It has been over a week since the meteoric fall of Ronda Rousey, and the rise of the new undisputed women’s bantamweight champion, Holly Holm. The media explosion started immediately and is still quelling now, and everyone from media members, pop singers and presidential candidates had something to say about the fight.
Talk of how Holm did the unthinkable and what happened to Rousey came immediately, and not long after came the prospect of a rematch. Whenever a long-reigning champion is defeated an immediate rematch is almost always guaranteed to be the next bout booked for both the champ and the challenger, and the UFC president Dana White is always looking to book a rematch when the second fight has the potential to do more business than the first fight. White also tries to be clear that he will not officially start talking about a fighter’s next bout on fight night, but he was clear that while it was up to Rousey, only a rematch made sense.
Immediately betting odds, questions of what would happen in a rematch and when a rematch would happen were raised. The bout between Holm and Rousey was a massive upset and mismatch, but despite the outcome of the first bout, Rousey is currently a favorite in the theoretical rematch. Historically rematches in the UFC have not swayed significantly in favor of the winner or loser of the first bout, relying heavily on the preparation by the victor to continue to stay ahead and the loser to acknowledge and fix the mistakes that were made.
I’ve already looked into the background of both Rousey and Holm and the happenings on fight night, now I’ll take a look at the factors that play into a rematch and the pieces that need to fall into place for both Holm to retain her title, and for Rousey to earn it back.
Rousey came into the bout with Holm with the strong belief that there was no one who could beat her period. That kind of confidence is great to stay motivated in training, but in a fight anything can happen. Rousey had just won her last 4 fights in a total of 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
Rousey was able to use a combination of her elite judo, powerful striking and mental intimidation tactics to create the perfect storm of destruction for almost everyone who faced Rousey. Rousey had been outside of the first round only once, in her rematch against Miesha Tate, and in that bout made a number of technical mistakes, including missed submissions, missed takedowns, ate some shots on the feet and was taken down by Tate. None of these small mistakes jeopardized the bout for Rousey one bit, but it showed that she is far from perfect.
Rousey came into the Holm bout thinking that after knocking out Bethe Correia in her last bout, who was known to have good striking, that she could strike with anyone, including Holm. Rousey has finished 9 of her 12 wins by armbar, and should her striking fail her, Rousey could fall back on that. With those two skill sets, Rousey was on top of the world, so she thought.
The biggest inclination of her level of confidence going into the Holm bout might have been what she said in the promo to open up the UFC 193 pay per view, where Rousey stated proudly, “Holly has the luxury of getting ready, but I just am ready, I’m ready like I am blonde, I’m gonna show her why I’m the best tonight.” This cocky sentiment made it seem like Rousey just believed that she was better than everyone, and while it is clear that Rousey is a great pioneer, incredible fighter and trains very hard, when fighters get into their own heads, it can be devastating when they don’t match up to their unrealistically high level of expectations. In a rematch, if Rousey keeps the same cocky demeanour and doesn’t realize what she’s up against and how she is still human, she may not be able to prepare or perform in the manner required to match up with a technical, strategic striker the caliber or Holm.
Willingness to Accept Technical Disadvantages
Rousey has been able to rely on her quick pressure and strong judo to submit or knockout opponents quickly, but has never had to dodge an opponent’s attack on the feet when a takedown or knockout doesn’t work. Rousey didn’t have to work on defensive boxing or counter punching, because with her aggressive pressure she was always moving forward and her opponents so far had either backed up or gotten taken down.
Holm was able to move laterally, and this basic boxing tactic enabled Holm to move away from Rousey with ease. Holm was able to time Rousey’s wild rushes and land punches that kept her away, and the distance created by Holm rendered Rousey’s close range judo useless. Rousey wasn’t able to dodge or block the vast majority of the punches coming in, and resorted to wasting energy and throwing big shots that rarely hit with the hope of posing a threat.
In a rematch, Rousey must go back to square one and realize that she needs to learn boxing from the ground up in order to be able to close the distance and utilize her elite level judo. Rousey has made a career of putting emphasis on how she is the best and is always ready for anything that comes her way, and that kind of attitude might prevent her from taking a step back so far to work on elements of boxing that have been performed better at an amateur level.
