In a year that already has proved to be massive for the UFC, with one major card after another, UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York looks to be the biggest and most important of them all. In honor of such a marquee event, ESPN.com is providing dedicated previews to all 13 bouts on the card, breaking down what's at stake and projecting who will win, along with quotes and statistics for each fighter.
Women's bantamweights: Miesha Tate (18-6) versus Raquel Pennington (8-5)
Odds as of Nov. 4: Tate -185; Pennington +160
Dana White's thoughts
"I like both of their fighting styles. Miesha is nasty. She's tough, durable and super well-rounded. One of the most durable women I've ever seen. Yeah, she got her nose smashed in her last fight with Amanda Nunes, but she's so tough. And this is another tough fight for her. The women's divisions right now, 115 and 135, are stacked, lot of good fights and they are very exciting."
What's at stake?
Tate: "Once you've tasted that life, it's addictive"
A few weeks after losing her title to Nunes at UFC 200, Tate flew to Kansas City to corner a friend. After the event, Tate rented a car and drove the 1,400 miles back to her home in Las Vegas, alone.
As it turned out, that trip wasn't long enough for Tate. The minute she got home, she traded in the rental for her own car and continued driving -- first to Los Angeles and then up the coast to Washington.
In all that time of reflection, did she ever reach a conclusion as to why she fought poorly in her first title defense? If she did, Tate's keeping it to herself.
"I wish I could say it was one certain thing," Tate said. "Sometimes you just have a bad night. I had a great camp. I trained hard. Not everything was perfect, there were a lot of difficult things going on in my personal life, but that's not the reason I lost. When the cage door closes I have one job, and I didn't execute that."
Tate, 30, says her career is in a far better place than one year ago when she was publicly contemplating retirement after the UFC didn't come through with a promised title shot.
She's open to big fights and has made headlines by stating she'd be open to one against a heavier Cris "Cyborg" Justino (and a trilogy fight against Ronda Rousey) -- but says reclaiming the title is still very much the goal. Tate's climb to the top was one of the best stories of early 2016 and she'd like to repeat that in 2017.
"During that drive, I reminded myself that I didn't get to where I'm at based on one fight," Tate said. "I get asked the 'Cyborg' question and I say, 'Yeah, show me the money.' But I want the title. Once you've tasted that life, I think it's more addictive. It's one thing to wonder about it, it's another to know exactly what it is."
Pennington has "everything to gain"
Pennington broke into the UFC in 2013, as a contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series. She was the third pick of one of that season's coaches, who just happened to be Tate.
When Pennington describes Tate's role on the show, she puts air quotes around the word "coach." By her account, Tate was mostly hands-off as far as daily practices went.
There was one major exception, however. Pennington says other members of Tate's team refused to roll with her after a while, saying she went too hard. When Tate brought it up, she had a quick response.
"She said I needed to tone it down, and I was like, 'You're not even out here. You should come roll with me and then tell me I'm a bad partner,'" Pennington said.
The two ended up working so well together, Tate flew Pennington back out to Las Vegas to help her prepare for a title fight against Rousey later that year.
Pennington is now focused on her own title run, which has seen her win four of her past five fights. The only loss during that stretch came via split decision to Holly Holm, in a fight Pennington thinks she won. A win against her former "coach" and champion Tate would be the biggest of her career.
"I'm not looking to put extra pressure on myself, but in reality, this is the biggest fight card in UFC history," Pennington said. "Miesha has established a huge name for herself, and we have a storyline from our relationship on TUF. There's a lot going on as far as all that, but I just see it as another stepping stone towards my goal.
"I'm right there for a title shot, and I have everything to gain off this fight."
Tate: 18-6 record (5-3 UFC); 5-fight win streak snapped in loss to Nunes
Tate: Scored takedowns in 6 of 8 UFC fights (9 total takedowns)
Pennington: 8-5 record (5-2 UFC); 3-fight win streak
Pennington: +71 significant strike differential in UFC fights (356-285)
The top of this female bantamweight division has featured an extreme clash of styles of late. Rousey the judoka. Holm the boxer. Tate the submission wrestler. Now, Nunes, a heavy hitter.
Pennington isn't as easy to define. She's a slick boxer with good head movement, but she'll also bite down on her mouthpiece and throw when she feels she has opponents trapped near the fence. She has leaned on her wrestling enough that we definitely know it's there and actually, although she classifies mostly as a striker, both of her UFC finishes have come via submission.
Still, Tate figures to have a grappling advantage, especially if she's able to create scrambles with regularity. Tate has always flourished when a fight falls under a little chaos. Pennington is good at minimizing that because of her IQ and range awareness, plus a familiarity with Tate's grappling ability can't hurt.
Prediction: Pennington via decision.