Wednesday November 18th, 2015


Holly Holm is not only a UFC champion but apparently also a magician. Her fistic sleight of hand on Saturday night made Ronda Rousey disappear from the pound-for-pound fighter rankings. Abracadabra.

Never before has mixed martial arts seen a downfall so stunningly dramatic. Fighters losing possession of championship belts and being dislodged from rankings are natural occurrences in the tidal rise and fall of the sport. But Rousey walked into the octagon over the weekend as a superstar celebrity who had transcended her sport and the entire sports world like no one in MMA before her. And she had set herself apart even more spectacularly in previous trips inside the cage, where she’d made quick work of every woman set in front of her.

Holly Holm's victory over Ronda Rousey gives women's MMA a boost

In the days since that aura of invincibility was smashed to bits, Rousey has been the object of ridicule in the cesspool that is the Internet, in part because that’s what the masses log on to do. But most pointedly, the scornful flood that’s washed over “Rowdy Ronda” seems to be a perverse response to the arrogance and disrespect she has shown over the years, most recently in the final leadup to the Holm fight. What goes around comes around. 

Derision has even been directed this way, since was among the first media outlets to advocate for Rousey’s inclusion in the pound-for-pound discussion, and was the first to install her at No. 1 in the rankings. We even proclaimed her to be the most dominant athlete in the world, among men and women in all of sports.

We don’t take that back. Prior to Saturday night, Rousey (12–1) had barely broken a sweat in disposing of her competition. When a fighter is winning in 16 seconds, 14 seconds, and 34 seconds, as she did in the three most recent title defenses leading up to Holm, and those bouts are against the best 135-pound challengers the UFC can muster up, where else does she belong other than at the top of the heap?

But she no longer belongs. Holm (10–0) exposed shortcomings in Rousey’s game that previously had been invisible, or at least had not shown themselves in the mere seconds—barely competitive seconds—she would spend inside the cage each few months. The ferocity of her judo was a smokescreen. 

Holly Holm stuns Ronda Rousey with skillful, dominant performance

That judo is still ferocious. Unless this knockout has damaged her psyche beyond a split lip, Rousey remains an elite fighter. She has beaten several of the women ranked below her, and can do it again. With the right training and game-planning, she can defeat Holm, too. Maybe.

Holm had never before been the fighter we saw on Saturday night. Her two previous UFC bouts were victories by decision, and neither led anyone to declare her a Rousey conqueror in waiting. Her sharp punches and slick footwork seemed capable of fending off Rousey for a bit, but with no power punch in her arsenal, she was thought to be a sitting duck for an eventual clinch, then takedown, then submission.

But Holm defended well when the fighters came to grips, avoided an armbar when the bout went to the canvas, and even had a table-turning takedown of her own. And when the fight was standing, it was like watching a professional toy with an amateur. The difference-maker wasn’t simply that the striking of Holly Holm, a multiple time world champion in boxing, was so good. It also had to do with Ronda Rousey’s standup being strikingly bad.

So now it’s back to the drawing board for Rousey, and on to the next masterpiece for Holm.

And for us, on to the rankings …

1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)
2. Cain Velasquez (13–2)
3. Junior dos Santos (17–3)
4. Stipe Miocic (13–2)
5. Andrei Arlovski (25–10, 1 NC)
6. Travis Browne (17-3-1)
7. Ben Rothwell (35–9)
8. Mark Hunt (11-10-1)
9. Alistair Overeem (39–14)
10. Josh Barnett (34–7)

Hunt made quick work of a fading “Bigfoot” Silva over the weekend, but there’s no room for upward mobility, so he stays put. That might change soon, though, since Dos Santos and Overeem meet next month and Miocic and Arlovski clash on the UFC’s New Year’s show. (Still no date for Werdum vs. Velasquez II.)

Light heavyweight
1. Jon Jones (21–1)
2. Daniel Cormier (17–1)
3. Anthony Johnson (20–5)
4. Alexander Gustafsson (16–4)
5. Ryan Bader (20–4)
6. Phil Davis (13–3, 1 NC)
7. Glover Teixeira (24–4)
8. Liam McGeary (11–0)
9. Rashad Evans (19-4-1)
10. Ovince Saint Preux (18–7) 

Teixeira doesn’t climb even one rung up the ladder, either, despite an impressive TKO of Patrick Cummins. Why? Just two fights ago, the Brazilian lost to Davis, so there’ll be no leapfrogging.

1. Chris Weidman (13–0)
2. Luke Rockhold (14–2)
3. Ronaldo Souza (22–3, 1 NC)
4. Yoel Romero (10–1)
5. Vitor Belfort (25–11)
6. Lyoto Machida (22–7)
7. Tim Kennedy (18–5)
8. Michael Bisping (26–7)
9. Thales Leites (25–5)
10. Robert Whittaker (15–4)

UFC 194 will define the hierarchy, as easy as 1-2-3-4, when Weidman defends his title against Rockhold and Souza tussles with Romero. More immediately, Whittaker has jumped in for the first time, on the strength of a win over previous No. 10 Uriah Hall.

