She certainly had the marketability and wins to earn a rematch against the champ Sarah Kaufmann but Miesha Tate wasn't just handed a shot at the Strikeforce 135-pound women's title. Strikeforce chose a different route for the northern California-based fighter. They made her the centerpiece of a one-night, four-women tournament. It was all or nothing, and she came up big. Tate got two wins, including a hard-fought grapplefest against the very dangerous Hitomi Akano to earn her shot at Kaufman at Strikeforce Challengers 10 in Phoenix.
Marloes Coenen get the first shot against Kaufman sometime in the fall.
"My submission defense is one of my strong points. (Akano) was the one I wanted to fight the most in the tournament," said the proud Tate. "Sarah you're amazing. I can't wait to fight you again."
Kaufman can defend her title successfully against Coenen, it'll be Tate's second chance at the Canadian. The 23-year-old Tate lost a decision to Kaufman last October.
"It’s a dream come true. I came here on a mission and I accomplished my goal," said Tate.
She could've very easily missed out on her shot. The tournament required Tate (11-2) to fight twice in one night. That's a format that has a long history in Japan but most U.S. commissions are hesitant to allow fighters to fight twice in one night. Arizona was game but one change was made. The rounds were shortened from five minutes to three minutes and the first round of the tournament, the fights were only two rounds. It was done to minimize damage but it also made it risky in the opening round for the favorites Tate and Akano.
Tate met the inexperienced Maiju Kujala. A native of Finland, Kujala (4-2) was tough to take down and at times landed the better shots on the feet. Tate escaped with a decision win and didn't take much damage.
Akano (16-8) had to work much harder in her match against Carina Damm. The fight hit the deck early and often, and Damm was the physically stronger fighter. The "Girl Fight Monster" scored the takedowns but had trouble controlling the bigger Brazilian. But Akano's technique was brilliant as she often used Damm's strength against her. In the middle of the second round, Damm had top control but got reversed by Akano, who locked on a modified triangle and got the win via armbar at the 1:48 mark.
"I just used Carina's strength into my reversal technique," said Akano, through her interpreter Shu Hirata. "I went with her flow and got her into the armbar. When I fight Miesha, I will submit her."
Akano, 36, was very dangerous in the final but was a little too small for Tate. Tate scored takedowns in all three rounds and quickly took control of her back. She worked for chokes in the second and third rounds but Akano's submission defense was very solid.