Ding dong, the witch is dead. Or, to quote Miesha Tate, a word that rhymes with witch.
Which old witch? The wicked witch who showed breathtaking levels of hubris and arrogance and disrespect to martial arts by treating her opponents with disdain. It is therefore no great surprise that mixed martial arts (MMA) fans rooted for a house to fall on top of Rousey and crush her.
Holly Holm played the role of the house in this case, utterly smashing Ronda Rousey in the main event of UFC 193 from inside the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia and sending the MMA world into jubilant celebration.
Holm's unlikely hero status is the sort of sports story that fans dream about, the kind that becomes legend throughout the ages and repeated in allegorical conservation for all future championship fights. It's the kind of story that reaches into our cultural psyche and connects with us on a deeply human level.
It is the reason that "Cinderella" is a popular term in sports folklore. We fully embrace the mythic symbolism of triumph in the face of great adversity and relish the idea of the over confident favorite getting their greatly deserved comeuppance.
The reason that fans were so jubilant when Rousey's limp body shuddered to the canvas last night is that it provided them with a cathartic release to years of pent up frustration over the words and actions of a champion who did not carry herself in a manner befitting a master of martial arts.
Is it really fair to laugh and cheer and jeer a woman simply for tasting defeat for the first time? No, probably not. But hubris is a self-inflicted wound.
There's a lot to write about last night's actual fight, including the rest of the UFC 193 lineup, so let's get started with the report card. Who got top marks and who failed to make the grade? Find out below:
I'm not going to pretend I thought this fight would end in any other manner than any other Rousey fight. I honestly thought Dana White had lost his mind booking Holm to fight Rousey, and that the hype behind Holm and her "world class striking" was little more than Joe Rogan peddling the silliest wolf tickets since Nick Diaz took the world's worst takedown defense up against the world's best takedown artist.
But as is so often the case in MMA, styles make fights. Not only did Holm use the perfect style to defeat Rousey, the champion used the worst possible style to defend her belt. Indeed, I don't think a grade of "F" properly does justice to the complete failure that was Rousey's inept strategy. It's a topic of conversation that may very well end her relationship with her coach Edmund Tarverdyan, whose advice between rounds to a champion having her ass handed to her reminded me greatly of a tongue licking a boot.
Everything Rousey did in this fight was wrong, from her disrespectful refusal to tap the gloves of a woman who has been nothing but pure class from the outset, to her wilful disregard for the striking of her opponent. I cannot begin to fathom why Rousey believed she had to refuse the simple glove tap prior to the fight starting. Unlike Bethe Correira or any of her other past opponents, Holm hadn't once said a word of disrespect toward the champion in the entire leadup to the fight. Perhaps like the aforementioned Diaz she simply needs to act that way to get herself fired up for a fight. But then again, this is a woman who refuses to show respect even to those she has defeated.
But back to the, ahem, strategy. Unlike past opponents, Rousey did not rush out immediately and seek the takedown, circling in the beginning to try and find an opening for a takedown and the signature armbar that has marked her career. And if she'd kept up this approach I think that this fight may have progressed in a much different way than it did.
I'm not sure when Rousey fell in love with her striking but it may have been due to finishing three of her last four opponents via strikes. Her aggression and reckless style has overwhelmed many lesser foes, perhaps leading her to believe that her boxing was on a level with Holm. It isn't.
Holm picked her apart early and often and as the champion became more frustrated with being shut down she became more reckless and abandoned all pretense of defense. Soon Rousey was stumbling about the cage, falling down under the weight of her own misguided punches and exhausting herself to a point of embarrassment. When the decapitating blow came early in the second round the champion had already punched herself out.
More ink will be spilled by writers explaining all the reasons why Rousey failed to make her eighth title defense last night. But ultimately it comes down to the fact Rousey did not properly estimate the danger posed by Holm. That mistake may have cost her millions and millions of dollars. The UFC's golden goose just got knocked the fuck out.
When the scores were read after this fight I was a little disappointed to hear one judge had given all five rounds to the champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Although it's true that the Polish fighter outstruck Letourneau in each round, it seemed to give the impression that she'd dominated her and the fight was anything but a blowout.
