By Julian Martinez
Everyone loves a good underdog story. A person rising to the occasion to beat someone, whom everyone else thought was invincible. Last night, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was rocked with perhaps its greatest upset in league history.
Holly Holm, a native New Mexican and former graduate of Manzano High School in Albuquerque, did the unthinkable last night and defeated Ronda Rousey by second-round knockout. Rousey has been billed as the greatest women’s fighter ever and one of the greatest athletes of her generation. Whether it’s movies or magazine covers, Rousey has dominated the media, and for good reason.
Rousey came into Saturday’s fight sporting an undefeated record, but beyond that, the fashion Rousey has won her fights was unheard of. One of her most recent fights was a grand total of 14 seconds. To put that into perspective, she could fit that match on her Snapchat story or posted it on her Instagram.
This fight, however, was going to be different. Holm, prior to the fight, was by far the most decorated fighter Rousey could face in the bantamweight division. Holm was undefeated as an MMA fighter, but her championship experience in boxing made her dangerous from the get-go, due to her pure striking ability and advantage fighting from a standing position.
The build up for this fight couldn’t have been better. At first it was all about the mutual respect aspect: every promo for the fight early on featured Holm talking nothing but great things about Rousey and Rousey doing the same. Then it came time for the weigh-in, where a seemingly harmless occurrence set off Rousey.
Holm, when going in for the pre-fight photo, according to Rousey, put her glove on the champion’s face. Rousey was having none of it as she was about to get the fight started a day early before they were separated. Rousey had some choice words for Holm when asked about the scuffle.
“It’s not the first time your camp thought they had the perfect plan to beat me,” said Rousey. “I’m going to show you on Sunday why I’m the champ.”
The stage was set then for a showdown that would rock the sporting world. More than 56,000 people attended the fight in Melbourne, Australia, which is an attendance record for the UFC. Early estimates have the fight surpassing one million pay-per-view buys.
It would appear, to begin the fight, that Rousey was still heated over the weigh-ins because when the referee asked both competitors to touch gloves, as is tradition, Holm was left hanging as Rousey went immediately to her corner. Holm and her team had to have been expecting Rousey to come out aggressive, as she has in all her match-ups, but Rousey’s team appeared to have changed the game plan and this played right into Holm’s strengths.
Holm, as a boxer, has the footwork to handle movement from a standing position and despite Rousey’s team believing she could box with Holm, this was not the case. Holm continued to punish Rousey throughout the first round with straight lefts that left the champ’s face bloody and bruised.
Rousey, at points, got in close enough to attempt grappling, which would have changed the dynamic of the fight, but her attempts were stopped short. With 2:35 left in the first round, Rousey had her best chance to lock in an armbar squandered.
Towards the end of the first round, it was apparent Rousey was tired as she started getting sloppy. She was wildly swinging at points, desperate to land punches on Holm. Holm even managed a takedown with 40 seconds left, which is not her forte.
Simply by lasting past the first round, Holm lasted a minute and 52 seconds longer than Rousey’s last five opponents combined. It wasn’t that she was just surviving, though, Holm was dominating the match-up. Everyone watching knew she had won the first round.
Coming out of the brief intermission, the wild swings continued from Rousey. At the 4:28 mark of the second round, Holm ducked and had Rousey fall to the ground, swinging at air. Then it happened. After a brief tie-up and Rousey’s back turning to Holm, an opportunity opened up, an opportunity Holm took full advantage of.
With perhaps the biggest kick of her life, Holm knocked out Rousey becoming the new bantamweight world champion. Rousey would need to be taken to the hospital to have some stitches put in her lip.
Probably not since Johnny Tapia won his first world title back in 1994 has the the state of New Mexico been prouder of a fighter. Holm, according to Vegas, was valued at being a +800 underdog. The next biggest upset in UFC history is +575 from T.J. Dillashaw back in May 2014.
Many are asking what does this mean for Rousey, does the hype train come to a screaming stop? Perhaps a good question to ask is what does this mean for Holly Holm? Can she continue to carry the women’s division in the same way Rousey did? When is there expected rematch going to happen?
Forgetting about all the questions, this is probably the greatest moment in New Mexico sports history. Holm who wanted nothing more than to make her home state proud and she has done exactly that.
Maybe we should ask one more question. When’s the victory parade?
Click here to see highlights from the fight.