This lack of technical ability in boxing is only a small element of Rousey’s otherwise nearly airtight fighting game, but for her to win against a striker like Holm who can chip away at Rousey strike by strike before putting her lights out, she needs to have the technique to avoid the small punches that come in with basic boxing and moving, because if the small attacks can’t be avoided that is only leaving the door open for another fight ending strike like the head kick from their first bout. This type of transformation is going to take time, as Rousey, even with her extensive fighting background, can’t reinvent herself in a few months with her already ridiculous schedule. Rousey needs to dedicate an enormous amount of time and energy into boxing alone, to catch up to Holm enough to avoid being utterly outclassed again.
Rousey trains at Glendale Fight Club under the tutelage of Edmond Tarverdyan, and his credentials have consistently been questioned, most recently after Rousey’s mom slammed him, calling him a bad person to the media.
Holm trains alongside some of the best fighters at the Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA academy, the home of former champion Jon Jones among numerous other contenders in various weight classes.
The Glendale Fight Club wasn’t well known until Rousey became a world champion, and some of the other fighters training there, namely the remaining 3 members of Rousey’s famous 4 horsewomen, Jessamyn Duke, Shayna Baszler and Marina Shafir, Jake Ellenberger and Travis Browne, have all trained under Tarverdyan in the past few years, and have all suffered at least one loss by way of knockout or technical knockout, and appeared to have grown very little if at all in striking when compared to their respective careers before coming to the Glendale Fight Club.
Rousey may need to change camps to get the technical expertise and strategy that she needs, and based on the bankruptcy claims that are currently threatening to shut down the Glendale Fight Club, she might not have the luxury of making that decision for herself.
Ability to Stay Calm in Second Bout
Rousey seemed to be overly intense since starting a confrontation against the unbothered Holm at the weigh in, and that parlayed into a game plan, or lack of one, consisting of rushing at a boxer with technical footwork, until fatigue and head trauma rendered Rousey all but knocked out, until the head kick left her unconscious.
Rousey is consistently intense in all of her fights, but in this bout the intimidation that usually has an impact on her opponents didn’t phase Holm at all. Instead, a flailing and charging Rousey was dodged and countered from a mile away throughout the first round of their fight. Attacking with the level of speed and power that Rousey was using to attempt to reach and finish Holm can’t be sustained for a prolonged period of time, and by the end of the first round it was apparent that it had taken its toll on Rousey, who made much more pronounced, slower movements.
This only got worse in the second round, as Rousey was unable to do anything remotely threatening, fell to her knee twice missing punches and ate a head kick without being able to block the fight ending blow.
Rousey must approach another fight with Holm with a calm demeanour, much like the one that Holm had. Holm did not seem to be bothered by anything that Rousey said or did before the fight, and came into the fight with the ability to objectively analyze the attacks that Rousey was planning as she was planning them, in order to make an escape from the threat at hand and throw strikes to pose a threat when it was safe, only to move away after landing those strikes.
Rousey needs a pragmatic approach to handle a technician like Holm, who is strongest where Rousey is weakest. If Rousey doesn’t stay cool, calm and collected in her second bout, Holm will almost certainly tag her like she did in the first bout, and Rousey will be unable to change her game plan once again, resorting to rushing until she can’t rush Holm anymore. If Rousey is able to regather herself when an attack isn’t working, and try something else, this has a much better chance of stifling Holm in a rematch.
Regardless of the preparation that is put in by both camps, the Holm vs. Rousey rematch is guaranteed to break more records, and if it takes place at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016 like the rumors so far have suggested, the world will be watching. Holm has a big advantage having won the first bout in dominant fashion. Rousey has a lot of things against her and her busy schedule, as she didn’t look to be on the level that Holm was. If Holm stays sharp, she can certainly make the seemingly impossible, possible again. If Rousey accepts and learns from her mistakes to fill in the massive holes that were exposed in her stand up, she can certainly make the biggest rematch in MMA look like a fluke.
Only time will tell.