Can Holly Holm Shock The UFC Again?

When Holly Holm landed a devastating head kick to Ronda Rousey, sending the biggest star in the sport at the time crashing to the canvas, it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of mixed martial arts and changed the course of the genre. Prior to the historic victory, “Rowdy” Ronda surged in popularity with a combination of arm bars and an aggressive striking style. Undefeated before that bout in November of 2016, Rousey was known for wins in the first round as she overwhelmed opponents with judo throws and a flurry of punches. When Holm stepped into the cage that night against the UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion, she had an MMA record of 9-0, but with just two wins in the UFC before that contest, many expected the match-up to be another typical Rousey victory.

When Ronda was too over confident and rushed forward with punches, Holm artfully dodged them and landed counter punches until the previously mentioned head kick ended the fight and ultimately led to the conclusion of Rousey’s career. After Ronda collapsed to the mat, the stunning upset shocked the world and Holly Holm was propelled into the spotlight, known as the fighter that defeated the dominate former champion. In truth, Holm was only under the radar because she was relatively new to the sport and simply hadn’t had the opportunity to complete in any major UFC bouts before she challenged Ronda for the belt. The multi-time boxing champion used foot work and movement with technical striking along with solid take down defense to become a contender in mixed martial arts. While she’s undoubtedly talented, her career yielded mixed results since she won the championship, dropping the title to Miesha Tate in her next fight at UFC 200. After a 10-0 start to her career, Holm went 2-4 over the past three years. Granted, she fought solid competition, but another loss could theoretically put her UFC career in jeopardy.

On the flip side, Amanda Nunes appears to be in the prime of her career right now. Ironically, Nunes partially made her name from Ronda’s other career loss when the current Women’s Bantamweight champion landed nearly a dozen unanswered punches before the referee rescued Rousey from any further damage and stopped the fight. Holly Holm was the competitor that finally defeated Ronda, but Nunes is known as the fighter that sent her into retirement. Ahead of the UFC 239, the Brazilian striker is on an eight fight win streak, including when she won the Women’s Featherweight championship after she knocked out Cyborg Santos in the first round in her most recent fight. In some ways, Nunes is in uncharted territory, as she could potentially be the first double champion in the UFC to defend both championships continuously, which hasn’t been done before. Keep in mind, Conor McGregor was stripped of both belts he had when he was the champion because he wasn’t scheduled to defend either of them. Daniel Cormier defeated Stipe Miocic to claim the heavyweight title when he was the 205 LBS division champion, but later vacated the light heavyweight belt so it could be regularly defended. Considering the lack of depth in the current 145 LBS division since the weight class was more or less created for Cyborg, it actually makes sense that Nunes could realistically alternate between the weight classes to fight the best competition possible.

Aside from the Ronda contests, Holm and Nunes have four other common opponents, which are all competitors that Nunes defeated, but are the opponents that beat Holm on her MMA record. That intriguing statistic might actually be the key for the title fight at UFC 239. Miesha Tate submitted Holm in March of 2016, but Nunes submitted Tate later that year so it can be said that Amanda Nunes is probably the more well-rounded fighter. Perhaps, the most similar opponent to Holm that Nunes fought previously is Valentina Shevchenko, who she defeated via decision in 2016 and 2017.

However, the stage could be set for another stunning victory for Holly Holm.

Nunes defeated Shevchenko because she was able to close the distance and control the clinch. Nunes brings an aggressive, but measured style to the octagon, as she pushes the pace without getting reckless. At the same time, she occasionally allows for the possibility to get clipped with a counter punch after some of her looping hooks, which were seen in the Raquel Pennington bout, but Pennington was too overwhelmed as Nunes pushed forward to take advantage of the opportunity to land a counter punch. Don’t get me wrong, on paper the 31-year-old champion is at the peak of her career and brings a lot of momentum into the fight, but that could be the situation that makes it possible for Holm to get another stunning win.

Similar to the Shevchenko contest, Nunes should use the clinch to close the distance and use her grappling skills to get the advantage against Holm. If Nunes gets too aggressive or too confident and leaves the chance for a counter, Holm will land some major punches. Holy Holm has the movement and technical skills to win a striking battle so despite the nearly 3-to-1 odds to win, Nunes must be cautious during the five round fight. While it is certainly possible that Holm could use her striking skills to get a victory, I will still say that I think Amanda Nunes will get the win to retain the championship because she probably won’t make the same mistake as Ronda Rousey did a few years ago.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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