In a tick less than six minutes Holly Holm ended her class. It was an especially rough lesson for her much ballyhooed student Ronda Rousey, and for the rest of the MMA world it was a clinic in the appreciation of another form of martial arts.
Holm had exhibited elusive footwork; spacing and angles; precision punches; a textbook example of the sweet science of boxing, not just taking but ripping away the UFC belt from arguably the most famous athlete anywhere. It was as dominant as any challenger has ever been against any title holder leaving pundits scurrying for excuses and experts stumbling in thought about what they had witnessed.
It’s understandable because no one had seen this before: A boxer still in their prime, not an aging one seeking a final flash of glory, hoping for one big swing; this was a champ not that long removed from the squared circle incorporating what she does best with other martial art skills.
Ironic that more MMA fighters haven’t focused as much on boxing considering all fights begin with combatants standing. This should in no way be confused with the tired arguments of which sport is best. It has nothing to do with that or the respect level the top fighters in both deserve. However being a good striker and a good boxer aren’t the same thing, for the ability to not get it in boxing is as imperative as being able to deliver a hit, therefore a science to it all.
Of all those watching over the weekend as the heretofore calm and calculated Rousey was a mess of staggered, bloodied and confused, none understood better than UFC president Dana White what was unfolding. He has a replica of the famed Caesars Palace statue of boxing icon Joe Louis in the lobby of the UFC headquarters in Las Vegas. He is an aficionado of the sport who can cite with remarkable accuracy great boxing showdowns. White gets it, the appreciation of the nuances of combative sports.
For all her training with an emphasis on boxing, Rousey wasn’t prepared for what was happening before her, and most other, shocked eyes. That previous thirty-four second pounding KO of Bethe Correia might’ve been the worst thing to happen to her. Suddenly there was talk she might also become a boxing champ one day. Improving on punches and dissecting inferior competition with them isn’t the same as winning 33 pro boxing bouts and holding virtually every title in the welter through middleweight ranks which was the Holm résumé’.
It would be outrageous for a boxer to say they’ve worked out a few times with wrestlers and their ground game is solid but it has been accepted as legit when a ground specialists drops in on a boxing gym and their standup game is ready for action now.
That’s what makes Holm special, why all should embrace what she’s done even those ardent Rousey fans. Holm brought not only boxing expertise but respect for MMA. It was her tenth MMA fight, two years after she chose to walk away from boxing, coming to a sport where women are more recognized and rewarded, like Rousey who had gained more fame and fortune in less than a dozen fights than Holm had in her entire boxing career.
And their match up was the essence of mixed martial arts: Rousey the absolutely fabulous ground specialist against Holm with a standup game that had been tentative in her two previous UFC victories but with all that potential waiting to be unleashed.
In this fight Holm was the better MMA fighter by far. Yes, not just the boxer but the MMA fighter. She deftly sidestepped all of Rousey’s trademark takedowns and in turn when she threw Rousey to the mat she wisely was back on her feet in an instant leaving no opportunity to get caught in an arm bar. She finished the violent lecture with a crushing kick sending Rousey to the floor for good.
A championship boxer who also had a kickboxing career and studies and trains endlessly under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn for additions to the arsenal. Holm is a true practitioner of mixed martial arts. Her game and Rousey’s, just as their personalities and personas, are polar opposites and not for a second did Holm pretend she was going to beat Rousey on the ground. Conversely Rousey came out ready to out box the boxer and after a straight shot to her nose, Holm had set the tone and opened the book on real boxing in MMA.
Some have cried for an immediate rematch, though given the thorough and complete whipping administered by the new “Queen of MMA” there wouldn’t be credence given to the talk except for the fact that it was the most famous fighter on the planet, the face of the UFC who was out cold.
Ronda Rousey is far from past tense. Her intensity, talent and pride won’t allow this to be the defining moment. A great champion does deserve another chance and when the rematch happens it will be THE PPV event of the year, presumably 2016. We can’t assume it will be immediate though and Holm with her performance shouldn’t have to wait around for that first title defense.
This wasn’t a fluke, a just caught her on a bad night, it was a definitive statement from Holm that all those who thought Ray Mercer and James Toney dalliances with MMA was real boxing, you were misled, misinformed as to how good a young boxer who brings a complete package of martial arts can be.
The future is right here in the woman from Albuquerque; the first boxing champ to be a UFC champ; and the daughter of a preacher to boot. Say ‘Hallelujah’ for the possibilities are wide open. She is the kryptonite to the sport’s former Super Girl and just maybe the eye-opener for the future that boxing isn’t the enemy of MMA but a truly devastating ally when properly executed. Just watch Holm’s next class, rather…her next fight.
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