MMA headliners Rousey and Holm enter UFC pay per views as challengers

As the year in mixed martial arts culminates with the destined to be classic UFC 207 event, the women’s division consists of the most intriguing storylines. With the bantamweight title being contested, and the inaugural featherweight title to be fought for in February 2017, the challengers for both of these prestigious titles see their legendary careers possibly being on the line as well.

With batnamweight champion Amanda Nunes making her first title defense, she does so against the trailblazing Ronda Rousey, who helped elevate the importance and eventual main event status for women in UFC. Not only was Rousey the first women’s champion in UFC history, but she enters the match with the undertones of being an underdog.

After suffering the devastating upset to Holly Holm, Rousey has not entered the octagon. Although Holm should have defended her title first against Rousey in a rematch, she opted for Miesha Tate, losing the title, altering the balance of power once again in the women’s division. As promoter Dana White stated, “it cost him a big payday”. Coincidentally, Miesha Tate would lose the title in her first defense.

While Rousey’s first match fittingly puts her in a position to fit for the title, there are many doubts as to whether she still has the killer instinct that made her such a feared opponent. After Holm exposed some weaknesses against her, many fight pundits feel that Rousey may not be as intense, somewhat declawed, so to speak. Adding to this insinuation that Rousey may no longer be the dominant fighter that she used to be are the claims that Nunes is now the fighter to beat and should be poised to hold the same vice-like grip on the title that Rousey used to have.

Amanda Nunes (left) faces off against Ronda Rousey during weigh ins for UFC 207 at T Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Image obtained from: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/12/ronda-rousey-ufc-207-amanda-nunes-instagram-fans-prove-you-right-message

Amanda Nunes (left) faces off against Ronda Rousey during weigh ins for UFC 207 at T Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Image obtained from: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/12/ronda-rousey-ufc-207-amanda-nunes-instagram-fans-prove-you-right-message

One could compare Rousey vs. Nunes to the iconic match that took place between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, which was Ali’s big comeback, placing him back in the stratosphere of the elites. Doubts about Ali were evident before the match, claims that he may have been washed up. Although he beat Foreman, he did so because he made adjustments and did not rely on his former fight style, employing the “rope a dope” to reclaim the title he brought unprecedented prestige to.

Suddenly, Rousey is in the same position as Ali, who passed away earlier this year. If she loses this match to Nunes, her career will lose the luster it once had, no longer holding her in the conversation for the title. Should she manage to defeat Nunes (which will mean not panicking if things do not go her way in the first round), she will make history as the first woman to capture the UFC Bantamweight title twice.

Adding a tinge of irony to Rousey’s predicament is the fact that Holm, the woman who beat her for the title, is in a similar situation, as she enters UFC 207 with her career in the balance. Since Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey to capture the bantamweight women’s championship, the division has experienced a carousel of champions, with the title changing hands four times.

After losing to Tate, Holm suffered a second straight loss, bested by Russian fighter Valentina Shevchenko, which was the main event of UFC on Fox 20. With Holm entering UFC 207 with two straight losses, the baseball analogy of three strikes and you’re out may hold tremendous meaning. If she has any hopes of reviving her career, her fight against Germaine de Randamie for the women’s Featherweight championship is a must-win situation.

In addition, there is the potential element of unprecedented achievement for Holm, who could make mixed martial arts history with a win against Germaine de Randamie. Of note, there has never been a woman in the history of UFC to hold titles in two different weight classes, which would place Holm in rarified air, adding to her amazing legacy that also consists of several boxing titles.

Miesha Tate adds to intrigue of UFC women’s bantamweight division as its champion

On the surface, Holly Holm’s first title defense as women’s bantamweight champion at UFC 196 seemed like a warm-up match. Taking on Miesha Tate, who had been soundly defeated twice by Ronda Rousey, the unbeatable champion that Holm dethroned, there was no question who the underdog in this match was.

Continuing the trend of the unexpected developing in the women’s division, Tate has now staked her claim, reigning on top with the most prestigious title in female mixed martial arts. The shocking win, which was attained through a fifth-round submission choke hold, shook UFC to its core.

Photo credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Photo credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A rematch between Holm and Rousey would have resulted in a significant event that would have likely resulted in record revenues for the women’s division. There were definitely visions of Rousey-Holm being the Ali-Frazier of women’s mixed martial arts, an epic rivalry that would have only strengthened the role of UFC’s women’s division.

Instead, the possibility of an eventual Tate vs. Rousey match shall hold no appeal. Unless Rousey enters such a match unprepared or out of shape, the reality is that Tate will struggle to mount a strategic attack against a fighter who has dominated her. In addition, a defeat of Tate would seem a hollow victory for Rousey, as it was Holm that she needed to avenge her loss to.

Holm’s future in UFC is one that is unknown as Tate’s presence contributes to a bizarre triangle of drama for the women’s division. As the third women’s champion in the last six months, Tate does not really have an opponent to prepare for yet. Rousey has not declared when she will return. If Rousey does not return by year-end, Holm could face a rematch situation with Tate.

