Top 3 Opponents for Holly Holm's UFC Debut

Kristian Ibarra@@kristian_ibarraFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

Top 3 Opponents for Holly Holm's UFC Debut

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    Credit: Bellator

    It only took 16 seconds for Dana White and the UFC brass to realize they were in trouble—UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was much, much better than anybody they could match her up with. 

    Months prior to Rousey's UFC 175 matchup with Alexis Davis, White and company were looking to sign some much-needed talent to their shallow women's roster to challenge their trailblazing superstar.

    They attempted to lure former Strikeforce women's featherweight champion and now silver-screen action hero Gina Carano back inside the cage, but they failed.

    Meanwhile, fans urged the promotion to find a way to sign another big name to the team, like Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris "Cyborg" Justino. They failed again. 

    Instead, in comes former professional boxing champion and now undefeated women's mixed martial artist Holly Holm to serve as one of the few quality challengers Rousey has left.

    It's unlikely Holm gets an immediate title shot, regardless of her boxing and MMA accolades. She'll likely have to step inside the Octagon against an established opponent and prove she won't just be another body for Rousey to toss or another arm for her to bar break.

    Keep reading to see the top three opponents for Holm's UFC debut. 

3. Liz Carmouche

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Professional Record: 9-5 (1-3 UFC)

    Notable Victory: Jessica Andrade (TKO) at UFC on Fox 8

    Few women have as much Octagon experience as former title challenger Liz Carmouche. 

    Sure, with a 1-3 UFC record, she hasn't necessarily been spectacular since taking part in the first-ever women's UFC fight. However, that doesn't mean the seasoned fighter should be completely eliminated from Holm's radar. 

    After dropping back-to-back losses to Alexis Davis and Miesha Tate, respectively, Carmouche would be looking to get back in the UFC's graces with a win. A loss to most fighters would likely send her packing to challenge lesser opponents on UFC Fight Pass as part of the Invicta FC banner. 

    Whether or not you believe Carmouche can beat Holm inside the Octagon (you probably don't) is unimportant. A fight with Holm, whether it be in victory or defeat, would remind fans of what Carmouche brings to the table: the willingness to duke it out with anybody the UFC puts in front of her, no matter the odds. 

2. Sarah Kaufman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Professional Record: 17-2 (1-0 UFC)

    Notable Victory: Miesha Tate (unanimous decision) at Strikeforce: Challengers 1

    About as seasoned as women's MMA fighters come, Sarah Kaufman is a bona fide challenger to anybody other than Ronda Rousey in this division. In fact, no fighter in the UFC's top 10 female bantamweights has more victories than Kaufman.

    Whether it be her victories over Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Shayna Baszler, or the losses she has to Marloes Coenen and Rousey, one thing is certain: Kaufman has basically seen all women's MMA has to offer. 

    All except for Holly Holm. 

    Kaufman would probably be wise not to strike with the former boxer, but considering these two fighters have 16 knockout finishes between them, we'd all be wise to cross our fingers that Kaufman throws caution to the wind. 

1. Alexis Davis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Professional Record: 16-6 (3-1 UFC)

    Notable Victory: Shayna Baszler (rear-naked choke) at Invicta FC 4

    Only a handful of people thought Alexis Davis had much of a chance against Ronda Rousey at UFC 175. Probably zero people thought she would get dismantled in 16 seconds. 

    Considering it took a five-fight winning streak to validate herself as a title contender in the UFC's women's bantamweight division, it will probably be a long road ahead before she finds herself challenging for a UFC strap again. A victory against Holly Holm would certainly help, though.

    In Davis, Holm would find a seasoned veteran who can hold her own on the feet (against most fighters not named Ronda Rousey) and is even better on the ground.

    Davis, of course, is the owner of a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 

    A victory over Davis would not only validate her as a formidable challenger to Rousey's crown, but also justify Holm's transition from women's boxing to MMA. 

    Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.