At the end of August, I wrote about the upcoming MMA fight between defending UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and her challenger, Holly Holm, and I was less than pleased. That was when the fight was set for UFC 195, which would take place on January 2, 2016.
On November 12, last week Thursday, it came to my attention that the fight was going to happen in two days… nearly two months ahead of the original date. How I missed that memo, I don’t know, but the change threw me. I went to Facebook with my consternation, which I don’t often do.
Returning to my train of thought: In that first post about the upcoming fight, I expressed doubt, though I did say:
“Holm needs to have a plan, and it should include honing her take-down defense between now and January. If she can keep her head, set the pace and control the fight with a highly technical boxing approach (not allowing the bout to become a brawl), and successfully ward off Rousey’s take-down attempts, then she’d have a chance. And I do believe a Holm win is a possibility. The fight will, after all, begin to Holm’s advantage… standing up.”
But I wrote that, as I said, in the midst of doubt. Now that we know about Holm’s plan and how she carried it out with winning precision, I’m back to say that I was wrong. I’d been hasty in writing that first blog post, and hasty in posting on Facebook when I found out that the fight would happen in two days. In both cases, I didn’t give myself time to mentally adjust to the situation. I’d fallen into the pervasive notion that Rousey’s game was bullet-proof.
Hindsight is a wondrous thing. The question was never about the strength of Holm’s ground game. The question was about the strength of Rousey’s stand-up game.
It was my own cowardice that fueled my doubt. That first post was me imposing my own fears onto the situation. I wasn’t so much afraid for Holm as I was afraid for myself; after following Holm’s professional fighting career for over 10 years, I didn’t want to see her lose this fight. But because I’d been following Holm’s career for over 10 years, I should never have doubted her. I guess it was just that the bulldozer of WIN Rousey was riding didn’t appear to be running out of gas. I freaked out before I could remind myself about Holm’s wealth of ring experience and her exceptional athletic ability.
Now the world realizes that women’s boxing veteran Holm is a formidable presence in any ring or cage, and to underestimate her is a mistake.
After finding out that the fight would take place in two days, I dove into the internets and dragged out the video of the Rousey/Holm weigh-in. After watching it, all I could think was, “What was that, exactly?” What was that post-weigh-in outburst erupting from Rousey’s mouth… that one about Holm being “fake,” etc.?
And then my respect for Rousey slipped a little, and my admiration along with it. I knew that the kind of swagger Rousey performed is sort of par for the course leading up to a fight, but again, I’m writing from my personal bias toward Holm. (Delayed disclaimer: it’s difficult to write objectively about this given my long-time history as a Holm fan.) I was already on #TeamHollyHolm, but after watching that weigh-in, I prayed that Holm would win. On Saturday morning, the day of the fight, I silently dedicated my Body Combat workout to Holm before class started.
Watching the fight now, I feel foolish for having worried about Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm. (She’s “The Preacher’s Daughter” because she actually is a preacher’s daughter, by the way.) How could I have doubted her when I was so familiar with her talent and toughness? When I knew the depth of her confidence and the breadth of her professional boxing record? Holm is a multi-world champion trained by one of the best combat sports training teams in the country. I shouldn’t have aggrieved this bout, especially since I’d viewed training videos of Holm such as the one on this page:
Holm is meticulous about her own training, dedicated and focused beyond the scope of what seems humanly possible, and she’s merciless on herself. Mike Winkeljohn, her coach, couldn’t be harder on her than than she is on herself.
I don’t know what happened to Rousey in that fight. She seemed ill-prepared to face a combat athlete of Holm’s caliber. She also looked tired by the end of the first round, as if she didn’t train hard enough. Had she been too busy? Did she take her training less seriously because she assumed that she’d score another first-round win? Or could it be that Holm is simply the superior fighter? Holm is smart, calm, humble, and mature, all of which goes into her arsenal of badass, and none of which I’ve seen Rousey display… yet. Rousey is young. She has time to mature. I almost pitied her as she panicked (when she realized what she was up against) and chased, careened, and flailed around the octagon after Holm. It was a Rousey I’d never seen, but it was a Holm I’d seen time and again, and now that the MMA-watching world has seen it, too, the MMA game has been changed.
Obviously, Rousey is a supremely talented combat athlete, as well, and she’s certainly deserved her victories in combat sports. But so has Holm… and Holm has many more victories than Rousey over a much longer career in professional fighting. The fact that most of her career has been in boxing rather than in MMA is irrelevant.
I’m just happy that Holm won. That’s my girl.
In closing, enjoy this adorable pic I found of Holm with her husband: