UFC Vegas 43: Tate Looks to Continue Comeback Run Against Vieira

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 19: (L-R) Opponents Ketlen Vieira of Brazil and Miesha Tate face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on November 19, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Ketlen Vieira is looking to break into the title picture with a high profile win, but the Miesha Tate comeback tour looks to roll on at UFC Vegas 43.

Go back to 2018 and Ketlen Vieira had all the makings of a breath of fresh air.  Undefeated at 10-0 and with four UFC appearances under her belt, the Brazilian contender was seen as the dark horse to breakthrough and shake up the trifecta of Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm, and Germaine de Randamie in the title picture.  A knee injury that year derailed those plans, and she was stunned in her return against Irene Aldana.  Since then, Vieira has gone 1-1 in defeating Sijara Eubanks but losing to fellow contender Yana Kunitskaya.

While it would appear that several other women are ahead of Vieira in the line to challenge Nunes, some suspect the division could see a potential turnover soon. As the champion appears to be approaching a complete sweep of the contenders at both bantamweight and featherweight, the hunt for new challenges could see her take aim further down the rankings or even a decision to leave the sport on top.  All of this would lead to scenarios where Vieira could find herself in a title fight in the near future, especially if she records a high profile victory on Saturday.

When former champion Miesha Tate returned, it was to a unique situation.  She remains one of the most famous and well-known fighters in any of the women’s divisions (and in MMA overall) despite her five year layoff.  However, she also suffered the same disadvantage in that she had already been dominantly dispatched by Nunes and there was little demand for a rematch considering she’d been considered permanently retired since their last encounter.  Her workmanlike victory over the now retired Marion Reneau in July was impressive considering her time away, but it was not the rousing beatdown that had many projecting a drastically different rematch with the champion.

Similar to Vieira, Tate can see herself back in the title conversation sooner rather than later.  Considering that Nunes is widely expected to defend her belt against Julianna Pena, the future of both divisions is expected to be a major talking point.  As of this writing, the only thing that could cause a shakeup at featherweight is the addition of Kayla Harrison to the UFC.  At bantamweight, a trilogy with Valentina Shevchenko would seem to be the only option that would raise the stock of Nunes.  Should it not come to pass, then opponents coming off only one or two victories in a row in Vieira or Irene Aldana would be the only new competition available.  In the latter scenario, a fight with the more well-known Tate to sell on pay-per-view would be as marketable as any fight that could be made for Nunes.

Stylistically, the multi-faceted attack of Vieira figures to pose serious problems for Tate.  As one of the bigger athletes at bantamweight who is both an adept striker and proficient grappler, Vieira should look to keep the fight at mid-range where she is expected to control the distance with her reach.  The biggest challenge will be for Tate to get inside where she can use her volume and her wrestling to neutralize Vieira.  While Vieira has been scheduled for championship bouts outside the UFC, Tate is the only one of the two who has fought past the third round should the fight go into the later rounds.

Depending on the outcome and decisions of the next month or so, the winner on Saturday is expected to have a more clear definition on the timeline of their next fight following the result of the Amanda Nunes vs Julianna Pena fight in December.  While a title shot may not be next, they would likely secure one should they win one more fight which is expected to be against either Irene Aldana or Germaine de Randamie.