The French Canadian fighter actually won the first two rounds in my books, finding effective striking and Octagon control early, landing surprising combinations on Jedrzejczyk and getting one of the first takedowns I think I've ever seen against the champ. I would say Letourneau won about seven or eight minutes of the 25 in the fight, which is a lot better than a score of 50-45 might indicate.
Having said that, Jedrzejczyk showed why she's the UFC's strawweight champion and a real force to be reckoned with at this weight class. Despite taking a round or two to find her rhythm, once she did get in "the zone" it was quite the battering. The problem with facing a striker like Jedrzejczyk is that you can't take any breaks. While she doesn't possess any one punch knockout power, rare at this weight class anyway, her volume striking may very well be second to none.
It isn't that Letourneau can't strike with Jedrzejczyk. On the contrary, it's arguable the French Canadian is a superior striker, as evidenced by the early going of the fight. But it is the constant pressure and volume striking of the champion that is so difficult to deal with. In the late fourth round Jedrzejczyk landed several unanswered combinations to accompany her relentless assault on her opponent's lead leg. The fact she can keep this pace going for 25 minutes, landing the same effective strikes in the fifth round as she does in the first, makes her a very difficult opponent for anybody.
In my mind the sort of fighter that's going to beat Jedrzejczyk will require not only good striking and conditioning but also the ability to take her down and control her for a few minutes on the ground. Minimizing the amount of damage she can do on the feet will be the key to success against the volume striker. We'll see whether Claudia Gadelha, who lost a split decision to Jedrzejczyk last year long before the Polish fighter became UFC champion, can solve the puzzle in their rematch.
Honestly, I didn't really know what grades to assign these two because in my mind this was kind of a freak show. Two aging heavyweights whose chins are both probably shot, long past the point where testosterone replacement therapy may be of any use, looking to recapture the magic they made in 2013.
It was after that fight that Silva tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, which isn't surprising for a man who has acromegaly. Ever since that fight, however, and without the use of testosterone the fighter has never been the same, suffering his third knockout in four outings. With his seventh career loss via knockout I think it's safe to say Silva's career is pretty much done.
As far as the fight goes, I thought "Big Foot" fought intelligently, using his size and reach to stay on the outside of Hunt's deadly kicks and left hook. This wasn't the slobberknocker of the first fight but it seemed to me the more intelligent way to fight after having suffered the aforementioned knockouts.
However, the end came in unspectacular and anti-climactic fashion when Hunt landed a grazing blow behind the ear of Silva as he rushed along the cage with his hands down and his chin up. A followup punch seemed to put the giant on his face and the referee rushed in to put a stop to it. A disappointing end to a rivalry that was so enjoyable to watch in their first fight.
I don't know about y'all but this was the fight of the night for me. Yes, Holm accomplished the impossible, and yes Kyle Noke's body kick was cool, but Robert Whittaker's performance against Uriah Hall is nothing short of remarkable. I mean, am I alone here? Was that not an incredible back and forth war deserving of some special praise or acknowledgeable from the UFC?
Whittaker's story is truly an amazing one to recount. Winner of the welterweight TUF: Smashes in 2012, the Kiwi put on several mediocre performances in UFC earning one stoppage over a fighter no longer with the promotion, and two decision victories that impressed nobody in particular. But ever since going up in weight to 185 pounds Whittaker has seemed like an unstoppable force, knocking out two guys with solid chins and now outperforming one of the flashiest strikers in the middleweight division.
Whittaker came out aggressive and confident in this fight, landing combinations on Hall that may have surprised the American. He seemed to rock Hall several times, but the durable fighter answered back. If there was a fault with Hall's gameplan this time out it was that he seemed to hesitate and overthink his strikes, sometimes stopping his momentum mid-swing. It was this tactic that led to his first mistake in the first round, when he tried a roundhouse kick and wound up on his back.
In the second round Whittaker landed a solid straight left to the eye of Hall which everybody, including the referee seemed to think was an eye poke. The replay showed it was a closed fist, which means Whittaker was somewhat robbed of the momentum. Hall seemed to gain a boost from the break, pushing the pace on Whittaker and landing several flashy strikes including a flying knee and a partially blocked head kick.
