Holly Holm: The New and Future Queen?

On November 13th, at UFC 193 inside the record breaking packed Ethiad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, one of the most memorable and historic upsets in the history of MMA (and certainly the most in Women’s MMA) took place in the bantamweight championship headliner between former multiple time Boxing world champion Holly Holm, and the most popular and polarizing MMA figure in the sport Ronda Rousey made headlines. Holly Holm had dethroned the queen.

Going into the bout a 20-1 underdog, many fans and even media openly suggested that the bout would most likely sway towards an easy victory for the defending champion, with little to no chance of any other outcome. This was seemingly due to a number of circumstances. The most prominent one being Holly’s inexperience inside the Octagon. Holly Holm only had two bouts contested underneath the UFC banner. Her debut bout earlier this year in February against TUF veteran Raquel “Rocky” Pennington, and soon after against No. 12 ranked Marion Reneau. Certainly not the pedigree worthy of a title shot even with the lack of depth left at the top of the women’s bantamweight division which, if we circle back on this, points us to our second reason. Holm may have defeated Renau and Pennington, but did not do so under the type of fashion that would have you believe she was a world beater. Raquel was unlikely ranked in the top ten at the time, and Reneau was only noticeably ranked 12th due to Holly’s ranking at number 14 according to the UFC’s ranking system at the time. Despite this, Holly did not dominate or compete relatively divinitive. She struggled in the “Rocky” fight which was scored close, and while she thoroughly defeated Reneau with effective counter striking and effective movement, fans were left feeling intemperate for a more satisfying performance from someone that was touted as the next big challenge for the now former champion in Rousey.

The third reason could also have been because another contender had already been openly announced. At UFC on Fox 16, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate defeated Jessica “Evil” Eye to notch her fourth consecutive win since losing to Rousey in 2013. Shortly after the event, UFC President Dana White had openly announced her as the next contender for the women’s bantamweight title with White stating: “She’s earned it”. Many, including Tate herself, felt she had been wronged after the announcement came citing Holm as the next in line. To add up all these variables, made the fight seem extraordinarily rushed, leaving fans and conspiracy theorists alike to ponder if some agenda from the UFC was at hand.

None of it mattered.

Not to the new queen of Women’s MMA. Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm who was 9-0 with six knockouts going into this match-up, also backed by a 2-1 Kickboxing record with 2 knockouts and most importantly a 33-2-3 Boxing record with 9 knockouts. Professionally this was Holly Holm’s 51st professional combat sports match.

Many interesting twist and turns brought increased intrigue leading up to the bout, even in the very last minute before the fight. At the weigh-ins Ronda and Holm were involved in a humorous scuffle. One were Holm had placed her right hand across the cheek of Rousey’s. Rousey of course took offense to this, seemingly ready to engage with Holm right there on the stage. What was one of the most interesting take aways from this however was Holm’s demeanor throughout the short ordeal. Holm was a rock. Never moving, never even shifting her seismic glance away from Ronda. It was almost eerie as Holm showed no sign of fear, and even looked more laser focused than we had ever seen Holm look before. The next night, on a historic Sunday evening in Australia, Holly had offered her glove in one last final show of respect before they would be locked alone inside the Octagon. But Ronda would refuse. Man, what rush that sent throughout the record-setting arena and the viewers across the globe.

Holm would go on to display quite possibly the greatest performance of the year, and certainly one of the most historic in all of women’s MMA. Capitalizing on expert footwork, her southpaw stance, and phenomenal movement Holm would purge Ronda clean of the title she had defended so dominantly before. Ronda had no answer for Holm’s defensive movement and could not enforce her own game plan which undoubtedly meant engaging with Holm in the clinch and delivering the fight to the mat. The inexperienced opinion by most fans was that Ronda was cocky and decided to stand with her on her own free will. Not the case at all. The fight stayed standing the majority of the bout because that is what Holly Holm wanted, not the other way around. Sure enough, after playing the matador as you could say, with Rousey’s standing offense, and settling down on that left hand straight in the southpaw position, viewers realized quickly and shockingly that shortly before the end it simply felt like just a matter of time. After landing another marquee left that dazed and stumbled the champion, Holly uncorked one of the cleanest head kicks ever witnessed, dropping Rousey and claiming the title in a performance the likes of which legends are remembered for.

