Holly Holm’s knockout of Ronda Rousey last November, a career-defining victory that turned the MMA world upside down, suddenly feels like it happened a lot longer than eight months ago.
It was a somber Holm who addressed the media at Saturday’s post-fight press conference at UFC on Fox 20 following her five-round defeat to Valentina Shevchenko in the evening’s headliner at the United Center in Chicago. It was the second straight defeat inside the Octagon for the Jackson-Wink MMA standout, who believes she entered the fight with the proper tools necessary to defeat her opponent. Ultimately, she was unable to execute against a like-minded adversary.
“We knew she was a counter puncher and we were ready for that. She is tough and I knew that. I knew I had my hands full in this fight. I knew it was a really big challenge. What can you do? I know it was a competitive fight and I could have done more,” Holm said. “I’m disappointed in myself and take nothing away from her. She was a very tough opponent.”
Holm started quickly, as she appeared to rattle and drop Shevchenko with a punch in the opening stanza, and she also overpowered her opponent’s attempt to engage her in the clinch. However, Shevchenko said the punch — which wasn’t ruled a knockdown by FightMetric.com — didn’t affect her all that much.
“It was not a knockdown,” Shevchenko said. “It was more like a push. Because when I was standing up, I was feeling good, feeling fresh.”
That was evident as the bout progressed. Shevchenko forced Holm to lead during exchanges, and the muay Thai veteran consistently beat her opponent to the punch with crisp counters. In addition to outstriking Holm, Shevchenko also landed three takedowns, controlling much of the third round from top position. As the bout reached the championship frames, Holm was unable to find the range on her offense to turn the fight around.
It was a bitter pill to swallow on the heels of her title loss to Miesha Tate at UFC 196, a fight Holm was winning until she fell victim to a Tate rear-naked choke 3:30 into round five. While some may label Holm a one-hit wonder, her own self-belief is unwavering.
“I believe in myself,” she said. “But I think that I need to believe in what I’ve learned, even recently, and not be so hesitant with what’s coming at me. I think in my last fight I was hesitant and thinking, ‘I’m fighting a wrestler, I need to watch out for the takedowns.’ Well guess what? I’ve learned a lot, and I know a lot in these areas, as well.
“I do believe in myself. I always believe in myself, otherwise I wouldn’t get in there. I believe I can do it. I think I just need to know that I’m learning and I need to perform with it. It’s there. The tools are there. I just need to do the right things.”
For now, though, Holm knows she is no longer in a position of power in the promotion. Potential rematches against Rousey and Tate might no longer be the bouts of choice for UFC brass.
“Coming off of two losses, I’ve never been in this position before. I’m not in a place to choose,” Holm said.