There are nights that everyone remembers vividly where they were, and others that blend together. This was one of those events that everyone will remember, as the biggest upset in MMA history took place (Funny thing is it didn’t feature the most lopsided odds on the card, but that is irrelevant at this point). Holly Holm executed the perfect strategy and dethroned the invincible pop culture queen Ronda Rousey in emphatic fashion, landing a thudding head kick just under a minute into the second round and sending the sports and media world into a frenzy.
Is this bad for the UFC that their cash cow was dethroned? Call me crazy, but I think this is one of the best things that could happen for them. Think of the possible pay-per-view sales that a rematch could produce! And remember how Georges St-Pierre came back from his upset loss to Matt Serra? Perhaps Rousey comes back stronger than ever. We’ll have to see.
Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey via KO at 0:59 of the second round
Holm deserves all the credit in the world for her impressive performance. She made it difficult for Rousey to close the distance with her probing jab that continued to connect as Rousey moved forward, prevented Rousey from executing her patented judo throws with exquisite defense, and most importantly, got into Rousey’s head and threw her off of her game. That started the day before at the weigh-ins when she shoved her fist into Rousey’s face to put Rousey into an emotional state, not allowing her to digest her sudden anger. Rousey fought without discipline, allowing Holm to take control of the fight right from the beginning. Yes, Rousey did land a few hard punches, but she threw them without much technique, and ate a hell of a lot more than she landed. Rousey ended up chasing Holm at multiple junctions, throwing wild punches that had no chance of landing. By the end of the first round, it was clear Rousey was in danger of losing her crown.
Holm isn’t the biggest star in MMA (did that happen for Matt Serra? No. Buster Douglas in boxing? No.), but she has certainly ensured that her name will forever be etched into the hallows of MMA history, as opposed to just another name on the ledger of an all-time great. She isn’t invincible by any means, but she is/was a terrible match up for Rousey, meaning she would actually be more likely to lose her title to a different opponent than she would to Rousey when the inevitable rematch happens. Don’t expect her to fight again until UFC 200 as that rematch will probably be the hottest possible fight available.
Rousey looked absolutely devastated following the loss. The loss might be good for the UFC’s business, but not for her brand. Her possible fight with Cyborg Justino has lost a lot of luster now, and her marketing opportunities will still be coming in, just not at the same pace. She is still talented enough to regain her belt, but she will need to become a much more technical striker in order to find success against Holm. She’ll have months to prepare and she may even end up searching for a change in training camps which might be just what she needs (hint: I think it would certainly benefit her). The question is how this loss will affect her fighting style. Will she fight more cautiously? If she does, will she lose the edge that has made her so dangerous? Regardless, I’m excited to see where her career goes now as there is no way I can predict where it goes from here.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated Valerie Letourneau via unanimous decision
It didn’t feature the crazy-violent finish that many expected, but Jedrzejczyk did what she does best in piecing up Letourneau for the duration of five rounds, landing short combination after short combination while landing leg kick after leg kick. Letourneau gained all sorts of respect from everyone watching the fight as she took one hell of a beating and kept moving forward. She even gained an early advantage in the fight by taking Jedrzejczyk to the ground and controlling her for a brief period of time. Jedrzejczyk stopped her momentum with a hard front kick in the first round before slowly taking control of the fight from there, throwing her combinations with ease by the time the fourth round rolled around. Letourneau’s eye was nearly swollen shut as well as a beat purple and red left leg that Jedrzejczyk landed kick after kick onto, but never quit. She received an ovation from the crowd in her post-fight interview indicating massive respect for her toughness and performance. While most hardcore fans were happy with Jedrzejczyk’s performance, it lacked the pizzazz that the UFC was hoping for to turn her into a star. Considering the night will be remembered more for Holm’s upset of Rousey, it may not have mattered if it happened or not.
Mark Hunt defeated Bigfoot Silva via TKO at 3:41 of the first round
There is a reason few people were excited to see the rematch of this fight. Silva has been a shell of himself since he was forced to get off of TRT, leading to a number of early KO/TKO losses for him. Considering Hunt is one of the hardest hitters in the sport, most expected this to end in the first round and that is exactly what happened. What first appeared to be a glancing blow from Hunt until the replay showed a solid connection put Silva on the ground. Hunt followed up with ground strikes before the referee intervened to end the fight. This didn’t answer a lot of the questions that are still out there regarding Hunt, but he did come in much better shape than he showed against Stipe Miocic. If he can maintain his conditioning he can become a serious challenge for anyone in the heavyweight division. Silva can handle the lower half of the division, but that is a far cry from what he was pre-TRT ban.
