Before Alexis Davis was announced as Ronda Rousey’s next opponent there was a lot of speculation about who was next for Ronda. One name that did not get mentioned was Sarah Kaufman. After her impressive win over Leslie Smith in Quebec earlier this week, that should all change. She is now another big win away from being next after Davis.
The win could and should come against Miesha Tate. Kaufman and Tate fought in Strikeforce back in 2009 and they both have evolved tremendously since that fight. After their big wins this week it just makes sense to pair these two up for a number one contender fight.
Here is how they each won and how their next fight might look:
This was the Kaufman that many fans had been expecting. Her first fight in the UFC resulted originally in a SD loss to Jessica Eye which was later overturned to a NC. This came on the heels on her controversial SD win over Smith at Invicta FC 5. Many people felt that Smith won that fight.
There is no such controversy after this win. Kaufman put on one of the best performances of her career. Given that she was one of the early women fighters that helped bring recognition to them it is easy to forget that she is only 28 years old. Essentially, she is right now entering her prime. She looked like it on this night. This was the best we have seen of Kaufman. She had an answer for every problem from the first fight with Smith.
For a veteran of the sport, Kaufman displayed a remarkable ability to continue to evolve into a complete mixed martial artist. Smith fought with her predictable high pace with heart and toughness. The problem for her was that the rest of her style was also predictable for Kaufman. The result was her domination of Smith in the rematch.
When you look at this fight you have to start with the numbers. They are mind boggling. Kaufman landed 232 of 403 total strikes with 202 of 370 of them being significant. Smith’s numbers were 100 of 285 overall and 79 of 243 of significant ones.
In the main event, Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping combined to land 129 of 292 total strikes with 91 0f 243 in the significant category. They did this in five rounds compared to three for Kaufman.
If you combine Kaufman’s numbers with Smith’s they look ridiculous with 332 of 685 total strikes landed and 281 of 613 of the significant ones.
It literally defined non-stop action with 685 strikes thrown in 900 seconds (15 minutes = 900 seconds). When you factor in they also threw a lot of fakes and feints they were in constant motion. You also notice how accurate Kaufman was in this fight landing 58 percent of her overall strikes and 56 percent of the significant ones.
The accuracy came out of the rhythm and timing she established in the opening moments of the fight. First by blocking Smith’s strikes and then with her own combinations. Smith lands head kicks from close range very easily. She also works well in the clinch with her elbows and knees. Then on breaks she will throw combinations that start with her hands and end with a head kick catching her opponent as they are exiting. This was how she dropped Kaufman in the second round of their first fight.
It is also what makes Smith such a difficult matchup for her opponents. She is tall at 5’9″ and fights effectively at a distance, but she also does a lot a work on the inside punishing the body of her opponents, then coming with the head kick. In the rematch Kaufman was able to block that kick consistently right from the first one that Smith threw.
Kaufman started out working combinations and clinch work. She avoided Smith’s strikes and countered with her own. When Smith did land, Kaufman made sure she answered with either multiple strikes or more damaging ones. An example of this happened inside the first minute of the round.
Smith landed a jab and light inside leg kick combo. She then went to throw another jab after a couple of beats. As she went into the punch Kaufman snapped off a well-timed inside leg kick that knocked Smith down. It was a powerful kick, perfectly placed and timed.
Kaufman’s timing was one of the differences in this fight. She landed first and kept Smith off-balance throughout the fight. She looked sharper and quicker than any other fight to date.
If they do pair her up for Tate she will have to look better than she did against Liz Carmouche.
While Kaufman dominated Smith in their fight, Tate had to come on strong to find a way to win. To her credit, she again showed a lot of toughness and heart. Also, Carmouche makes you fight ugly and gritty. Even an ugly win is still a victory in the UFC.
This was Tate’s first win in the UFC. It was a close one and some were not happy with the decision. It was one of those fights though where you can make the case for either fighter.
The story was about Tate weathering a bad first round. Carmouche took her down but did not do much when they went to the ground and the three takedowns are the difference in the round. They were virtually even in strikes with 31 overall for Tate and 7 significant ones and 30 and 8 for Carmouche.
In the second round, Carmouche again got the takedowns but this time was out-struck by Tate (21 to 14 overall and 10 to 4 significant ones) who also had a nice submission attempt.
That momentum from the last half of round two carried over and Tate got the takedown in the third. Again, the striking was close with Tate landing 30 overall and 10 significant while Carmouche scored with 31 overall and 6 significant. Tate also had 4:41 of octagon control in the final round. Combined with the RNC attempt and it was clearly her round.
When Tate fought Kaufman she was purely a score the takedown and then ground and pound kind of fighter. She would take a submission if it was there. Now she aggressively hunts them. Her standup has improved but is not on the level of Kaufman’s. Tate has better wrestling and their jiu-jitsu is close. This would be potentially one of the best fights of the year.
It is also time that Kaufman gets a little recognition in the UFC. They are both ranked in the top five and coming off big wins.
Let’s hope that the UFC does the smart thing and pairs these two up next. A significant win by either would put them next for a title shot pending Cat Zingano’s status.