It’s late and I’m sleepy, so I’m going to keep this short. But I can’t NOT write about what I saw earlier tonight…
Ronda Rousey opened as a -1450 favorite to beat Holly Holm, who was a +950 underdog. Rousey made it all the way to -2000 but late betting action took the line on Rousey all the way down to -750. So as long as we’re looking at closing lines, Holm’s win is not the biggest upset in UFC history. But if you’re looking at the fact that Holm was priced at +1250 at one point, then it IS the biggest upset.
I’ve watched enough Rousey fights to know that she tends to move forward very aggressively, she almost always gets hit a couple times coming in, and she fights at a frenetic pace. I always wanted to see what would happen if an opponent was able to circle out consistently and take Rousey into deeper waters, but it always seemed like Rousey would be able to get the clinch, get the fight to the ground, and finish by armbar. For a fighter like Holm, who had never been tested against a grappling based opponent, I figured the fight would end the same way it usually does.
As it turns out, Holm had the skills and the game plan necessary to take advantage of the flaws in Rousey’s game. Early on, I thought Rousey was standing and boxing with Holm to try to prove a point – to show that Rousey could box with Holm. When it became clear that Rousey could not box with Holm, I expected Rousey to change gears and go to her “bread and butter” – the judo/grappling game. There was one ground scramble and one clinch, but for the most part, Holm was able to use her straight punches and footwork to keep Rousey at distance.
As Rousey’s demeanor changed from “terminator” to having doubts, Holm started to really take over. Her distance control and punching accuracy were outstanding, and it was amazing to watch Holm side-step Rousey and see Rousey stumbling in desperate attempts to attack. The head kick knockout was the perfect finisher to an amazing performance.
So here’s the question: who would I favor in a rematch? On one hand, this performance by Holm was not a fluke. It was a one-sided beatdown. Holm made Rousey look bad. On the other hand, Holm is the same fighter who went to split decision against Raquel Pennington in her UFC debut. Without doing a thorough analysis (or consulting the statistical model) I would probably pick Rousey to win a rematch… if I was assured that Rousey would use this as an opportunity to evolve and grow as a fighter. But if you told me that Rousey would attack Holm exactly the same way in a rematch, I would have to pick Holm to win it.
And speaking candidly, I’m glad that Holm won this fight. Rousey’s act has really been wearing thin with me. I don’t blame her for using her celebrity status as an opportunity to build her brand, but a lot of what she’s said has been tabloid fodder – which the media has been all too eager to report. I would be happy to go a couple months without hearing about Rousey vs. Mayweather, or Rousey beating up random guys in her past, or who Rousey thinks should be the next president, etc.
As for Holm, her performance was thrilling to watch, and it’s injected life into a division that sorely needed it.