Robert Whittaker defeated Uriah Hall via unanimous decision
Always a delight when two strikers get together and do exactly what is expected of them. Whittaker put the pressure on Hall the entire fight, not allowing Hall any room to land any of his patented spinning attacks early on. Whittaker’s boxing game was sharp as he landed a large amount of short combinations, which kept Hall from finding any sort of rhythm or timing until the third round when Hall finally quit looking for the perfect shot, as he knew he was down two rounds and had to go for broke. It illustrated Hall’s biggest weakness as he sat back early on far too often. Once he did finally let go he actually landed some shots that rocked Whittaker. Hall is still a top 15 middleweight, but this fight gives more heed to the idea that his victory over Gegard Mousasi was a fluke. As for Whittaker, he showed a more complete grappling game which should help him in his rise up the divisional rankings. It’s easy to forget Whittaker is still just 24, so he could still improve quite a bit.
Jake Rosholt defeated Stefan Struve via unanimous decision
I don’t want to comment much on this fight, as it would have been a better use of my time to take a nap. Struve was far too passive, not using his length at all (at least when standing), allowing Rosholt to get inside his reach time and again and pull him to the ground. I don’t know if he respected Rosholt’s wrestling too much, but Struve didn’t live up to his potential and gave the fight to Rosholt more than Rosholt taking it. Rosholt fought very conservatively as he looked to avoid going into Struve’s guard, doing an efficient job of passing guard and getting side control, though he didn’t do much in terms of delivering damage on the ground. The win should put him into the rankings with Struve dropping out, but there isn’t much else to say about this fight.
Jake Matthews defeated Akbarh Arreola via TKO at 5:00 of the second round
I was expecting Matthews to dominate the entirety of the fight, but Arreola came extremely close to finishing the hometown favorite in the first round with a head kick followed by some ground and pound. Even after that didn’t do the trick, Arreola almost got a finish with a submission. Once Matthews was able to reverse the position, he was in control the rest of the way, landing some heavy GNP to close out the first round and picking up where he left off in the second. Arreola took a lot of damage and even did well to defend at times. Problem is that the times he didn’t left him nearly blind in his right eye as a massive hematoma on his eyelid, causing the doctor to stop the fight and give the fight to Matthews. Matthews is currently Australia’s biggest hope for developing a contender and the UFC wants to tap into the area. Look for him to get a few more favorable fights before getting a real test. Arreola may get cut, but his toughness may keep him around a bit longer as he has proved capable of pulling the upset.
Kyle Noke defeated Peter Sobotta via TKO at 2:01 of the first round
Maybe Noke isn’t finished quite yet. Normally a fairly basic striker, Noke threw out an impressive front kick to the ribs that had Sobotta screaming out in pain as he went to the ground. The kick didn’t finish him off right away as Noke followed up with a number of strikes to the ground before the ref stepped in. There wasn’t much action besides that as they spent the earlier parts circling each other for the most part with Noke staying busier. Noke was able to avoid wrestling in this fight, something that has become a weakness for him the last few fights. Despite that, he is now riding a two-fight win streak. I don’t see him beating people much better than Sobotta, but he’ll be a good lower-tier gatekeeper. This loss really hurts Sobotta as he had a lot of momentum on his side. He is far superior to the version he was in his first UFC stint, but this pretty well establishes his ceiling as well.
Gian Villante defeated Anthony Perosh via KO at 2:56 of the first round
Could this be Villante’s breakout performance that we’ve all expected of him? Villante has teased before, but this was by far his best performance as he was able to avoid any significant damage, something that he has usually taken in his other solid performances. He was patient in looking for openings and hurt Perosh long before landing the one-punch KO for the win. There is a severe lack of new blood at light heavyweight with names like Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson still in the top 10. Can Villante live up to his potential and supplant the vets? If he looks anything like he did against Perosh, I wouldn’t be surprised. Then again, Perosh looked shot as he didn’t offer anything on his feet, allowing Villante to pick him apart easily. At 43, it is likely that Perosh has reached the end of the road as he doesn’t possess the one-punch power that allows fellow fight-geriatric Dan Henderson to remain dangerous despite his advancing age.
