Holly Holm knocking out Ronda Rousey was no upset. While the betting odds were overwhelmingly in Rousey’s favor, these two combat sport super-athletes walked into that cage on much closer footing. The way Holly dominated was unexpected, but it wasn’t a fluke.
Styles Make Fights
Looking at their respective approaches to fighting, it was clear that Holm’s patient counter-movement was a serious threat to “Reckless” Ronda Rousey’s frenetic style.
Holly’s straight, accurate punches are backed up by a solid base that has the awareness to adjust to her opponent’s movements. She moves her feet the way old boxing heads tell you to move your feet. She’s a technical, elite boxer who has transferred her skills very well to MMA, and has even added a nice kicking game that doesn’t leave her vulnerable for takedowns.
Rousey has sloppy footwork and keeps her chin up, making her vulnerable when running into the clinch. This has happened in many of her fights, but she wasn’t punished because she never faced a puncher at the level of Holm. Finally, she was fighting someone who knew how to throw straight punches and move away from her grasp. We found out that she didn’t know how to adjust.
All of these facts about their styles were plain as day beforehand. Just because the UFC’s marketing machine made people think Ronda was some kind of superhero doesn’t mean that these flaws didn’t exist beforehand. Holly was the perfect fighter to exploit them, and while she has flaws in her game too, Ronda just never put herself in a position to take advantage.
Bad Fight Preparation
That inability to understand Holm’s style is why Ronda failed to impose her own will. Even those who believed in Holly’s striking advantage felt that she would still be outclassed on the ground, and that Ronda would end up taking it there often. But, aside from a scramble and a telegraphed armbar attempt, Rousey couldn’t get her down. Ronda even wound up getting taken down from a trip in the clinch herself, which might have been the biggest surprise of the fight. Holm knew it was a bad idea to tangle with Rousey on the floor and got up right away, showing a high Fight IQ.
A fighter accustomed to steamrolling people will have problems with someone who has gone to 20-minute decisions at an elite boxing level, winning every time. Ronda’s cardio didn’t look great against Miesha Tate in the second fight’s later stages, where Tate surrendered to an armbar in the third round. There’s no excuse for gassing after the first round in a championship fight. While the punishment she took in the first round certainly expedited the process, she simply looked like she didn’t do the work in the gym required to fight a 25-minute war.
A lot of that comes down to coaching. Holly had Winkeljohn, a great striking mind who has been preparing her for decades. Greg Jackson, one of the best game planners around, was probably salivating at the stylistic opportunity he had in front of him. They went up against a coach who hasn’t produced any great fighters, hasn’t taken any existing top fighters to another level, and is distracted by a messy financial situation. Edmond’s bizarre corner advice before the second round of “You’re doing great!” to Ronda might end up defining his legacy.
Feasting On Weak Competition
Ronda knew she was in for a war, and her whole heart was clearly in it. But this was the first time she fought someone of a similar background. Think about Bethe Correia; an overweight accountant who started training at 28 to lose weight. She was typical of the hobbyist WMMA fighter that Ronda made her name off of. UFC 193 is what happens when Ronda meets someone who is bred for this game as she is, a world class athlete in their own right.
As WMMA is in its nascent stages, with less money and less incentive for world-class athletes to step in, the competition isn’t on par with the male side. Rousey was like Mark Coleman in 1996, a world-class grappler who knew how to utilize their limited skill set to destroy over-matched competition. She just met her Maurice Smith, and the result was devastating. Hopefully this doesn’t hurt the evolution of WMMA, but with Dana putting all his eggs in the Rousey basket, there’s reason to believe the business will take a hit.
Don’t Call It An Upset
I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Ronda would get dominated like she did. But, Holm is a great fighter who was more than ready for the (formerly) baddest woman on the planet. She had the style, pedigree, camp and, most importantly, the will to pull it off. Sometimes two great fighters meet and one gets the brakes blown off.
But while shocking, Holly Holm knocking out Ronda Rousey was no upset.
Photo: USA Today