The First Miesha Tate

(Tate vs. Maxwelll. Courtesy of Strikeforce.)

Miesha Tate got a makeover and it doesn’t look good—for her opponents.

Fight fans last saw “Takedown” in a nine-minute decision loss to Sarah Kaufman in May 2009. Slated to meet Zoila Frausto at Strikeforce Challengers VII on March 26 in Fresno, Calif., Tate strived for improvement after coming up short against Kaufman, who claimed Strikeforce’s vacant 135-pound title against Takayo Hashi at Strikeforce Challengers VI on Feb. 26.

“Striking was definitely my focal point after my Kaufman fight because I feel like I’ve already got good grappling,” said Tate. “My base is wrestling so I think my weakest link was striking, I think by strengthening that, it will help everything else come together.”

In her first fight after the loss, she demonstrated her new skills with a head kick KO over Sara Oriza. She followed up with an armbar victory over Valerie Coolbaugh. Both were special to Tate—she defended her Freestyle Cage Fighting title versus Coolbaugh—but the first knockout of her career was simply “awesome.”

“Considering that my strong point is grappling, it was definitely confirmation that all the work I’ve been putting into my stand-up and becoming more well-rounded is paying off,” said Tate, now 8-2. “I feel a lot more comfortable on my feet and a lot more effective, efficient, stronger, faster.”

The 135-pound fighter credits time spent with trainers at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. for her newfound abilities.

“[We] broke down from head-to-toe, you know and started with just two inches to the left, two inches to the right,” said Tate. “Very small movements and literally picked apart my foot work, picked apart my head movement, picked apart my striking. And we just started over on a clean slate. We started forming habits that were good habits on my feet.”

She’ll need those habits against Frausto, an aggressive undefeated muay Thai stylist. Not looking past the “Warrior Princess,” Tate wants to fight in Strikeforce’s 135-pound tournament—set to begin in April—too. She’s contracted for another fight before May and desires a renewal with the San Jose, Calif.-based promotion. Barring injury, it may happen. Frausto, the tournament and Tate’s progress are all linked to her designs to fight Kaufman again.

“I want to continue to climb the rankings—I just broke the top 10 women. I’m number 10 in the world at this point and I just want to keep climbing those rankings,” said Tate. “Kaufman’s number one and I think I had a really close fight with her. I really learned a lot about myself, I just want to keep going and eventually I want to get another shot at Kaufman and give her a better fight.”

Fighting is her focus, even though her looks lead some to dub her the next “face of women’s MMA,” a burden born by Gina Carano until her stoppage loss to Cris Santos last summer.

“I don’t really want to be the next Gina Carano. I want to be the first Miesha Tate, whatever that means,” said Tate. “If I get more or less fame because of looks or what not, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just coming to the place to fight and be the best fighter that I can be.”

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