What she did have, however, belt or no belt, was the kind of confidence that comes from being a two-time world champion. With her walkout music, "Roar" by Katy Perry playing, Tate let out a scream, just as she left the dressing room, and made her way to the Octagon for the first fight on the #MadisonSquareGarden PPV card.
But, experience would not be enough. Pennington dominated the fight with strikes and through grappling, upsetting the former two-time champ. The judges scored the fight, 29-28 and 30-27 (x2) for Pennington.
"To go against Miesha, I must be doing something right," Pennington said. "She is someone who I have always looked up to. One day, they are your idols, and then they become your rivals."
Pennington won the first part of Round 1 with better striking, and a sharp left jab.
Pennington nearly finished Tate with a guillotine choke midway through the first round. Tate, however, fought it off, three times kicking off the cage like a kangaroo, trying to flip forward and reverse the hold.
Tate eventually pulled out of the choke and took Tate down. She fought to take Pennington's back toward the end of the round, but Pennington fought it off.
Pennington scored again early in Round 2, landing left and right hand combinations.
Tate controlled much of the rest of the round in the clinch, but both fighters landed knees to each others' body. Pennington landed a good flurry to end the round.
Tate came out in Round 3 with a sense of urgency, attempting to tie Pennington up and go for the arm bar. Pennington fought it off and turned it into a front face lock and the two traded submission attempts on the mat. Tate stood up, but Pennington took her down again, landing several combinations before the round ended.
The two embraced after the fight, and Tate kissed her on the forehead as a show of respect.
The victory launches Pennington into the title picture, but it could mean the end for Tate, who abruptly announced her retirement after the loss.
"I am announcing my retirement, you guys," Tate said. "I love you all so much. I have been doing this for more than a decade. I love this sport forever, but it's not my time anymore. It's the future's time."