As a multi-promotion veteran fighting in elite competition for over a decade, Cat “Alpha” Zingano, has had a critical impact on raising the profile of women’s MMA. Her expert, high-pressure grappling style produced some of the most thrilling fights in the first years of women’s MMA in the UFC.
Born, Cathilee Deborah Albert, on July 1, 1982 in Winona, Minnesota, the now 38 year-old Zingano trained in wrestling from the age of 12. Despite finding success in the sport as a four-time all-American and national champion, she had to retire early due to an ongoing knee staph infection.
Zingano sees the birth of her son Brayden as a turning point after which she looked to be able to raise her son independently. She began training and competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, looking again for sporting structure and competition. At her gym, Zingano met her future husband Mauricio Zingano. Having found success in BJJ winning the Mundials World Championship, the transition to MMA was made.
Gaining traction early on with an intense ground and pound style, Zingano found stellar success in MMA from the outset. Winning the inaugural Ring of Fire (ROF) Bantamweight Championship proved to be the first of many pioneering achievements for Zingano.
By her sixth fight, she had also won the ROF flyweight belt, and the Fight To Win (125lb and 130lb) Championships. Zingano brought a level of grappling acumen and relentless force that her opponents couldn’t handle. The excitement that she brought to every fight helped her reputation grow.
Upon entering the UFC, Zingano and Meisha Tate won Fight of the Night for their thrilling title eliminator, a landmark event for women’s MMA.
Both women shone here, with both receiving a $50,000 Fight of the Night prize, for one of the most outstanding back and forth fights of 2013.
After this win however, Zingano’s life tragically changed. Injury prevented her from fighting Ronda Rousey for the title. Then in the following months Mauricio Zingano took his own life. The loss of her husband and coach in such sudden circumstances left Zingano to raise her son Brayden alone.
She endeavoured to keep going in MMA, to show the quality of resilience to her son in the most difficult of circumstances. The world witnessed her incredible return in a career highlight performance against the current UFC Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Zingano was able to survive a very punishing first round then come back and finish Nunes late in the fight. Zingano remains the last fighter to defeat Nunes who is currently the consensus’ greatest female fighter of all time.
Despite subsequently losing to Ronda Rousey in her UFC title fight, Zingano has continued to compete at the highest level of MMA. Zingano’s legacy only appears to grow. Whilst many of Zingano’s early rivals have now retired, the veteran grappler still remains relevant in the upper echelons of MMA.
Finally fighting at her ideal weight class as a featherweight in Bellator, she’s coming off a win, against Gabby Holloway (from Bellator 245). In the wider scheme of things, she’s looking to challenge Cris Cyborg for the title, and today will be fighting Olivia Parker at Bellator 256. Let us know how you think the fight will go in the comments below, meantime, let’s get into 5 of the “Alpha” Cat Zingano’s Best MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Vs. Carina Damm – Crowbar MMA: Winter Brawl (Dec. 10, 2010)
Zingano, in only her fifth fight was fighting a submission specialist and a veteran of 19 fights.
Zingano opens round one with sharp, steep kicks to Damm’s midsection. They over-under clinch with Zingano spinning Damm to the floor. Damm uses butterfly hooks to kick Zingano off her.
After returning to the feet they clinch again. Damm controls Zingano against the cage as they exchange knees but when they move into the open, Zingano secures a trip from the clinch.
From the bottom, as Damm scoots her hips to move, Zingano is pushed back to her feet and lands leg kicks and an axe kick to the grounded Damm before returning into her guard, looking for ground and pound.
Zingano’s pressure sees Damm scoot backwards to the cage wall and here more ground strikes including a hard elbow are landed. In response, Damm adjusts her legs for a triangle submission. Zingano picks Damm up and slams her back down, breaking the grip as the round ends.
Zingano explodes into round two with a lead leg kick, body kick, and rear hand flurry of strikes. This drops Damm in the opening seconds and Zingano jumps into her guard, landing a heavy strike in the process.
Damm grips Zingano’s arms then head to prevent her from posturing up, then kicks her off as she attempts to pass guard. They stand briefly before Zingano rushes forward and body-locks Damm to the matt yet again.
From half guard, Zingano lands several elbows. As Damm tries to escape, Zingano frees her leg then moves to full mount, landing several punches to Damm’s face. Damm tries to defend and control Zingano’s arms but the pressure is relentless.
Damm turns to her side covering her face and after many unanswered strikes, the referee steps in to end the fight at 3 minutes, 37 seconds of round two.
The constant pressure of Zingano coupled with control from top position proved just a bit too much for Damm, the seasoned grappler.
4. Vs. Ivana Coleman – ROF 38 (June 5, 2010)
Zingano opened round one of this fight with a hard, flying knee that backed Coleman up. Zingano then followed with a right hand then clinches, kneeing then elbowing Coleman against the fence.
Coleman proves to be no match for Zingano’s strength and intensity and is tripped to the floor, landing on her back. From side control, Zingano begins landing elbows. Coleman throws her legs up either for submission or escape but Zingano maintains position and continues to land elbows on Coleman’s head.