With Holly Holm as the new Queen of the mountain the hype has deservedly bounced over to Holm who having defeated Rousey, a woman millions of fans thought to be immortal, still remains undefeated in MMA and now looks ahead towards a still growing and ever-changing dynamic that is the women’s bantamweight division. Many of course drool at the thought of a rematch between Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey, citing the possibility that Ronda could return emphatically and reclaim her throne. However, not too long after the loss to Holly, Ronda took to Instagram to address her health and well-being citing that she was not terribly injured, but would still be taking a short term hiatus from the sport.

Fans and spectators of the sport alike now look at Holm and ponder what is to be. Can Holly be as dominant of a champion as Rousey was? Can she achieve the same success? Most importantly, can she be the one to retire undefeated? Holm, since competing in MMA, has yet to really be challenged thus far. Although even when you look at Holm’s career subjectively, it’s hard to say that Holm has faced the best that the division has to offer just yet, other than of course Rousey. With Ronda however, Holm was stylistically a horrible match-up. Can she find that same success against the others she will soon face inside the cage?

Holm’s victory, while remarkable, proved something else. Styles make fights. Holm may or may not potentially have holes in her game. Though at this juncture, who really knows? As stated previously, we have yet to really see her challenged in many aspects of the fight game. Ronda was able to get the fight to the ground only once in their bout, however Rousey was focused solely on the submission and not the position of where she was on the ground and in doing so failed to keep Holm down the lone time she had taken to the fight to the mat due to Holm fending off what was quite simply not the most technical attempt at an armbar by Rousey by any means. Holm has not yet shown legitimate capabilities in the grappling department. Whether she can defend or maybe even attack from various positions on the ground or in the clinch remains to answered. But one ace in the hole that should certainly be recognized is Holly Holm’s fantastic camp. Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn are two of the sports most respected and legendary coaches in the game. Along with being a longtime mainstay at Team Jackson’s, Holm trains alongside some of the best fighters on the planet currently such as John Dodson, Carlos Condit, Donald Cerrone, and Jon Jones along with a slew of many other well-skilled veterans of the sport. What Holm has shown, that not many other women at bantamweight have been able to, is the potential to distribute a well-rounded skill set in a high octane fight. That is what may be Holly’s greatest attribute if she can prove to possess it. Many of today’s greatest fighters possess this gift. Names like Frankie Edgar, Chris Weidman, Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre and Demetrious Johnson come to mind when thinking about fighters that can fight at the expert level anywhere the fight takes place. Having difficulty striking or landing shots? Let’s take this fight to the mat, lets work submissions, or ground and pound, or lets dirty box from the clinch, or lets wrestle, lets look for positioning. To be able to adapt mid-fight is a talent only the greatest in the sport can display. Holly Holm, unlike Ronda Rousey, has the potential to become this fighter. Holm has established herself as one of, if not the greatest striker that there has ever been in the still short history of women’s MMA.

Time is the only answer to this question for now. Other variables await to help guide towards certainty. First off what about Ronda Rousey. What will change? Something surely must if Rousey is to step across from Holly a second time? Will she change camps? Will she get a new coach, and new staff, a new gym? And of course, what about Cris “Cyborg” Justino? Is that the new super-fight to make now? Is Holly willing to fight at 140, unlike Ronda? Who is next for Holly Holm, with Ronda stepping aside to gather barrings? Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes, Julianna Pena? As we look to answer this mystifying question of MMA’s newest throne holder, the more questions it raises.

So for now, fight fans, we will stand by to wait and see, excitingly and anxiously, what is to become of the woman who, as Jack Slack so elegantly put it, killed the Queen.

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