How did you react to Holly Holm’s shockingly dominant performance and that insane head kick KO over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193? What are your initial thoughts on what’s next for Rousey and for Holm as Champion?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Shock and awe. I’d love to say I saw this coming, but if you regularly read our roundtable discussions, you’ll unfortunately recall I predicted Rousey by standing knockout, two minutes into the match. While I may have correctly stated that a Holm victory was going to come with a headkick KO, I was thinking a lucky strike that the champ got clipped with. What I was not expecting was a methodical dismantling of Rousey, culminated by the left high kick that put her lights out.
The first time I saw Holly Holm fight in the UFC, she was entering behind a hype train of impressive boxing credentials and the talks that she was on the fast track to a match with Ronda Rousey. In her split decision win over Raquel Pennington, she showed a technically sound, but vanilla, striking game. The only distinguishing trait she exhibited in that first fight was a very apparent athleticism, displayed at a level much higher than the majority of other competitors in her division.
While Holm was obviously quite a physical specimen, she still appeared to be outclassed in that area by the (former) most dominant athlete in the world. Rousey has always struck me as the type who won the genetic lottery. She has other-worldly strength and explosiveness in her frame. Her killer mentality and almost peerless work ethic made her not only unbeatable, but pretty much untouchable.
Enter Holly Holm. This is the first time that Rousey ever faced an opponent who had a marked advantage against her in ANY area of mixed martial arts. When Holm popped her hard and opened her up, an incredulous line from the immortal movie Dodgeball popped into my head: “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood.” It appeared almost impossible to Rousey that anyone could possibly hurt her (or even dare to hurt her). Comprehending being in any type of real trouble for the first time in her MMA career threw her off her game in a way she never recovered from.
Holm looked competitive from the get go. She consistently used a slightly looping, overhand right to setup a straight left that Rousey had no answer for. With about a minute left in the first round, the fight went from the surprising “Hey, this could go a few rounds,” to the completely shocking “Holy Hell, Holly Holm has a shot at winning this.” Around that four minute mark, I saw something I never expected to see: Ronda Rousey was backing up. The accumulation of precision strikes got to her, and she was in defensive mode pretty much the first time in her career.
Holm won this fight with superior striking and high-level athleticism that came as close to matching Rousey’s own natural gifts as anyone has been able to. We expected her to have an edge in striking. What no one saw coming was her ability to hold her own in the clinch, giving better than she got on a couple of exchanges there. She had the strength to fight her way back to her feet, hold onto her arm safely when Rousey tried to rip it off, and escape from Rousey’s guard when she actually took the champ down in a reversal.
A lot of people are going to say Rousey was exposed in this fight. In Rousey’s run of dominance, she beat people almost every way you could think of. She showed no weaknesses, and couldn’t seem to find a challenge. Rousey has been 100% successful in just about every thing she’s done in the Octagon. Adjusting to someone else having success was completely foreign to her, and she obviously wasn’t capable of doing it on Saturday night. Everyone gets beat in MMA. Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, and Fedor Emelianenko all suffered early and late losses in their career. We don’t consider them exposed because of this. Rousey hasn’t had the opportunity to get better through adversity in the cage because no one was every capable of putting her in that position until now.
Rousey is never going to be able to catch up to Holm’s thousands of hours in boxing training. She can however, learn to stop walking forward and needlessly eating shots. This worked for her before, when opponents didn’t have reach or the pop to make her pay for continuing to come forward. We’re always talking about the classic “striker vs. grappler” matchup in MMA, that’s what Rousey needs to treat this as. Learn better head movement, shoot the double leg off of feints, and learn that sometimes you might have to grind it out in a back and forth affair as opposed to just ending a fight on a whim. Rousey is still immensely physically gifted, and she’s not even close to the first fighter who’s had to win against an opponent that was better on the feet. Whether or not she does, is the most interesting question we’ve had to ask about her in quite some time.
The next fight for Holm and Rousey should be Holm vs. Rousey. Rousey was so dominant and had so many defenses, it’s pretty impossible to say she doesn’t deserve an immediate rematch. Sorry Miesha Tate, most didn’t want to see you lose for a third time against Rousey, and your shot at a title just got pushed back again. If we have to wait until UFC 200 to see them tangle again, so be it. Having Holm lose to someone else in the meantime kills not only a lucrative rematch, but it also kills a chance for Rousey to re-establish that aura of invincibility that made her so unbelievable. I’ve always looked forward to Rousey fights due to the sheer ridiculousness in which she was able to dispatch her opposition. Because of Holm, I’m anticipating the next one far more than any in a long time.
ALVIN CARTER, MMATORCH SPECIALIST
This is shocking because Rousey is one of the most dominant fighters anyone has ever seen. Still, she is a human and is allowed an off night. Cap it off with a kick to the neck and it is probably the worst moment of her professional career… and that’s okay. Fans and the media like to make mythical creatures of athletes, but they are just highly trained people who can win or lose on any given night. The fact that Rousey has had such an impressive run against legitimate competition is an amazing feat, and being out done on one evening doesn’t mean every winning night was a farce or luck. It is quite the opposite. It means she falls in the realm of highly skilled probability. A blemish on the record almost makes her career seem more realistic, as perfection is not a prerequisite to becoming a legend. It is merely a fast track to such status.
She has made it to the top and some might say you aren’t truly a legend or the “GOAT” until you lose your title and regain it. Overcoming adversity is weighted more than perfection in the legend discussion schema. This loss is a springboard to a larger fight with greater implications. Rousey will most likely be hungrier than ever, there will be more money, and win or lose she is still one of the best fighters to grace the mat.
Holm was great last night. It was her night to be great and no one can take that away. An immediate rematch seems to be the best step for both. Holm needs to prove this was not just a one off, and Rousey needs to prove the opposite. This lines up the UFC for one of the biggest events in its history in UFC 200.
ERIC HOBAUGH, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR