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Rivalries: Holly Holm


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Whether or not Holly Holm ever manages to recapture some of her past glory, she has already made sure that history will remember her.

A multiple-time world champion in boxing, Holm transitioned seamlessly to mixed martial arts in 2011 and rattled off 10 consecutive victories to start of her career. She reached the sport’s pinnacle a little more than four years after she started her climb and held the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight crown from Nov. 14, 2015 to March 5, 2016. Along the way, Holm made more friends than enemies and developed a loyal following that has allowed her to headline five UFC events thus far.

As the MMA world awaits word on Holm’s next assignment, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape her remarkable career:

Ronda Rousey


Holm fought the perfect fight. “The Preacher’s Daughter” knocked out the heavily favored Rousey with a second-round head kick and follow-up punches, as she captured the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight crown in the UFC 193 headliner on Nov. 14, 2015 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. The shocking end came 59 seconds into Round 2, with Rousey supine on the canvas. The tone was set early. Holm circled away from the champion throughout the first round, countering with accuracy and power. She 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 “Rowdy Ronda” on the canvas in a semi-conscious state. Holm pounced with punches and hammerfists, leaving referee Herb Dean no choice but to intervene.

Miesha Tate


“Cupcake” put Holm to sleep with a rear-naked choke and seized the women’s bantamweight championship in the fifth round of their UFC 196 co-main event on March 5, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “The Preacher’s Daughter” lost consciousness 3:30 into Round 5, as she was beaten for the first time in her professional MMA career. Tate nearly finished it in the second round, where she secured a takedown inside the first minute and smashed the champion with elbows, punches, hammerfists and forearm strikes before advancing to the back. She pursued the rear-naked choke, but Holm refused her advances and escaped. Tate spent rounds 1, 2 and 4 trapped on the feet, and the results were predictable. Holm utilized side kicks to the body, oblique kicks to the thigh, stinging punching combinations and surgical counters. It was not enough. Tate hit a duck-under takedown in the fifth round and wheeled to the back while Holm scrambled to her feet. She sank the choke with Holm standing and quickly tightened her squeeze. In a final act of desperation, Holm tried and failed to buck off the challenger but only slipped deeper into trouble. Soon after, she lay unconscious and the UFC had a new champion.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC, PFL, Dana White’s Contender Series and “The Ultimate Fighter” live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Cristiane Justino


Holm had the will but not the horsepower she needed to go along with it. Justino powered through “The Preacher’s Daughter” across five rounds to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s featherweight title in the UFC 219 headliner on Dec. 30, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “Cyborg” curried favor with all three judges by 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 margins, even though it seemed far more one-sided than the scores indicated. Holm landed her share of straight left hands and attempted to hold off the Brazilian with body kicks, blocked head kicks and clinches, often pushing her to the fence with double underhooks. However, it proved to be an exercise in futility. Justino routinely bashed the Jackson-Wink MMA stalwart with clubbing right hands, doing noticeable damage to her left eye in the process. She unveiled more and more weaponry as the fight drifted along, mixing in devastating knee strikes to the body in close quarters, a few head kicks of her own and a punishing jab for good measure.

Amanda Nunes


The American Top Team juggernaut retained the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, as she put away Holm with a head kick and follow-up punches in the first round of their UFC 239 co-feature on July 6, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Nunes brought it to a decisive close 4:10 into Round 1, becoming the first woman to ever finish the Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay with strikes. The “Lioness” fought at a measured pace and waited for an opening to present itself. She caught Holm with her hands down and unleashed a kick to the face that sent her to the canvas in a seated position with less than a minute remaining in the first round. Nunes pursued the Albuquerque, New Mexico, native with punches and prompted referee Marc Goddard to step in to prevent further damage.

Raquel Pennington


An overpowering clinch carried Holm to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 semifinalist in the UFC 246 co-main event on Jan. 18, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three judges sided with the former women’s bantamweight champion: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. Pennington—who had lost a contentious to split decision to Holm in their first meeting five years earlier at UFC 184—had no answer for “The Preacher’s Daughter” at close range. Holm pressed her counterpart into the fence repeatedly, controlled the exchanges and scored with upward elbows, knee strikes and short punches. While the approach lacked entertainment value, it was undeniably effective and provided Holm with an 81-55 advantage in the total strikes landed department. Advertisement
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