UFC Fight Night 52 card: Miesha Tate vs Rin Nakai fight preview

Andrew Richardson
SB Nation

Miesha Tate and Rin Nakai will battle to determine who deserves a position among the elite this Saturday night (Sept. 20, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 52 inside the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Between these two experienced women, what must be done in order for either to pull away with a victory? Read our fight preview and find out!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Miesha Tate and Rin Nakai will go to war this Saturday night (Sept. 20, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 52 inside the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, live on UFC Fight Pass.

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Tate, despite being one of the most recognizable women in the sport, has seen a rough go of things recently. She's won just two of her last five fights and did not look impressive in either win. In fact, Tate has looked better in her losses, two of which were vehemently given by her arch nemesis, Ronda Rousey.

Nakai has a huge opportunity here. Few other females possess an undefeated record with a majority of her wins coming via finish, making Nakai fairly marketable. Plus, she definitely has a personality, but feel free to look here if there's any doubt.

Without any clear next contender for Rousey to demolish fight, a dominant victory might just earn Nakai a title shot, or at least get her into the discussion.

Now, let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.

Miesha Tate

Record: 14-5

Key Wins: Liz Carmouche (UFC on FOX 11), Marloes Coenen (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson)

Key Losses: Ronda Rousey (UFC 168, Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey), Cat Zingano (The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale)

Keys to Victory: Tate is a powerful wrestler with solid submission skills. Though she's been struggling with her mental game as of late, Tate has largely maintained a very aggressive attack, which has resulted in six submission victories and three knockouts.

Faced with a fellow grappler, Tate's game plan will be to wrestle. Actually, Tate's game plan -- regardless of whether it's the smart thing to do -- is always to wrestle. Even after Rousey countered her double leg with heavy slam reversals over and over, Tate wrestled.

So, I think we can assume Tate will wrestle.

Luckily, Tate's forward pressure and frequent takedown attempts should work well against Nakai, who has fought much of her career inside a ring and is usually the one chasing takedowns, meaning that she'll be inexperienced when Tate pushes her up against the fence with a shot.

Though Tate should match up well with Nakai stylistically, no one really knows exactly how far developed the Japan-native's martial arts game really is. Therefore, Tate needs to be wary during grappling exchanges.

She certainly cannot afford to mentally relax at any point. In her bout with Carmouche, Tate repeatedly allowed Carmouche to win the battle for underhooks without much effort. Tate may have been the superior fighter, but she nearly gave away that bout.

Against an undefeated up-and-comer like Nakai, that's simply not good enough.

Rin Nakai

Record: 16-0-1

Key Wins: Sarah D'Alelio (Pancrase 258), Tara LaRosa (Pancrase 252)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: Nakai is something of an unknown. It's clear that she's a clinch heavy grappler with some effective submission skills and physical strength. Her determination is also apparent, as she literally spent a majority of the bout with D'Alelio hunting for a kimura.

Against Tate, it might be best for Nakai to test the waters on her feet early. Tate has a decent amount of pop behind her punches, but her technique is far from perfect. in addition, her defense is fairly shaky, meaning Nakai will have opportunities to find her chin.

If Nakai does have the advantage on her feet, she needs to then focus on avoiding Tate's shots. Nakai may struggle a bit if Tate can get deep on a double, but she should still feel at home within the clinch.

Should Nakai feel uncomfortable striking with Tate, it's certainly worth a shot for her to pursue a clinch takedown. Tate's historically had some pretty sound takedown defense -- Rousey is the exception, not the rule -- but she fought so lazily against "Girl-Rilla" that Nakai might as well go for it.

"Cupcake" is likely to give Nakai a difficult challenge, but it's time for one of the women's bantamweight division's highly regarded prospects to be tested.

Bottom Line: This is a pivotal bout for both women.

Tate needs to prove that she's still a title contender. With a win, she does just that and will continue to get some of the bigger-name fights. Since the women's bantamweight division is so thin, there's even a chance she someday contends with Rousey for the title again.

Rivalries sell.

Should Tate lose, she's looking at a major drop in the rankings. In addition, the idea of Tate being an elite fighter would dissipate. Tate may not be the best in the world anymore, but she's not yet at the point where she's losing to debuting unknowns.

Nakai has a huge opportunity on her hands. The division is wide open, and Nakai could earn a title shot with a dominant win here. At worst, she places herself in position for a title eliminator and within arm's reach of the belt.

A loss to Tate would not be devastating; it would be expected. Tate is a former champion, recent title challenger, and currently holds a top-five ranking. That's a lot to ask a debuting fighter to handle, even if she has a relatively large number of professional wins.

At UFC Fight Night 52, bantamweights Miesha Tate and Rin Nakai will battle in Japan to extend their win streaks. Which combatant will emerge victorious?

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