Former professional boxing champion, Holly Holm, is set to challenge undefeated mixed martial arts (MMA) sensation and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's Bantamweight queen, Ronda Rousey, this Saturday (Nov. 14, 2015) at UFC 193 inside Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
Holm is one of the most decorated female athletes to ever step into the Octagon. She's a multiple time champion in boxing, professional kickboxer, and has won a regional title in MMA.
However, to be frank, Holm has yet to truly impress inside the Octagon. Her first fight resulted in a close split decision victory, and her most recent victory was clear but rather uneventful. Nonetheless, she faces a massive step up in competition here and has an opportunity to make a serious impression here.
Let's take a closer look at her skill set:
Along with Strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Holm is clearly the best striker in women's MMA. As mentioned, she was a highly successful professional boxer and strikes with a patience that's rather uncommon among her peers.
Before getting into any actual analysis, it's important to note a few things. For one, Holm relies far more on her kicks than her punches despite her history as a boxer. It actually makes sense since her main striking coach, Mike Winkeljohn, is a kickboxer himself and one of MMA's premiere striking coaches.
In addition, the Southpaw's footwork is excellent. Most of Holm's techniques are classic, high percentage Southpaw strategies, and they often rely on working from the outside angle, which she controls well. When Holm does take an inside angle, she's rarely in range of her opponent's punches.
As is the case of most Southpaws, Holm's money punch is undoubtedly her straight left hand. The New Mexico native is versatile with the strike: using it as a lead, mixing in straight body shots, and setting up her kicks with the cross.
Additionally, Holm will often counter with her left hand. Circling away from her opponent, Holm will make her foe miss and then capitalize with a crisp cross. Against an opponent that rushes forward face-first like Rousey, this technique could be very useful.
The other important punch in Holm's arsenal is the right hook, and like her cross, it serves a number of purposes. Though she will throw it with power, for the most part, Holm's lead hook helps set up her powerful left kick.
Holm's left kick is the center of her kickboxing attack, the most powerful and important weapon in her arsenal. Just about every Southpaw that's ever fought recognizes the value of left kick, as it's one of the more simple power strikes to land on an opponent in the Orthodox stance.
It's important to note that Holm sets up his left kick -- usually to either the body or head -- rather well. The setups are usually pretty simple, but Holm's distance and timing make them effective. For example, one of her most common kick combinations is the cross-kick, in which the initial cross either moves her opponent's defense out of position or merely serves as a distraction prior to the real blow.
In addition, Holm commonly uses a right hook -- or merely slaps her opponents' lead hand down -- to encourage them to slip into the kick.
Alternatively, Holm will look to kick on the counter. As her opponent reaches for her with a punch, Holm will slip a kick underneath her arm into the exposed ribs. When the body is wide open and stretched out, it's particularly susceptible to being kicked and is even more painful than normal.
Outside of her left roundhouse kick, Holm has developed a few more weapons. Notably, she's become rather effective with her lead leg kicks. She commonly looks for a lengthy side kick -- a favorite of Jon Jones, who reportedly has been a major influence on her training camp -- which helps her keep the distance. The oblique kick, another Winkeljohn standard, has also made its way into her arsenal and serves a similar purpose.
Furthermore, Holm is beginning to build off her side kick with other lead leg attacks. For example, Holm has been looking for the hook kick, a rather deceptive strike.
On the whole, Holm does a very nice job blending her kicks and punches, and she's still improving on that aspect of her game. In addition to mixing the superman punch-outside low kick combo into her game -- a Georges St. Pierre favorite -- Holm will occasionally follow up her kicks with punches while resetting her stance.
While it's not usually something she looks for, Holm has also proven to be aggressive in the clinch when her opponent attempts to close the distance. She's rather physically strong, and Holm uses her physicality to muscle her opponent around and land some hard knees before separating.
Thus far, both Holm's Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling ability remain quite untested, and Rousey is a hell of a test. While Holm has yet to pursue any offensive wrestling, she has been forced to defend her opponents' attempts to drag her to the mat.
None of her past opponents are particularly great at takedowns, but Holm nonetheless passed those tests with flying colors.
Besides training at an elite camp with some amazing wrestlers, Holm has a couple of things going for her in terms of takedown defense. For one, Holm's style of maintaining the distance is hugely beneficial to remaining upright, as it forces her opponent to work to close the distance before shooting.
Cutting off the cage is difficult for even excellent strikers, but a majority of WMMA fighters struggle with it more than usual. While there are exceptions, most women -- Rousey included -- close the distance by charging forward with their head held high.
Holm's striking style is perfectly built to capitalize on this. By circling off and taking angles in the large Octagon, she often makes her opponent's attempts to close the distance look awkward, if not outright silly.
Additionally, Holm's athleticism and physical strength are great gifts when her opponent does manage to get a grip on her. When Holm goes on the offensive and really steps into her punches, a reactive shot is definitely possible. However, Holm has still managed to defend each of her opponent's shots in large thanks to her strong hips.
Again, Rousey is an entirely different beast in terms of takedown ability than just about every other women in MMA, but Holm has been successful so far.
To be completely honest, Holm's jiu-jitsu is almost a complete unknown to those outside of her camp. Holm has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon, and she's not exactly looking for double legs on her own. In terms of this match up, Holm's jiu-jitsu experience probably doesn't matter.
No matter how rapid her growth on the mat, it's not enough to stop Rousey's arm bar if the judoka lands in one of her preferred positions.
Best Chance For Success
Obviously, Holm is a massive underdog and has an extraordinarily tough fight ahead of her. Frankly, that could be said about every single Bantamweight who ever has or ever will step into the Octagon opposite Rousey.
On the bright side, Holm doesn't have to adjust her style much to give herself the best chance possible. The ideal fighter to defeat Rousey has always been the one who can circle out and avoid her clinch work, and that's the style Holm brings to the table.
Since Holm's style on the feet makes sense for this match -- and she surely has a few tricks up her sleeves from Jones, Winkeljohn, and Co. -- there's not much I have to say on that matter. However, there are two pieces of advice I would give to Holm, and every opponent of Rousey for that matter, in regard to grappling with the champion.
If Holm is put on her back, the first and most important thing she must realize is that she isn't allowed to use underhooks. Against normal opponents, underhooks can be used to recover position, score sweeps or land a stand up. Against Rousey, it will only result in an arm bar.
Seriously ladies, stop looking for underhooks against the "Rowdy" one. It will not end well.
In addition, if Holm does not immediately end up in an armbar when placed on her back, she needs to do her best to get back to guard, any guard, and hold on for dear life. Judo doesn't really do guard, and Rousey is not an expert passer. If Holm can lock up a guard and squeeze like her life depends on it -- and trust me, it does -- she can likely stall until the end of the round, or maybe even score a stand up.
Will Holly Holm land one of the biggest upsets of all time or will Ronda Rousey defend her title once more?