Saturday, Nov. 14
Etihad Stadium | Melbourne, Australia
It was an all-time shocker, in line with Matt Serra-Georges St. Pierre and others of its ilk.
Holly Holm authored the Sherdog.com “Upset of the Year” on Nov. 14, as she knocked out Ronda Rousey with a second-round head kick and follow-up punches to capture the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title in the UFC 193 headliner at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. The jaw-dropping finish came 59 seconds into round two, with the supposedly indestructible Rousey supine on the canvas. She had closed as high as a -1650 favorite.
During the weeks and months leading into the showdown, many observers questioned whether or not Holm -- a multiple-time world boxing champion -- was ready to face a woman who had beaten her three previous opponents in 64 seconds combined.
“This fight was a lot for me mentally,” Holm said at the post-fight press conference. “I couldn’t tell you how many times I cried in the gym leading up to this fight. It’s a lot to take in. Those kind of fights are the ones that a loss is that devastating but a win is that sweet of a victory. It’s uncomfortable sometimes, but I just really like to take the chance, believe in myself and give myself a chance.
“It’s hard to put yourself out there sometimes,” she added. “I know a lot of people thought it was early. I didn’t expect the phone call to come this early. If you don’t take the opportunities that are in front of you, how can you really expect to get anywhere? As soon as it came, I said, ‘This is great. Let’s do it.’”
Holm set the tone from the start. She circled away from the champion throughout the first round, countering with accuracy and power. Holm tipped her spear with a surgical left cross but also mixed in a beautiful stepping standing elbow and a surprising takedown. Rousey returned to her corner after the first five minutes with a bloody lip and reddening around the nose and mouth, a look of bewilderment on her face. Early in the second round, Holm clipped the judoka with another straight left. Rousey briefly turned her back and let down her guard. A kick to the neck came next and put Rousey on the canvas in a semi-conscious state. Holm pounced with punches and hammerfists, leaving referee Herb Dean no choice but to intervene.
“I visualized if a head kick was there to go for it. We didn’t want to go out of our way searching for it. I didn’t want to force it,” Holm said. “She can come straight forward with your leg in the air and you can be off-balance, so there’s times to use them and times to not. If it was there I wanted to take it, and it was there.”
Lost in the hysteria surrounding the knockout was the fact that Holm had survived exchanges in Rousey’s wheelhouse, on the feet and on the ground.
“That wasn’t the only thing in the fight,” she said. “She was kind of going for an armbar, [and] we were in the clinch on the cage at one point. We were in the clinch in the middle of the cage. There were a lot of things going through my mind, and I wanted to make sure I was focused every minute of the fight. That’s one of the things I would think about. I also visualized myself being in other situations in the fight because I didn’t want to get in there and it be brand new.”
“I don’t think you can prepare yourself if you’re not aware of what can happen. She’s been the most dominant athlete,” Holm added. “There were days I got to the gym, didn’t perform well, sat in my car upset, cried and thought, ‘You know what? If I perform like that, that’s not going to get me a win, so I’ve got to come back tonight and perfect those things I need to get better.’ There’s moments in your mind that you doubt yourself. You can have a good night; you can have a bad night. There’s days in training where everything flows, and there’s days when they don’t. You just pray that doesn’t happen the night of the fight.”
All signs point to an immediate rematch, perhaps at UFC 200 in July.
“That’s what I want,” Rousey said in an interview with TMZ, “but it’s up to the UFC and it’s up to her camp, so we’ll see what happens.”
The former champion’s readiness for such an encounter came into question following an in-depth interview with ESPN.
“It might be three to six months before I can eat an apple, let alone take an impact,” Rousey said. “I need to come back. I need to beat this chick. Who knows if I’m going to pop my teeth out or break my jaw or rip my lip open again? I have to [expletive] do it. It doesn’t matter. I have to do it.”
Holm welcomes the idea of meeting Rousey again, though she and her camp have indicated a desire to fight again before UFC 200.
“I think a rematch makes sense, for sure. I’ve been on a losing side of a fight, and I wanted the rematch; I wanted to avenge my loss,” Holm said. “With a champion like Ronda who has gone out of her way, above and beyond, to do great things, absolutely she deserves a rematch. I don’t look at this belt and think I made it; I still think I have things that I need to do. I think a rematch, that’s kind of like unspoken -- just common sense to me, I guess.”
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