That really was Ronda Rousey, on her back on the canvas, being saved by the referee from an opponent’s onslaught and surrendering her perfect record in mixed martial arts in the process.
The legend of Rousey as an unstoppable force, impossible to either stop or silence, was indeed broken by Holly Holm on Saturday night, in an upset that flipped the world of women’s UFC on its head.
Holm was the underdog of all underdogs, dismissed and derided as yet another in a long line of Rousey victims in the lead-up to UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium.
Part of that was her own relative inexperience in the octagon, but most of it was down to the mystique of Rousey, who leapt into the public consciousness and her role as MMA’s biggest star in rapid time.
Rousey marched to the octagon with her usual menacing glare and opted out of the customary touching of the gloves prior to the fight. It was all down hill from there as Holm, who is the better striker of the two, proceeded to stand her ground and counter Rousey’s aggression with pinpoint strikes to the face and abdomen. Wobbled a few times in the first round, Ronda did manage an attempt at her signature arm bar but Holly mustered out of it.
Half way through the 2nd round, clearly behind on the judge’s scorecards, Rousey was caught with a straight left which nearly sent her to canvas and after regaining her footing, was struck with a vicious kick to the neck dropping her. It is then that Holm followed that up with monstrous blows to the face forcing referee Herb Dean to put a stop to the bout.
The CRAZY thing is that Ronda predicted that this would happen!
“She’s undefeated and an amazing athlete. The biggest threat yet to me… She’s the type of fighter that you have to be very, very patient with. She’s the type of athlete that’s gonna keep distance… and get me frustrated, to the point that I’ll make a mistake and she’ll try to kick me in the head…”
Yet this is a sport where reputations and records can be broken in an instant, and so it transpired on a Melbourne afternoon that will have long-standing repercussions within the sport.
Rousey, always a woman in a hurry, was thrown off by Holm’s patience, spatial awareness and willingness to move out of harm’s way. By the end of the first round, Rousey’s face was scuffed and bloodied. Less than a minute into the second, her position as the queen of the fight game had been stolen away.
The end came suddenly and brutally. Holm unleashed a crushing kick with her left to the side of Rousey’s head and neck. It was a knockout blow, and Rousey tumbled to the canvas like a stone. Holm homed in, delivering a pair of strikes to the face before referee Herb Dean correctly ended the contest.
Maybe we should have known better. Sports, especially one as unpredictable as this, have a habit of making apparent certainties seem anything but.
Holm tried to tell us. She said she had the game plan, the world title experience, the calm head and inner belief to shock the world. To be fair, many had said similar things before and ended up flat on their faces. Holm chose her words carefully, but the ones she spoke she meant — and was able to back them up when it mattered.