Holly Holm was dominant in victory at LFC 24 on Friday night. | Robert Lopez/Sherdog.com
At first glance, they appear to be an unlikely pair, but Henry Cejudo and Holly Holm have at least this much in common: As highly decorated combat athletes in a previous realm, both face high expectations in their burgeoning mixed martial arts careers.
At Legacy Fighting Championship 24 on Friday, both Cejudo, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and Holm, a 14-time, three-division world boxing champion, delivered on their considerable hype. As one might expect, their methods were quite different.
While Cejudo relied on grappling acumen and ground-and-pound to carry him to victory, Holm unveiled a veritable toolbox of striking techniques in a lopsided beatdown. When all was said and done at the Allen Event Center in Dallas, both fighters sported shiny 5-0 records, their coveted “prospect” labels intact.
It wasn’t a complete walk in the park from Cejudo’s perspective, however. After dispatching his first four opponents in a little more than 12 minutes combined, the Arizonan was forced to go the full 15 minutes to capture a unanimous verdict over a game Ryan Hollis. All three cageside judges scored the flyweight tilt 30-27 in favor of Cejudo.
The first round served as a feeling-out process, as Cejudo attempted to gauge the distance on his 5-foot-11 opponent. Meanwhile, Hollis appeared reluctant to pull the trigger due to the imminent takedown threat, something which would prove to be a recurring theme throughout the fight.
Shortly after Hollis (4-2) landed a right high kick in the second round -- his most significant offense of the night -- Cejudo began to assert himself. The Olympian landed his first takedown of the fight and spent the next three and a half minutes in top position, stacking his lanky foe and attacking with ground-and-pound.
Cejudo grounded Hollis yet again with a little more than three minutes remaining in round three. From there, it looked similar to the second half of the previous frame, with Cejudo relying on his strength to maintain control while punishing his foe with punches and knees to the body.
“I think as soon as I got hit, I said, ‘It’s going to the ground,” said Cejudo, who donated a portion of his fight purse to the North Texas branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “I figured I could strike with him, but why? I’m a little disappointed in myself. I should have ground-and-pounded a little bit more, a little bit better.”
Meanwhile, Holm treated Nikki Knudsen (2-2) as her personal punching bag in a featured women’s 135-pound showdown. A longtime student of Jackson’s MMA striking coach Mike Winkeljohn, Holm put her entire kickboxing arsenal to work in the opening stanza. In addition to knees and rapid-fire punching combinations, “The Preacher’s Daughter” landed front kicks, side kicks, hook kicks, head kicks, and leg kicks in an exhibition of versatility. While Knudsen managed to survive the first frame, she mounted virtually no offense of her own.
Round two brought more of the same, as Knudsen continued to come up woefully short on her offerings while Holm teed off with punching combinations punctuated by kicks. After Holm landed a side kick to the ribs, Knudsen let out an audible yelp. With her opponent clearly reeling, the New Mexican swarmed with a a barrage of knees against the cage before capping off the performance with several more punches to the head. Referee Aladin Martinez mercifully called a halt to the bout 1:18 into the period.
Holm has finished all five of her professional opponents with strikes, four via kicks.
“I’ve always had a love for the kicks,” she said. “Believe it or not when I first started fighting I didn’t punch at all.”
In what was the evening’s official main event, Carlos Diego Ferreira outpointed (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) fellow unbeaten Chris Feist in a lightweight duel. Ferreira (8-0) mixed up his strikes throughout to keep his wrestling-minded adversary off balance.
The Brazilian buckled Feist with a right hand in round two, used his guard to neutralize what little top control his foe did achieve and finished the fight landing strikes from back control. It was Ferreira’s second straight triumph under the Legacy banner. Feist fell to 8-1 in his promotional debut.
Elsewhere, the finishing instinct of Ryan Benoit was on full display, as “Baby Face” finished off Cody Fuller 4:53 into their bantamweight encounter. Benoit (7-2) set the tone early, swarming his man with big, looping punches shortly after the opening bell. Later, the Janjira Muay Thai member floored Fuller (10-7) with a left hook only to see his foe recover guard.
With time winding down in the first frame, Benoit finally put Fuller away for good, connecting on a head kick followed by about nine unanswered uppercuts against the fence to force the stoppage.
Charles Byrd relied on strength, athleticism and solid defensive wrestling to earn a hard-fought split verdict against Mike Jasper in a welterweight conflict. Two cageside judges scored the contest 29-28 for Byrd, while another saw it 29-28 in favor of Jasper.
Byrd (5-3) had the advantage in standup exchanges, as he attacked his opponent with power punches and head kicks. Jasper (7-1), meanwhile, looked to close the distance and impose his will through wrestling. However, even when he was able to get Byrd down, Jasper was unable to maintain position for any significant period of time.
Damon Jackson improved to 7-0 with an arm-triangle choke of Javier Obregon 4:12 into round two of their featherweight scrap. It briefly appeared that Obregon (5-7) would hand Jackson his first career defeat when the Phalanx Powerhouse representative dropped his foe with a knee with less than two minutes remaining in the frame. However, Jackson quickly recovered and moved into mount, where he was able to secure the fight-ending submission in short order.
In preliminary action: Eli Tamez took a unanimous decision against Eliazar Rodriguez; Hunter Tucker defeated Douglas Frey via first-round TKO; Evan Thompson outpointed Evert Gutierrez and Matthew Lozano used an inverted triangle choke to submit Klayton Mai in the first round.