Before being signed by the UFC, Holly Holm was already a combat sports star, possessing 16 world titles in professional boxing and a record of 32 wins and only two losses, along with vast experience as a kickboxer. Her credentials to enter the octagon with the world’s most famous MMA organization were impeccable.
Since arriving at UFC 184, where she debuted in the co-main event against Raquel Pennington, Holm was a target of Ronda Rousey. After she famously dismantled Cat Zingano in 14 seconds at UFC 184 without even being touched, Rousey said: “I’d love to try my striking against Holly Holm.”
Following their respective bouts at Staples Center, Rousey received ovations and compliments, while adding to her reputation as one of the world’s most dominating athletes, ” Holm, meanwhile, was heavily critiqued by MMA fans and the media who expected more of an impact performance in her UFC debut.
In her next fight against Marion Reneau at UFC Fight Night San Diego, Holm was decidedly more comfortable in the octagon, working to score points and earning the unanimous decision victory. Still, the absence of a KO gave critics an opening to speculate that Holm might not deliver a beating to Rousey whenever the two finally faced each other.
However, the scenario could not have been better for Holm, who was not seeking to display dominance, but rather win fights as she approached her title shot. According to her trainer Mike Winkeljohn, Holm never fully displayed all her skills in her first two UFC bouts.
Through many of her fights, the Rousey puzzle seemed unsolvable to her many defeated opponents. However, Holm found the missing piece that eluded so many.
While Rousey appeared virtually unstoppable in the Octagon, often ending her fights in a matter of seconds by knockout or submission, Holm and her coaches, Greg Jackson, Izzy Martinez and Winkeljohn, were studying between the lines. In their eyes the champion was dangerous but not unbreakable, and instead had many flaws in her execution that could be exploited.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Roberts/USA TODAY Sports Images
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