The journey might have been a little bit tedious, but the final destination was well worth the trip.
That was Holly Holm’s evening in a nutshell at UFC Fight Night 111 in Singapore. For two rounds, Holm and opponent Bethe Correia cautiously circled, feinted and basically did everything but land meaningful offense in their main event bout. At one point, the two combatants were even warned by referee Marc Goddard for their refusal to engage.
While an outside observer might have seen timidity, Holm was watching a game plan unfold. That’s why the boos coming from inside Singapore Indoor Stadium had little effect on the Albuquerque, N.M., native.
“One of the goals for this fight was to not let it look messy. A lot of times that’s her style is to make it a brawl and make it look messy. I wanted it to be clean,” Holm said. “I’m not happy with even letting her land a couple shots in the second round. I wanted to pick a clean shot. I wanted to do it right. The game plan was not to rush anything. We knew the crowd might boo. That’s the type of game plan the crowd might boo, and we knew that. I just thought, ‘I’m the one in here fighting and I’m going to stick to the game plan.’ And I’m gonna pick the right shot.”
Holm did exactly that in the third round, just moments after Correia dropped her hands and taunted the Jackson-Wink MMA product. Shortly thereafter, Holm smashed her shin into Correa’s face with a left high kick that dropped the Brazilian and left her comically signaling for a timeout before the ex-bantamweight queen clinched the victory with a follow-up uppercut at the 1:09 mark of round three.
“I think obviously if I was training to fight me, I’d be like, ‘OK she has the left kick, let’s watch out for it.’ I just have that competitive side of me that thinks, ‘You know it’s coming, but I still want to hit you with it.’ There’s a few more details with that but I don’t want to lay everything out,” Holm said. “The taunting doesn’t do anything to me. That’s never affected me in any fight I’ve had. I wanted to stick to the game plan and that’s it.”
Of course, Holm’s most famous MMA victory also came via head kick when she ended Ronda Rousey’s aura of invincibility at UFC 193 in November 2015. While Holm is well aware of her success with that maneuver, she said Saturday’s victory was more about being on the same page with her coaches.
“We’ve been working a lot on varying kicks. I’m always wanting to be an evolving fighter. I have a couple head kick knockouts but I don’t want to be predictable,” she said. “We work on everything. I wanted to pick the right kick at the right time. I wanted to listen to my team and what they were coaching me to do. They saw it open and they called it. That’s one of the things I wanted to do is listen to my team. I failed to do that in my last two fights and it cost me the fights.”
Holm entered the matchup with Correia on a three-fight skid, which removed much of the luster from her monumental win over Rousey. Holm had never endured such a difficult period at any other point during her decorated combat sports career, but the build-up to and conclusion of UFC Fight Night 111 reminded her why she still does what she does.
“I wanted to enjoy this camp, this fight week. I wanted to remind myself that I’m in this because I do love it. A lot of people keep asking me, ‘You’re on a three-fight losing streak. What are you going to do now?’ It doesn’t really matter what everybody else thinks I’m going to do. I started fighting because I love it,” Holm said. “I’m passionate about it. That was my reminder. I’m gonna be me. I’m the one who’s getting in there and fighting. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. I’m not going to allow anyone to map out my life for me.”