Hall came on strong in the third round, however Whittaker certainly held his own and once again seemed to hurt the American. Hall's ability to recover in this fight showed he's certainly one of the most durable fighters on the roster, however once again his mental fortitude will no doubt be called into question. Hall suffered his fourth UFC loss, all by way of decision, which indicates the fighter has yet to find the urgency to take his career path away from the hands of the judges.
The day seven-foot, 265-pound Stefan Struve realizes he's a genetic freak who could squash anybody he wanted any time he wanted, the fighter may become a force to be reckoned with in UFC. Last night was not that realization. Struve dwarfed 6'2" Jared Rosholt, however the Dutch fighter seemed utterly incapable of recognizing his significant physical advantages. The result was watching a tepid three round affair that consisted of Rosholt dumping Struve on his back and laying there long enough to convince the judges he was "winning."
As somebody remarked on Twitter, fans booing might just be the soundtrack to Rosholt's career. The man's striking consists of eyes closed forward stumbling as he reaches for a takedown attempt. Amazingly, this tactic worked on Struve, who seemed to fall down over the slightest breeze out there. And considering the 27-year-old veteran is 34 fights deep into his MMA career you'd think he'd have a better guard. Several times Rosholt simply fell through Struve's open guard into side control. He didn't move to side control, he simply fell through the open gap like an old man sliding into a bath tub.
Struve looked putrid out there. Not only did he hesitate to pull the trigger or utilize his reach to batter Rosholt, he utterly refused to use combinations. The giant landed a few effective strikes but never in numbers exceeding one, and he often followed up those strikes with an inordinate amount of time watching and circling Rosholt. The result was a torturous 15 minutes for fans watching the spectacle, resulting in lusty boos from a crowd of 70,000.
Honestly, I'm not sure I would care if either fighter was cut from the promotion. It's not as though the fight were held at an elevation that might excuse their poor showing. Struve looked equally terrible in his previous fight and Rosholt always simply holds his opponents down while doing no damage. It's a sport but it's also entertainment and at the end of the day if you find yourself clock watching every time these two guys show up they're probably not worth the Reebok gear their misspelled names appear on.
Quick Hits From The Undercard
- Jake Matthews (B+) put a genuine beating on Akbarh Arreola (C-) after surviving a first round in which he was nearly finished. His ground and pound from inside the guard of Arreola was truly impressive and it's frightening to think that this guy is four fights deep into the UFC and is still only 21 years of age.
- Kyle Noke (A) looked like his MMA career has been reborn after dispatching the tough Peter Sobotta (D) in just two minutes with a perfectly timed body kicked. After losing to Patrick Cote following a two year absence from the sport I figured he would retire but the drop to welterweight seems to have reinvigorated the 35-year-old.
- Gian Villante (A) got a knockout against a 43-year-old Anthony Perosh (F), who should probably stop dragging his wheelchair to the cage every time the UFC comes to Australia. He's too old, too slow, and his chin is too shot.
- I genuinely feel bad for Richie Vaculik (C-) because there's no 115-pound weight class to drop to after yet another fight in which he was dominated by a bigger and stronger fighter in Danny Martinez (B+).
- Steve Montgomery (F) choked in spectacular fashion after surrendering one of the worst takedown attempts I have ever seen in my life at a critical point in the third round to the awkward stylings of Dan Kelly (D). Both fighters are terrible and should never have seen the inside of a pro MMA cage.
- Richard Walsh (B) put a beating on Steve Kennedy (D) but still somehow managed to get taken down several times in the first and second rounds. He's a tough fighter but if he can taken down by Kennedy he's going to get mauled by anybody in the top 50 of this wrestle-heavy division.
- James Moontasri (B+) looked a lot better at welterweight, but he was beating up Anton Zafir (D), a guy who showed up on eight days notice to take a beating for cash.
- Ben Nguyen (A) absolutely dominated Ryan Benoit (F), who I don't think landed a single strike before getting dropped and stopped via rear-naked choke. Nguyen is an interesting prospect in the 125-pound division, riding an eight-fight win streak with consecutive first round stoppages in UFC.