Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
The champion is nicknamed “Rowdy.” Her challenger goes by “The Preacher’s Daughter.” Talk about a mismatch.
But the UFC doesn’t care. Ronda Rousey is a star whose supporting cast means little at the box office. And with the behemoth fight promotion hoping to pack a record 70,000 into Etihad Stadium for UFC 193 on Saturday night in Melbourne, Australia (10 p.m. ET, PPV), the presence of Holly Holm in the octagon will be a mere footnote.
That the UFC’s other female champion, strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk, also will be defending her belt that night is an interesting sidelight. But everyone knows who’ll be front and center under the spotlight. This is The Ronda Rousey Show.
For Rousey (12-0), this will be the seventh defense of the UFC bantamweight belt she has worn since the promotion bought out Strikeforce, where she was champion, and created its first women’s division. The 28-year-old Californian has been thoroughly dominant, finishing all but one of her fights in the first round, eight of them in the first minute. Her last three defenses have lasted 34, 16, and 14 seconds. Rousey is No. 2 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings.
Holm (9-0) has gone the distance in her two UFC fights, although prior to signing with the game’s top promotion, she knocked out several lesser opponents, often with a kick to the head or body. Her boxing career produced a 32-3-2 record, with nine KO’s and 15 world titles. The 34-year-old also went 2-1 as a kickboxer. She ranks No. 9 in the SI.com women’s bantamweight tally.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s seven-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first two bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass online service at 7.
When Rousey burst on the MMA scene nearly five years ago, her Olympic-sharpened grappling was her calling card. As she stopped opponent after opponent with her signature armbar–her first eight opponents tapped out with little resistance–the thinking was that she was devastating, yes, but also one-dimensional. If only there were a high-level striker out there . . .
Well, there was. Also making her professional MMA debut in March 2011 was Holm, who came from the sweetest science of striking. She was a 15-time world boxing champion. Now, those credentials didn’t carry quite the weight of Rousey’s Olympic bronze in judo–32 of Holm’s 38 boxing matches took place in her hometown, Albuquerque, making her resume seem small-time when compared to Rousey’s.
But as Rousey skyrocketed to stardom and Holm continued to mow down her MMA competition, knocking out six of her first seven foes in regional promotions, it became apparent to the UFC brass that this was a Rousey opponent they could sell. They brought her into the promotion, and she has won her two fights. Neither performance was especially eye-opening–she was tentative her first time out, in control her second, but even then, against an overmatched foe, she didn’t have a finish in her.
Still, Rousey vs. Holm was the fight Dana White & Co. wanted. So even with Holm looking like a fighter in need of some fine tuning, and even with Rousey apparently booked for a third fight with her twice-conquered nemesis, Miesha Tate, the UFC decided it was time. Tate, who’d been promised the title fight by White himself in a TV interview, was cast aside and Holm brought in.
Too soon? Maybe. But it’s also reasonable to believe that Holly Holm will never be ready to handle Ronda Rousey.
Last five fights
|8/1/15 Bethe Correia W KO 1||7/15/15 Marion Reneau W UD 3|
|2/28/15 Cat Zingano W Sub. 1||2/28/15 Raquel Pennington W SD 3|
|7/5/14 Alexis Davis W KO 1||4/4/14 Juliana Werner W TKO 5|
|2/22/14 Sara McMann W TKO 1||12/6/13 Angela Hayves W UD 3|
|12/28/13 Miesha Tate W Sub. 3||10/11/13 Nikki Knudsen W TKO 2|
Tale of the tape
|Feb. 1, 1987||BIRTH DATE||7/15/15 Marion Reneau W UD 3|
|Riverside, Calif.||BIRTHPLACE||Albuquerque, NM|
|Venice, Calif.||RESIDENCE||Albuquerque, NM|
* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Other numbers to count on
• 3:00: Rousey’s average fight time, shortest in the UFC among fighters with five bouts in the promotion. Her last three fights have gone 34, 16, and 14 seconds. Holm’s two UFC bouts have both gone the distance.
• 28: Accuracy percentage of Holm’s significant strikes. Rousey connects on 63 percent of hers.
• 70,000: Seating capacity at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, which if filled will be a UFC attendance record.
Ronda Rousey hands Bethe Correia a quick beating:
Holly Holm earns her shot by fending off Marion Reneau:
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.
Holm is more of a pick-you-apart striker, with a strong command of distance and fluid movement. Will that be enough to keep Rousey off of her?
The outcome of this fight depends largely on the champ’s mindset. If Rousey is motivated by the challenge of testing her striking against a former professional boxer, she might provide some entertainment and perhaps even some drama for what’s expected to be the largest crowd in UFC history. But if “Rowdy Ronda” simply wants to get the job done as efficiently as possible, she will just head across the octagon, grab hold of Holm, and that will be the beginning of the end.
Holm is good at keeping distance, using sharp jabs and front kicks, and footwork as well. But she doesn’t have the power to give Rousey pause. So, as Joe Louis said, she can run but she can’t hide.
Rousey is the overwhelming favorite, with a money line ranging from -1600 (bet $1,600 to win $100) to -2200 (bet $2,200 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Holm ranges from +790 (bet $100 to win $790) to +1305 (bet $100 to win $1,305).
Rousey is just enough of a badass to try to do to Holm what she did to Correia. In their short fight, she had a couple of opportunities to take the Brazilian into her torture chamber office, but she chose to stay on her feet and outstrike the striker. The thing is, though, that Bethe was a brawler with a pedigree in fitness classes, whereas Holly had nearly 40 professional boxing matches and owned 15 world titles. Ronda thinks she can outbox her, though. She knows she can. And maybe she will, but I think at some point a vulnerable limb will present itself and the champ won’t be able to resist. Rousey by submission.
– Rousey during last month’s UFC 193 media conference call, after hanging up abruptly because a reporter asked her about her personal life. (Rousey, a vocal critic of serial domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather, has been dating UFC heavyweight Travis Browne, who last summer was accused of physical abuse by his estranged wife.)
“Ronda Rousey is kind of like a female Terminator.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
The rest of the card
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valerie Letourneau, strawweight championship; Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva, heavyweight; Uriah Hall vs. Robert Whittaker, middleweight; Stefan Struve vs. Jared Rosholt, heavyweight.
Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Jake Matthews vs. Akbarh, lightweight; Kyle Noke vs. Peter Sobotta, welterweight; Gian Villante vs. Anthony Perosh, light heavyweight; Richie Vaculik vs. Danny Martinez, flyweight.
Online prelims (6:15 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Anton Zafir vs. James Moontasri, welterweight; Richard Walsh vs. Steve Kennedy, welterweight; Dan Kelly vs. Steve Montgomery, middleweight; Ben Nguyen vs. Ryan Benoit, flyweight.
Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 1, starting at 1:30 a.m. ET.