Danny Martinez defeated Richie Vaculik via unanimous decision
Martinez put together the most complete fight in his Zuffa tenure, as he did a great job of mixing in takedowns with his boxing, a change in his recent style of just standing and trading. The reward for fighting a smart fight was his first WEC/UFC victory in five tries which also keeps him employed as well. If he continues to efficiently mix things up, he could pick up a few more wins yet as his wrestling is above average. I’m still not crazy about his boxing technique as he largely wings wide open punches that a skilled striker could easily counter, but Vaculik isn’t that. Speaking of Vaculik, I don’t expect to see him in the UFC again as the loss puts him at 1-3. He doesn’t specialize in anything and his lone victory came over Roldan Sangcha-an. For those asking who that is, that’s exactly my point.
Daniel Kelly defeated Steve Montgomery via unanimous decision
I’m still not crazy about either of these guys, but to their credit they put on a fun and competitive fight. Kelly clearly took the first round after Montgomery gave up a takedown after his willingness to fight in the clinch with an Olympic jukoka, which naturally led to Kelly getting the advantage on the ground, punishing the American with punches and elbows with a few submission attempts in there. Montgomery smartened up in the second, largely keeping his range with the occasional knee when Kelly did close the distance. More of the same opened the third round before Kelly woke up, winging hard punches that would land before landing a takedown with 90 seconds left, doing damage and looking for submissions. Kelly gets to hang around a while longer while I expect Montgomery to get his walking papers. Despite that, I don’t expect this to be the end of Montgomery in the UFC. He is just 24, showed improved boxing skills, and the UFC seems to like him.
Richard Walsh defeated Steven Kennedy via unanimous decision
Well that fight went downhill in a hurry. Walsh put an early beatdown on fellow Aussie Kennedy, only for Kennedy to rebound with some slick grappling before the end of the first round, but it wasn’t competitive from there. Kennedy could barely stand following a large amount of kicks to his lead leg from Walsh killed his mobility. Walsh didn’t help by being willing to stand over Kennedy once Kennedy fell on his back which brought the flow to a grinding halt and made the fight hard to watch as this happened time after time in rounds two and three. Walsh did show some improved standup skills, but his willingness to grapple when he clearly had the advantage standing makes me wonder about his fight IQ. Hard to say how many more wins he can pick up. Kennedy is done in the UFC. Enough said.
James Moontasri defeated Anton Zafir via TKO at 4:36 of the first round
That played out almost exactly how I expected it to. Moontasri wanted to keep the fight standing to show off his exciting kicking skills while Zafir wanted to ground the flashy striker. After eating a few strikes from Moontasri, Zafir got Moontasri down and kept him there for a while. Once Moontasri got back up, it was clear Zafir had no chance on the feet against the tae kwon do practitioner. Moontasri was selective before landing a spinning back kick followed by a back fist to a falling Zafir to end the bout as it seemed very likely he broke a rib or two of Zafir’s with the kick. Moontasri indicated he will be staying at welterweight as he feels less drawn out. He’ll also be subjected to much bigger opposition and he isn’t the best grappler. This was a good start, but Zafir is only in the UFC due to injuries to Brendan O’Reilly. As for Zafir, he’ll get another opportunity, but there are few names on the roster I’d give him a chance to win against much less declare him the favorite.
Ben Nguyen defeated Ryan Benoit via submission at 2:35 of the first round
I seem to have been wrong on my analysis of Nguyen. Believing that a lot of his recent success was due to fighting lesser competition in Australia, Nguyen has now won two in a row in the UFC against opponents whom many believed were physically superior to him and finished them both in the first round, Alp Ozkilic being a wrestler and Benoit a striker. I’m not calling him a contender, but he certainly is a wild card in the division as he proved he has sound grappling to go with his aggressive striking, showing both in the short time he was in the cage. I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I think he deserves a ranked opponent next. Benoit is still a talented prospect, but his progression has been limited as his striking defense still has holes a Mack truck could drive through. I don’t expect him to be cut, but he will be if he loses his next fight, potential be damned.