After Holly Holm’s astounding victory over Ronda Rousey in UFC 193 - which I’m proud to say I predicted - there are clamors for an immediate rematch. Dana White’s close relationship with Ronda makes it nearly impossible for him to accept the emphatic nature of her defeat, and his subjective desire to see it reversed is understandable. However, there are a number of things the Rousey camp, and those close to her, should consider before throwing her back into the octagon with Holm.
As I wrote last month in my article, ”Hail Holly!”, there is an old boxing axiom that goes, “When a fighter wins decisively, a rematch will bring the same result, only sooner.” Styles make fights, and as Miesha Tate noted, “… Holly has the style to beat Ronda. She’s Ronda’s kryptonite.” This observation is insightful.
UFC Commentator, Mike Goldberg, during his introduction to the main event, echoed Holm’s strategy. “Ronda has never been hit hard enough to throw her off her game plan …Tonight, (I) will do exactly that.” The strategy worked. Ronda confirmed this in her December 8th ESPN interview. "I got hit in that first round. ... I cut my lip open and knocked a couple of my teeth loose. I was out on my feet from the very beginning."
Any objective pundit would have to acknowledge that Holly Holm’s forty-seven professional fights in boxing and MMA have created a stand-up game that is extraordinary. Her agility, speed and combination striking will be a formidable obstacle for any Bantamweight challenger. For Ronda to close the gap in her skill-set sufficiently enough to compete with Holly will take years to achieve - if ever.
Any fighter who has suffered a knockout will tell you that a replay of that agonizing moment runs continuously in the back of their mind for months after the fight. This is one of the most difficult things for a KO’d fighter to overcome when facing a rematch. Because of the enormity of the event, Ronda’s demise has been replayed on every media outlet in the world. The image of Holly’s leg colliding with Ronda’s bloodied face is now ubiquitous, creating an indelible image in the minds of fans and fighters alike.
While Ronda dealt with a defeat in her bid for the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, the magnitude of that loss does not compare to the trouncing she took in Melbourne. If a rematch occurs, Holly’s first solid shot will bring memories of the knockout crashing into Ronda’s brain and create enough hesitation to allow Holm to reimpose the circumstances of the first fight. Only time will erase those instinctive neural pathways and give Ronda a chance to bring freshness to a rematch.
There are some who admonish Rousey for not attempting more take-downs during the fight. But the fact is, she did. If one systematically evaluates their November 14th clash, it’s obvious that Holly won every engagement - even the clinches. This unavoidable reality produces an added obstacle for Ronda to overcome. Her plan of grabbing Holm and dominating the grappling has inherent risks. It was Holm’s escape from a clinch against the cage that resulted in the first kick to Ronda’s body. It’s a sobering reminder that when fighting Holly Holm, there is no safe place.
Also, when you consider that Ronda dreamed of being the first athlete to win titles in both MMA and boxing - an accomplishment Holly snatched from her grasp, shattering those ambitions forever - it provides yet another mental obstacle to overcome. It’s also wise to remember that while Ronda is recuperating and improving her standup game, Team Holm will be training as well, refining Holly’s grappling skills. If the UFC allows Holm to defend her title during Ronda’s hiatus - which I hope they will – Holly will have added ring experience to bring to the rematch.
I’m not suggesting that Ronda never attempt to redeem her loss, but rather, it would be prudent to have a few fights with some less formidable strikers first. A quick rematch could be a disaster. The disparity in their stand-up game is too significant to overcome in six months. Ronda is still young, and I sincerely hope her training camp encourages her to ease back into the octagon. A premature rematch could end her career entirely, and that would be a tragic loss for MMA. No one should underestimate her enormous contributions to the sport.
Holly Holm’s victory reminds me a lot of Evander Holyfield’s knockout of Mike Tyson. Evander was a disrespected former champion leading up their historic first fight, despite his superb career as both cruiserweight and heavyweight. When Tyson was KO’d, the media jumped to the conclusion that something was amiss. “He was off his game. He’d overlooked his opponent and didn’t train properly,” they reflected. The search for some inscrutable explanation filled sports columns, as “experts” attempted to prove their own biased preconception that the loss must be due to Tyson’s misstep, rather than Holyfield’s talent.
I’m seeing the same phenomenon in the wake of Holly’s victory. Excuses that Ronda was overbooked leading up to the fight, and suggestions that her personal life was a distraction are rampant. But all this is a gross avoidance of the truth, and that is: Ronda Rousey stepped into the octagon with superior fighter on November 14th. Pure and simple.
When there is such an enormous mystique surrounding a fighter, as there was for Tyson, and now Rousey, the pundit world simply can’t allow that illusion to be deflated. They have too much emotional investment in the charismatic effigy generated by the sports establishment to face the harsh illumination of the facts. All fighters have an Achilles Heel and eventually someone will exploit it.
Other essays and articles by Charles Long can be found in the boxing and MMA sections of Convicted Artist. He is the author of “Adventures in the Scream Trade - Scenes from an Operatic Life,” available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
"Adventures in the Scream Trade - Scenese from an Operatic Life" available for preview on iTunes