Zingano moves to knee on belly, whilst continuing her ground and pound. Coleman rolls and Zingano secures back control. Several more punches are landed on Coleman, to which she remains unresponsive, covering up, the referee ends the fight at 1 minute, 54 seconds.
3. Vs. Takayo Hashi – FTW: Outlaws (May 14, 2011)
Zingano was the ‘Fight To Win’ 130lb title holder upon entering this bout.
The fight begins fairly evenly but Zingano started to take control with the clinch towards the end of round one.
This continued in the second round with Zingano pressing Hashi back against the cage and landing knees, elbows and punches from the clinch. From open striking, Zingano was having more success landing leg kicks and right crosses.
In the third round, Zingano seeks the finish with an inverted triangle choke but Hashi escapes. In the last 30 seconds of round three, Hashi jumps guard, looking for a submission and to avoid going to the scorecard.
Zingano slams Hashi down to the matt, then follows up with heavy head strikes which knock Hashi out. The referee steps in at 4 minutes, 42 seconds to prevent further damage.
2. Vs. Miesha Tate – TUF 17 Finale (April 13, 2013)
Zingano and Tate were the first women to win the Fight of the Night in the UFC with Zingano being the first woman to win by TKO in the UFC. Meisha Tate was Strikeforce’s big champion favourite, grappling with a heavy style.
Tate rushes forward as round one begins, using a double underhook grip to take Zingano down. They scramble back up and Tate gets a front headlock grip on.
As Tate tries to snap Zingano down, the position is reversed and Zingano looks for a standing guillotine. Tate trips Zingano to escape and then lands several right crosses to back Zingano up. From here, Tate secures a single leg takedown to side control.
As Tate goes in for a choke, Zingano reverses to side control. They stand, and after both fighters land strikes, Zingano is taken down again. Zingano is able to control Tate’s chin to return to standing and lands a heavy knee as they break. Tate pushes off Zingano’s face to stand up, angering Zingano
Zingano opens round two with a partially-landing flying knee. Tate catches a subsequent body kick which she converts to a takedown and half guard. Tate lands several punches and moves to top mount after which Zingano rolls to her back and Tate moves to a belly-down armbar which Zingano steps over.
Tate gains the top position as they scramble, but Zingano reverses. Tate looks for a leg lock but Zingano is able to land strikes to defend and maintain top position. Zingano lands several strikes before Tate returns to standing, clearly fatigued.
Zingano looks fresher in round three and secures a takedown early on, then she unleashes fury with her strikes, and no matter which way Tate rolls and turtles, Zingano follows.
As Tate returns to standing, Zingano lands repeated knees, bloodying her opponent with strikes and heavy punches that send her to the floor. The referee stops the contest here at 2 minutes, 55 seconds of round three.
1. Vs. Amanda Nunes – UFC 178 (Sept. 27, 2014)
Nunes represented a surging contender in the UFC having amassed eight stoppage finishes in her career with most fights not going beyond the first round.
Nunes has gone on to become the consensus greatest female fighter of all time, with Zingano being the last woman to stop her. It is a testament to the resilience and grappling acumen of Zingano that she was able to outlast the early onslaught of Nunes to then dominate the fight.
The fight begins, and upon clinching, Nunes quickly takes Zingano to the canvas with a trip, landing in half guard but unable to posture up. Zingano works to get an armbar, then a leg entanglement off her back.
Nunes defends against both attempts and stands, kicking Zingano’s legs whilst trying to avoid the retaliatory kicks to her front knee. Nunes lands a heavy right hand as she returns to Zingano’s guard.
This is followed by several damaging strikes as Zingano is unable to stop the onslaught, trying to use her legs to reposition, or looking again to catch the armbar. From a north-south position, Nunes rolls back for a leg lock but Zingano defends and gains top position. They return to the feet.
As they clinch again, Zingano front headlocks Nunes and throws backwards, putting Nunes on her back, which is her best moment in the round. Zingano moves from knee on belly to top mount with thirty seconds remaining but Nunes brings her back to guard.
Round two begins again with a clinch and Zingano executes a takedown from the over-under position to end up in side control. Zingano postures up to land elbows and Nunes repositions to half guard and kicks Zingano, who now looks for leg kicks – a reversal of the first round.
Zingano moves in to strike, then quickly secures a foot then falls back, looking for an ankle lock. Unsuccessful, but still in control, Zingano then passes to half guard, landing several punches to then cut Nunes with an elbow. Both fighters aim for leg locks with Zingano able to maintain control but not landing any heavier strikes.
In round three, they quickly clinch again with the fighters trading knees. Zingano then snaps the head of Nunes down into a front headlock. Again, she rolls backwards to land, threatening a guillotine from top position.
Nunes defends her chin but Zingano moves to mount, landing multiple heavy elbows. Nunes tries to block but most of the strikes penetrate her defence. After several more unanswered shots the referee halts the bout at 1 minute, 21 seconds.