After a nine-year professional boxing career, 18-time world champion Holly Holm will look to make her Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) mark, and it starts in the co-main event of UFC 184 from Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., later this evening (Sat., Feb. 28, 2015).
Holm's first Octagon test is Raquel Pennington -- The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 veteran and former Invicta FC competitor -- which will precede the marquee pay-per-view (PPV) main event between women's 135-pound champion, Ronda Rousey, against No. 1-ranked contender Cat "Alpha" Zingano.
There hasn't been a fighter as heavily hyped as Holm's debut in UFC in quite some time.
The long-time Jackson/Winkeljohn-trained mixed martial arts (MMA) staple had storied run as a boxer, dispatching 33 women across three weight classes. Holm was bested only twice and accumulated nine knockout wins.
A significant majority of her matches came in proximity to the gym she calls home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "The Preacher's Daughter" was a well-oiled machine and imposed her will on most of the women that stood in her way.
One of her most memorable in-ring moments came against powerful French boxer Anne Sophie Mathis. The then 30-year-old avenged a previous loss to Mathis, who out-muscled and knocked out Holm in a loss back in Dec. 2011, cruising to a unanimous-decision victory.
Perhaps looking for a new challenge after peaking in the squared circle, Holm left the sport of boxing two years later in May 2013 to train MMA full-time.
Making the transition from the ring to the cage could be overwhelming for some ... but not Holm. With one of the best teams in MMA behind her, she dove head first into the pool of talent at 135 pounds.
Holm -- already 3-0 with three-straight knockouts in tow-- signed to southern fight promotion Legacy FC. "The Preacher's Daughter" immediately made her presence felt, flooring Allanna Jones with a left high kick in the second round of her promotional debut.
Her path of destruction continued all the way to a meeting with Juliana Werner for the right to become Legacy FC's first women's bantamweight champion. Holm finished Werner via head kick and strikes in the final frame -- not before she broke her arm -- to get her first taste of gold.
Another title could be well within Holm's reach if she beats "Rocky" inside the Staples Center tonight.
Holm has taken out most of her competitors with ease and will be expected to do the same in her UFC 184 co-main event clash with Pennington.
Over the last four years, Holm has seamlessly taken her unparalleled boxing talents and transplanted them to the cage. Her kicks have become just as lethal as her punches, if not more.
All but two of her opponents have left the cage without being blasted by Holm's legs. Her chin is also undeniably strong and has withstood brutal beatings in both boxing and MMA.
Holm ate many unanswered punches in her boxing tilt with Mathis before she finally had enough.
Pennington has the chance to play spoiler and shock the world with a victory over the highly touted Holm. A victory over Holm, whom she was originally scheduled to face at UFC 181, would instantly install Pennington as a viable contender at 135 pounds.
Whether or not she has the tools do that remains to be seen.
The 26-year-old Altitude MMA representative is a striker with good power in her hands, but to engage in a kickboxing match with a former world champion boxer would be a drastic mistake.
Pennington's pressure and clinch game helped her submit late-replacement Ashlee-Evans Smith in the first round at UFC 181.
Pressure is riding on Holm's shoulders, and it's also what Pennington will be looking to use against her. Turning this fight into much more a gritty, grappling battle will definitely play into her favor.
Holm would much rather pick her spots and strike from angles. As a southpaw, she possesses a nasty left head kick, which Pennington will have to account for at all times.
I'm looking for Pennington to make life uncomfortable for Holm, which will force the latter to showcase her entire Octagon arsenal. Pennington is still a little bit more seasoned in the fight game than Holm.
Octagon jitters have been known to strike even the best of the best. With most of the pre-fight talk centered around how she matches up with Rousey, it's certainly possible that Holm has lost sight of "Rocky."
What's to say Holm won't crumble when all the eyes are on her? A slow start isn't entirely out of the question for Holm and is something that would greatly benefit Pennington.
This is Holm's fight to lose and the quicker she disposes of Pennington the better. The more impressive she is in victory, the quicker UFC matchmaker Joe Silva will think about pitting her against whoever the champion is following the events of UFC 184.