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Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie is, in many ways, one of the strangest Ultimate Fighting Championship title fights ever.
On one hand, in the cage, it’s a great fight: The most decorated boxer in UFC history against one of a handful of the most decorated kickboxers. They match up in interesting ways; the bout should be really entertaining, and there are some interesting storylines that you can add to the fight based strictly on their combat sports histories.
On the other hand? There’s everything else.
The UFC needed a main event for UFC 208 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (online betting), their second card in New York City proper (they had run in the New York City market before at the Izod Center and Prudential Center in New Jersey). Holm was the biggest star immediately available and fighting Cris Cyborg for a new UFC Featherweight Championship...but Cyborg said she needed more time and eventually got suspended anyway. So de Randamie, the only UFC bantamweight who had been openly campaigning to fight at 145 as of late, who’s lacking in name value to say the least, got the nod.
On paper, this fight doesn’t look close: Holm is a former UFC champion, the women who dethroned Ronda Rousey. While she lost her first title defense and is on a two fight losing streak, she has fought solid competition, in the UFC, with a very capable Marion Reneau being her lowest ranked opponent in the promotion. De Randamie, on the other hand, only has UFC and Strikeforce wins over fighters who are now (if not officially, then effectively) retired. This even includes her win last year over Anna Elmose...who subsequently dropped to 115 pounds, and lost, to Amanda Bobby Cooper, who had a losing record going into the bout. Her previous win was over 20-year-old Larissa Pacheco, who never fought again.
The problem with this fight is that the on-paper matchup is incredibly deceiving.
While identifying the world’s elite female kickboxers is not the easiest task, De Randamie was, at worst, at a very high level, and at best, legitimately championship level. A Dutch-style kickboxer with a great Thai-clinch game, she’s a nasty matchup for anyone who stands with her, even a legitimate world champion boxer, and especially one with Holm’s unusual style. De Randamie’s issues in mixed martial arts have only come from fighters who could take her down, at which point she’s finished or goes through the grinder for three rounds. Holm is not going to beat her in the clinch and she’s not going to shoot takedowns, so how exactly does she win this fight?
It’s hard to look at this booking and not think of a story that Joe Rogan told recently on his podcast. Apparently, at UFC 207, someone who he believed was some kind of bigwig at new UFC parent company WME-IMG. Whoever this was, he didn’t know Amanda Nunes’ name and expected Ronda Rousey to run through her to regain her title and return to her rightful place as a top draw. We know how that turned out. Now, Holm, the default biggest star in the bantamweight division (which, for all intents and purposes, she’s still in) with Miesha Tate and most likely Rousey retired, is being put into the most lopsided risk/reward fight she could possibly be booked in. And for what? To create a belt that may never end up being defended?
What’s even the best case scenario for the UFC? Holm wins, temporarily gets some momentum back, and loses to either Nunes or Valentina Shevchenko in a champion vs. champion match? There are, at most, half a dozen fighters of note at 145 if you count Holm and De Randamie (less if you don’t), and they’re spread out across the UFC, Invicta Fighting Championships, and Bellator MMA. If you use this as a second belt for the 135ers, what good does that even do with it already not being the most talent stacked division? There’s very little upshot here, and the most likely scenario is Holm loses her third fight in a row to a relative unknown, whose victory can’t properly be contextualized in a way that the casual fan will be able to digest. Instead, that woman who beat Rousey will have lost to some unknown from Holland.
This was just not a good idea. De Randamie is a blast to watch, seems like a lovely human being, and hopefully will be more visible with a title. But from a business perspective (and that was clearly the only motive for making the fight), it feels like a giant dud unless Holm is a pay-per-view draw of shocking proportions.
Now think about this for a second: If Anderson Silva commits to the card sooner, is this fight ever made (or made for a new title) when a known bankable star is on the card? I certainly don’t think so. Do you?