In reality, Holm deserves the chance at a rematch. Although she claims it was her decision to fight Tate before Rousey, one could understand that it may have been her prerogative to be seen as a fighting champion, rather than sight casually idle and wait for the big payday against Rousey. Should such a rematch with Tate occur, it would definitely be the fight to save Holm’s career. With due deference to Holm, known as “The Preacher’s Daughter”, she now faces the predicament of being considered a one-and-done champion, similar to James “Buster” Douglas, who was immortalized for his defeat of Mike Tyson.

Meanwhile, Tate is certainly trying to stimulate interest on a possible renewed rivalry with Rousey, while proving that she is worthy of the moniker of champion. While Rousey posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue following her loss to Holm, it only adds ammunition to Tate’s weaponry of words. Calling Rousey a broken woman, criticizing a pereceived softer persona, Tate has proceeded to call her the B-word and making comments about her body odor.

The only statement that will have any value is defeating her in the cage. Even if Rousey is considered kinder and gentler, Tate’s words may push her buttons, reigniting an intensity which may result in Tate facing her downfall. While Tate deserves to be admired for bouncing back from losses to Rousey, able to climb to the top of her profession and become a champion after a career that seemed in decline, her lack of humility may only serve to contribute towards another title change, rather than establishing a legacy.

Holly Holm humbles Ronda Rousey in upset of the decade

In an upset reminiscent to James “Buster” Douglas defeating Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship 25 years ago, history saw a new chapter composed as a pair of female fighters in UFC engaged in the biggest upset the promotion has ever seen. UFC women’s champion Ronda Rousey, who seemed indestructible in a remarkable rout of the women’s division, faced the biggest loss of her career at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia as Holly Holm, a former champion in the Legacy FC Women’s Bantamweight Division, upset and humbled her en route to staking her claim as the world’s finest.

With experience as a boxer, Holm presented a different type of opponent to what Rousey was accustomed to. In past matches, Rousey always aimed for the arm of her opponent, attempting to win via armbar submission. Holm’s boxing acumen, which has seen her win two WBF Women’s World titles (Welterweight and Light Welterweight) was a key factor towards victory as she employed a fighting strategy which saw her refuse to let Rousey fight the type of match she was used to.

Instead, Holm showed no fear, leaving her arm exposed for such an attempt. The result was a punishing punch to Rousey’s face, unsuccessful in her seventh title defense, which instantly set the tone. Just 59 seconds in the second round, Holm connected with a kick, exploiting an opening, and prompting to deliver several blows to the head.

Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Ironically, the victory is not the first in which Holm has been considered to pull off an upset. A September 16, 2005 boxing win against Christy Martin was considered the Upset of the Year by Women Boxing Archive Network.

From the outset, Rousey refused to tap gloves with Holm at the beginning, displaying arrogance and a lack of sportsmanship. It definitely contributed to an element of karmic payback in the aftermath of the match as Rousey realized she is vulnerable.
Seeking treatment at a local hospital for concussion and facial cuts, she has stated on social media that she will come back.

At 34 years of age, Holm is a highly experienced fighter with a breadth of accomplishments ranging from boxing to kickboxing along with muy thai and MMA. While she has been fighting for over a decade, the win over Rousey has definitely served as a coming-out party, with fight fans finally recognizing her greatness.

Her boxing knockout of Alanna Jones in 2013 was considered the knockout of the year among several sites. That year, she earned several other accolades including the Lady Violence Award from FightBooth.com and the Rising Star of the Year Award from Inside MMA. She certainly lived up to her potential with an iconic second round knockout of Rousey.

As a side note, another women’s match was on the card, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated Valerie Letourneau to retain her straw-weight title in five grueling rounds. With the win, she extends her MMA record to an impressive 11-0.

For Rousey’s critics, it is very hard to have any empathy for her in the aftermath of such an epic loss. Her brash and occasionally abrasive personality definitely makes her a target for criticism.

When she once guest hosted on the popular television program TMZ, she talked about what it was like to break someone’s arm. One may feel that she almost took sadistic pleasure in such an event. Having criticized other women for appearing in a state of undress in magazines, she has graced the pages of ESPN’s Body Issue, Maxim and Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue.

Taking into account that Rousey once lost in judo at the Summer Games, she bounced back to become one of the world’s most formidable fighters. This loss must serve as a wake-up call. Suffering said loss in front of a UFC-record 56,214 fans, not only will she be forced to focus even more on her fighting skills, she will need to remain humble, understanding that no opponent can be taken for granted.

Although a rematch is definitely a guarantee, likely generating unprecedented revenues for UFC and more attention towards its rapidly expanding women’s division, Holm will be hoping not to repeat in the footsteps of Douglas by losing in her debut as champion. Regardless of the future, Holm, whose MMA career record improves to a sterling 10-0 mark, has definitely established herself as a household name and claims a unique place in popular culture.