From the time it was announced, UFC 200 was going to be an event for the history books. As fight day approached, though, it was going in those books for all the wrong reasons.
The first UFC event at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was scheduled to feature a rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.
Then stepping into the main event slot was another big rematch, this one between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. That one lasted until three days before the fight, when a failed drug test pulled Jones off the card.
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Now the UFC had a problem. But as the promotion always does, it found a way to make lemonade out of lemons. Former middleweight champ Anderson Silva agreed to step up to 205 pounds to face Cormier, and there was still the heavyweight bout between returning former champ Brock Lesnar and “The Super Samoan,” Mark Hunt.
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Whew. But who would headline this mega event? Cormier and Silva were future Hall of Famers, Lesnar was a legit superstar coming back to take on one of the most feared knockout artists in the game, and there was also a featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.
Yet on this night in the fight capital of the world, the honor of headlining one of the biggest events in UFC history went to the ladies, as Miesha Tate would defend her bantamweight crown against Brazil’s Amanda Nunes.
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Oddly enough, considering Nunes’ current status as The G.O.A.T. of women’s combat sports, Tate entered the bout as the favorite, a nod to her status as champion and her track record. “Cupcake” was a pioneer of the sport who had been in with the best of the game for years, and after winning four straight in the Octagon, she got her shot at Holly Holm’s bantamweight title four months earlier and scored a come-from-behind submission victory. So Tate was riding high as she prepared to face Nunes, owner of a three-fight winning streak that included a close, but unanimous, decision win over Valentina Shevchenko. Add in the fact that Tate was more than accustomed to the bright lights, and yeah, that favorite role wasn’t an absurd one. But unfortunately for Tate, Nunes didn’t care about the odds or the spotlight. On fight night, she was locked in and on top of her game. And when the bout ended with Nunes victorious via submission at 3:16 of the first round, you wouldn’t be out of line to say that “The Lioness” would have beaten anyone on the planet. That would be proven later. On July 9, 2016, it was just a historic night and the start of a new era.
Here’s how I saw it that night…
When Rafael Dos Anjos lost his lightweight title to Eddie Alvarez on Thursday, Brazil was left without any undisputed UFC world champions. Two nights later, Bahia’s Amanda Nunes rectified that situation, submitting Miesha Tate in the first round of their UFC 200 main event Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to win the UFC women’s bantamweight championship.
“Miesha is a tough opponent, I respect her a lot, but I’m the new champion,” the 28-year-old Nunes said of her win, which came in front of 18,202 fans, a Las Vegas record for a UFC event. And to get it, she just had to take her time.
"My plan for this fight was to work on my patience. I knew I had everything to beat Miesha. I just had to take my time and wait for the right moment."
It came sooner than most expected.
Las Vegas’ Tate got on the board first with a takedown one minute into the fight, but Nunes bounced up immediately, nullifying the move. Moments later, another takedown attempt ended in an even worse fashion as Tate ate a knee on the way up that stunned her. Sensing the finish, Nunes went for it, bloodying Tate with her punches and putting the 29-year-old into a defensive shell. Looking for one last attempt to turn things around, Tate shot for a takedown but Nunes wouldn’t be denied, as she pushed Tate aside and sunk in a rear naked choke that produced a tap out at 3:16 of the first round.
With the win, Nunes moves to 13-4; Tate falls to 18-6. Since Ronda Rousey lost the women's 135-pound title to Holly Holm in November of 2015, each subsequent champion (Holm and Tate) has not made a single successful title defense. Nunes hopes to break that curse, and she's willing to take on all comers to do it.
"I'm the champion," Nunes said. "Whatever (UFC President) Dana White puts in front of me, I'm gonna take it."
As for the former champion, Tate took the defeat with grace.
"I trained very hard for this fight," she said. "I just got caught. I've been telling everybody that Amanda is very worthy to be here. Maybe if we get a chance to do it again, it could be different, but tonight is what it is. It's not about me tonight, it's about Amanda. She did what she came to do and I have the utmost respect for her."