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Coming off a sobering title loss to then-super-prodigy Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate took on WMMA pioneer Julie Kedzie in a fight that is now regarded as an all-time classic. Kedzie made her professional MMA debut in 2004 and had fought a who's who of fellow pioneers. Despite her experience, Kedzie was 16-10 and had lost her Strikeforce debut against Alexis Davis. Tate was a heavy betting favourite as the line closed at -500 on the night.
After the first round of action, it was Kedzie who looked as though she should have been the betting favourite. Swinging right off the bat, Kedzie rattled off a few striking combinations which ended with a clean head kick that rocked the former champion. Despite being wobbled, Tate recovered fairly quickly and forced the fight onto the fence to regain her senses. Kedzie, however, would not budge so easily. Reversing the position on the fence, Kedzie threw a clean elbow that forced a panicked takedown attempt from Tate. Kedzie punished each of the three failed takedown attempts that would occur in the opening round, landing shots to the body and head of Tate. Looking incredibly laboured on the feet, Tate continued to absorb shot after shot from Kedzie including a perfectly-executed side kick to the chest that sent her to the canvas.
Kedzie looked like the best bantamweight in the world as Tate looked anything but. In the second round, however, Tate managed to initiate grappling exchanges that were not born out of sheer desperation. Shutting down Kedzie's excellent striking on the feet, Tate circled to Kedzie's back and unleashed successive punches and elbows before working in a rear-naked choke. Kedzie somehow survived the onslaught on the ground and, going into the final round, it seemed as though the tide had changed in favour of the former champion.
Kedzie put a disappointing second round behind her from the jump, dropping Tate with a leg kick and pummeling her with a side kick to the body the second she got back to her feet. More leg kicks and body kicks followed as Tate started to drop her guard to defend her midsection. Noticing the defensive adjustment Tate had made, Kedzie threw another kick - this time, connecting cleanly with the skull of Tate who went crashing to the canvas. Kedzie followed up with hammerfists and elbows that would have put most fighters out but Tate somehow stayed conscious amidst the barrage of strikes. A few months prior to this fight, Rousey had submitted Tate with an armbar to take her belt. In one swift movement, while no doubt still dazed from Kedzie's head kick, Tate isolated Kedzie's arm and immediately cranked on it. A few moments later, it was over.
It's hard not to feel for Kedzie in retrospect - she had Tate dead to rights in that final round - but this would be a theme of Tate's fights to follow. You could never, ever count her out. After all, she would go on to win the UFC Bantamweight title four years later with a last-ditch rear-naked choke in a fight that Holly Holm was handily winning.
UFC Fight Pass subscribers can watch the fight here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/41064/miesha-tate-vs-julie-kedzie-strikeforce-rousey-vs-kaufman
The fight is also available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwP6tnuxZA