Before Fedor Emelianenko fights Dan Henderson in the main event of Saturday’s Strikeforce broadcast on Showtime, Strikeforce Women’s 135 pound champion Marloes Coenen will defend her title against Miesha Tate. Coenen retained her championship in March by surviving an onslaught to submit a very tough Liz Carmouche at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson. While it was an impressive comeback victory, it called Coenen’s ability to fight at the highest level of the sport into question, as champions generally don’t take so much damage in their victories (but perhaps Coenen was taking a page out of Anderson Silva’s playbook, as like Silva, Coenen finished Carmouche with a triangle choke). Tate was most recently the winner of a 4-woman tournament last August, as she was able to beat Maiju Kujala and Hitomi Akano on the same night.
There are areas in which both women have clear, significant advantages. Coenen will go into this fight as almost certainly the better striker, and the better grappler. The ground game is where Coenen specifically excels, as 14 of her 19 career wins are by submission, including the triangle choke of Carmouche, and armbars of Sarah Kaufman and Roxanne Modafferi. If Tate decides to take Coenen to the ground, she’ll have to be constantly aware of Coenen’s submission abilities.
With that said, Tate is definitely the better wrestler, and it’s likely that she will indeed take Coenen to the ground. Once there, Tate will need to avoid being submitted for five rounds (as this is a championship fight); not an easy task. However, Coenen’s trial by fire against Carmouche may give Tate a lot of confidence. It’s certainly possible that Tate will take Coenen down consistently and be able to avoid being submitted. I fully expect this to be a very tough fight for both competitors.
Along with being the better striker and grappler (on paper), Coenen will bring more experience into this fight. This is a double-edged sword. While Coenen has fought Carmouche, Kaufman, Modafferi, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, and fighters like Erin Toughill earlier in her career, Tate only has a handful of fights against quality opponents, and none as good as Kaufman or Santos. On the flip side, Coenen has been fighting for over ten years now, and while my study on the 9-Year Rule pertained to men’s fighting, it’s unlikely that women’s careers would last longer in general. I wonder if Coenen’s struggles against Carmouche are indicative of a decline, or if it was merely a very tough style match for Coenen.
SILVA PREDICTION: MARLOES COENEN (31.26) OVER MIESHA TATE (28.05)
Note that SILVA wasn’t designed for women’s fighting, and might not necessarily be the best tool to use to objectively measure how good each woman is. With that said, the relatively close SILVA scores correspond very well with the betting lines on this fight. Tate’s wrestling style presents a clear threat, and it’s likely that Coenen will have to fight off her back in search of a submission victory. However, Coenen is the more skilled, experienced fighter, so in terms of predicting who will win the fight, Coenen has to be the pick.