Mayweather on Ronda Rousey loss: ‘You win some, you lose some’

1. Robbie Lawler (26–10, 1 NC)
2. Johny Hendricks (17–3)
3. Rory MacDonald (18–3)
4. Tyron Woodley (15–3)
5. Matt Brown (20–13)
6. Ben Askren (14–0)
7. Carlos Condit (30–8)
8. Demian Maia (21–6)
9. Stephen Thompson (11–1)
10. Dong Hyun Kim (20-3-1)

What are we hearing? That Georges St-Pierre is in training and set to do a weight cut? And if all goes well, he’ll make a comeback? GSP exited the sport in the most badass way—as a champion—but it’s hard not to be excited by the possibility of seeing him in the octagon again. 

1. Rafael dos Anjos (24-7)
2. Anthony Pettis (18-3)
3. Donald Cerrone (28-6, 1 NC)
4. Benson Henderson (21-5)
5. Eddie Alvarez (26-4)
6. Myles Jury (15-1)
7. Will Brooks (16-1)
8. Tony Ferguson (18-3)
9. Edson Barbosa (15-3)
10. Gilbert Melendez (22-5)

Another sad (temporary) goodbye to Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was scheduled to return from a 20-month absence next month but suffered another injury. So after dos Anjos defends his belt against Cerrone next month, who’ll be at the head of the line of challengers? Henderson, the former champ, might now be sorry he took a welterweight fight at the end of this month.

1. José Aldo (25–1)
2. Frankie Edgar (19-4-1)
3. Conor McGregor (18–2)
4. Chad Mendes (17–3)
5. Ricardo Lamas (15–4)
6. Patricio Freire (22–2)
7. Max Holloway (14–3)
8. Cub Swanson (21–7)
9. Charles Oliveira (20–5, 1 NC)
10. Jeremy Stephens (24–11)

Hmm, anything happening with the 145-pounders? Well, only the start of a four-man tournament of sorts, as Aldo vs. McGregor finally takes place on Dec. 12, one day after Edgar vs. Mendes. Fasten seat belts.

• Cris Cyborg still wants to fight Ronda Rousey despite loss

1. T.J. Dillashaw (12-2)
2. Dominick Cruz (20-1)
3. Renan Barão (33–3, 1 NC)
4. Urijah Faber (31–8)
5. Raphael Assunção (23–4)
6. Bibianio Fernandes (16–3)
7. Marcos Galvão (17-6-1)
8. Aljamain Sterling (11–0)
9. Thomas Almeida (20–0)
10. Joe Warren (12–4)

Another month passes, and we edge ever closer to the Jan. 17 Dillashaw vs. Cruz, with “The Dominator” healthy and ready to go. Fingers crossed. 

1. Demetrious Johnson (23-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (22-4)
3. John Dodson (17-7)
4. John Moraga (16-4)
5. Henry Cejudo (9-0)
6. Ian McCall (13-5-1)
7. Jussier da Silva (18-3)
8. Zach Makovsky (19-6)
9. Ali Bagautinov (13-4)
10. Kyoji Horiguchi (15-2)

It’s not often that we say the 125-pounders are at a standstill. But with Benavidez loitering in no-man’s land and Dodson looking to bantamweight for his next step, Johnson is left playing a waiting game for his next challenge. Cejudo?

Women’s bantamweight
1. Holly Holm (10–0)
2. Ronda Rousey (12–1)
3. Cat Zingano (9–1)
4. Miesha Tate (17–5)
5. Alexis Davis (17–6)
6. Sarah Kaufman (16–3, 1 NC)
7. Julianna Peña (7–2)
8. Amanda Nunes (11–4)
9. Liz Carmouche (10–5)
10. Sara McMann (8–3)

It’s surreal to see anyone but Rousey at the top of this list, but Holm—who was way down at No. 9 last month—sure earned her place. She also put the rest of the Top 10 on double alert: There’s a new boss in town, and the old boss can be taken out after all.

Women’s strawweight
1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11–0)
2. Claudia Gadelha (13–1)
3. Carla Esparza (10–3)
4. Jessica Aguilar (19–5)
5. Rose Namajunas (3–2)
6. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7–0)
7. Valerie Letourneau (8–4)
8. Joanne Calderwood (9–1)
9. Tecia Torres (6–0)
10. Maryna Moroz (6–1)

Like Holm, Letourneau was No. 9 last month. Unlike Holm, Letourneau lost over the weekend. But look where she is now. That’s what happens when you give the champion a better fight than anyone expected.

1. Jon Jones
2. José Aldo
3. Demetrious Johnson
4. Chris Weidman
5. Robbie Lawler
6. Fabricio Werdum
7. T.J. Dillashaw
8. Cain Velasquez
9. Daniel Cormier
10. Holly Holm

With Ronda Rousey having been dislodged from her No. 2 perch, everyone below moves up a notch and the conqueror moves in. Tough call between Holm and strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but the new bantamweight belt holder gets rewarded for pulling off the biggest upset in UFC history.

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