Possibly the biggest compliment I can pay Miesha Tate after this weekend’s fight is that I didn’t even blink when she had her elbow bent in half like a pipe cleaner.
You, gentle reader, might argue that I’ve simply become desensitized to limb-bending from all the Youtube videos I watch of amateur BJJ tournaments - and you’d be right that I’m not jumping on the worst-armbar-evah bandwagon, since watching Tim Sylvia’s forearm get popped like a breadstick was infinitely worse. But that’s not it at all. Until now, top-flight women’s MMA has never seemed to quite match the skill levels you see among the men - Cyborg Santos, the most dominant woman in the division, is only a purple belt in BJJ, and you regularly see quite serious errors in groundwork even during title matches.
Rousey/Tate changed all that. With an Olympic bronze under her belt, Rousey is one of the highest-level judoka ever to compete in MMA (the only better ones I can think of are Satoshii Ishii and Hidehiko Yoshida), and she’s already the most successful in terms of using her base skillset to win fights (8-0 including her amateur record, all by armbar in the first round). Women’s judo is every bit as competitive as men’s, and so what you’re watching during her fights is a genuinely world-class competitor with utter confidence in her skills. Tate is former national champ in wrestling with a solid submission game, and had a huge experience edge on Rousey. The fight they put on wasn’t just a good women’s fight, it was one of the best fights this year - four minutes and twenty-seven seconds of throws, reversals, submission attempts and punching, and not one second of time-wasting or fighting for a decision. When the end came, I was looking at Miesha Tate like I’d look at any other championship-level fighter - someone
fully cognizant of the risks and rewards of trying to escape a fight-ending armbar, and someone completely capable of deciding whether or not to get their elbow dislocated. Tate knew what she was doing, and nobody else can really say anything about it. It was a great fight, and a great night for women’s MMA, and if someone’s going to get their elbow popped in the name of entertainment, then I’d damn well better watch it happen.*
*I didn’t watch the other matches.