, which I believe primarily came from the headbutt, was calculated in the judges’ minds, however, it really shouldn’t have been, because it was a foul, essentially.”
Eight years ago, “Cupcake” Tate shocked the world by out-grappling Holly Holm to capture the UFC bantamweight title nine years into her MMA career. She wanted to shock it again versus Shevchenko, and had seen hints of a weakness in the champ’s previous title defense against Jennifer Maia. Now, it was plain.
“So for me, it’s kind of like, ah, it’s been shown,” Tate said. “Now, people are going to believe in me more to be able to do it. I didn’t want that. I was the underdog. Everyone should count me out. I wanted nobody to think Miesha Tate, five years retired, two kids, coming back 2-1 in the UFC, would be able to take out Valentina Shevchenko. Now, people seem to be able to see that a lot of my statements are still valid. I don’t know if that benefits me, but either way, the game plan hasn’t changed.”
It’s become even more clear. If Tate can defeat Lauren Murphy (currently the No. 2 ranked flyweight in the UFC’s rankings (and No. 5 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings) on July 2 at UFC 276, she’ll catapult into title contention. This will bring her one step closer in realizing the underdog story, and earning those title checks.
The odds of success may be less appealing next time.
These thoughts are not a problem for Tate, who has been with her long enough to know that they won’t interfere with her next task. Murphy, like her is strong and can grind her out. She must overcome one more hurdle before she can challenge for her belt. Santos won’t be able to get another belt via an immediate rematch, she says.
“I don’t think so, because sadly enough, I think it’s just that Taila is not a big enough name,” Tate said. “And that’s unfortunate to say. I do not mean that disrespectfully whatsoever. I’m a huge fan of hers, especially after that performance. She was amazing. But, it’s not likely that the UFC will do an instant rematch. How often does UFC do instant rematches with contenders? It’s rare. If Taila won, I believe a rematch would have been possible. However, I believe it will be up to Valentina. She’s mentioned my name .”
Indeed, Shevchenko dropped Tate’s name at the post-fight press conference, indicating a second go-around with the Brazilian challenger wasn’t her preference. Tate sees this as the advantage of Tate being a past champion and a known draw.
“I’m sure she would like to fight me, it’s not a secret,” she stated. “I feel like everybody wants to fight me. I’m the uncrowned queen. My target is almost as large as that of any champion. Everybody wants to take out the ‘Cupcake.’ But we’re going to get it done on July 2, and I think Valentina and I will lock horns. This is the plan
Adding another UFC belt to her collection would be an incredible accomplishment for Tate, who walked away from the sport in 2016 to start a new chapter in her life. What would make it more gratifying this time round, she said, is taking it from Shevchenko.
“Valentina Schevchenko is such an outstanding champion,” Tate stated. It is very difficult. I didn’t have a successful defense. I just have so much respect for all these women and athletes who are able to successfully defend again and again, because going in there with the imagery that she had, this happens in fights, and you’re always fighting the next best person, the next hungriest person who’s been taking out all the competition. So it’s no easy task. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. Legacy wise that will be my greatest accomplishment .”