UFC is making its first trek to Melbourne, Australia, and is pulling out all the stops, with Ronda Rousey stepping back into the Octagon for the first time in four months, putting her bantamweight title on the line against undefeated challenger Holly Holm.
There was a time when this bout would have been considered a contrast in styles, with Rousey being the excellent ground and submission fighter taking on the boxer-turned-mixed-martial-artist in Holm.
As every great athlete does, though, Rousey has evolved, with three of her last four wins coming via knockout or TKO. Holm is moving into uncharted waters, as her highest-profile win to date was against 38-year-old Marion Reneau, who is also ranked 11th in UFC's official women's bantamweight fighter rankings.
Rousey is the overwhelming favorite to win this bout, as expected, and Holm still has to prove that she warrants this marquee matchup with such a brief UFC resume that includes just two fights entering Saturday night.
|UFC 193 Rousey vs. Holm Odds|
|Ronda Rousey (c)||-2000|
|Odds via OddsShark.com|
What They Are Saying
This is a change of pace, both for UFC and Rousey. Saturday's event is taking place in a stadium that was originally scheduled to seat 15,000 but has bumped that total up to 70,000 due to insane demand for tickets.
Because UFC is taking its show on the road for a big stadium show, media commitments are very different for this show. Rousey, speaking to Duane Finley of Sports Illustrated, has admitted that this is unique for her experiences.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Rousey said. “The stadium has the capacity for 70,000, but I still have to fill up 70,000. I’m doing all I can to try to meet that goal, but the ultimate goal is to beat Holly. If everything else falls into place that’s awesome, but if not I tried my best."
The promotion for an event is something that doesn't get talked about often enough, especially when the entire show is being built around a single fighter. Rousey is the draw on this card, being the biggest star in the sport, and has to prepare for her match while also selling the show in public appearances.
Continuing her talk with Finley, Rousey admitted her schedule over the last year has been chaotic:
I go on these runs and it’s just hard. This will be my third title fight in nine months and it’s exhausting. I kind of think of it more as how much I’ve done since the last time I got to rest. This fight with Holly is the last hurdle before the next time I get to rest and there is no way on earth this girl is taking my rest and happiness away from me.
There is no reason to doubt that Rousey will be physically and mentally prepared for the bout, as she continues to end matches within 66 seconds of the opening bell, but the law of averages would say at some point she will hit a wall.
Holm hopes Saturday will be Rousey's first slip-up, though the challenger told Rick Maese of the Washington Post she's tired of receiving one question.
“I am sick of hearing, ‘Do you think you can win?’ ” Holm said. “Like, who takes a fight going, ‘I don’t think I can win. I’m just here.’ I don’t understand that.”
It's an understandable feeling, as the world assumes Rousey will win and the only question being asked by fans is how long it will take to happen. Some fans would even consider Holm going two minutes with Rousey to be a victory in its own right.
Despite that particular annoyance, Holm was quick to give Rousey respect for what she has accomplished in the Octagon.
“I feel to me, it doesn’t really matter. . . . Trust me, I fear her—she’s the toughest, most dominating competitor out there. But she’s still just another female, just another person. There’s huge upsets in history for a reason. Somebody had to believe in themselves to get there," Holm told Maese.
Flying under the radar isn't a bad thing, since Rousey is carrying the burden of expectations and being the star of the show. Holm can sit back, focus all her energy on preparing for the champion and look to shock the world.
One of the many people in Rousey's corner for this fight is legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach, who told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani that the ground will be the difference:
[Rousey's] not the best in the world [at boxing], but she's good, she's very competitive, she tries really hard. It's probably not the best thing she does, she probably better at ground game, but again, she's more experienced there. Her boxing is good, the girl she's fighting is a good boxer also. When they stand up it will be a good fight but when it goes to the ground she's going to destroy her.
There has to be a feeling that if Rousey loses, it will come in a fight that stays standing up. She's been so great on the ground, dating back to her days before MMA when the 28-year-old won a bronze medal in Judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Holm has the boxing skill, but she has never gone against a ground fighter anywhere near the caliber of Rousey, so it would be stunning if she were able to pull the upset off.
Another problem facing Holm in this bout, as noted by Jeff Wagenheim of Sports Illustrated, is there are limitations to her boxing ability:
Normally, in a boxer vs. grappler bout, one would say the standup fighter has at least a puncher’s chance. But Holm, for all of her boxing background, is not a power puncher. She did win all but one of her pre-UFC bouts by knockout, but ever since she stepped up to the big leagues, both of her fights have gone to decision. And even in 38 boxing matches, she had but nine KOs.
Wagenheim also pointed out that Holm only connects on 28 percent of her significant strikes, compared to 63 percent for Rousey.
Being a methodical striker is not inherently wrong, as Holm rode that style to win multiple boxing titles in her career, but Rousey's aggressive, relentless attacking style does not leave many chances to wait for opportunities to pick her apart.
Even in sports, which are by their very nature unpredictable despite everyone always offering a prediction, there are certain athletes or teams impossible to pick against until you see them lose.
For years, Anderson Silva was the UFC fighter carrying that torch. Rousey has ascended to the throne in a short time, showing no signs of relinquishing the crown anytime soon. Holm will be a more formidable foe than Bethe Correia or Cat Zingano, but the end result will be the same.
Rousey wins via first-round submission