One of the most dominant female boxing champions in history, Holly Holm, made her long-awaited Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut against No. 14-ranked Raquel "Rocky" Pennington at UFC 184 in Los Angeles, Calif., defeating The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 competitor via split decision.
To watch full Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington full fight video highlights click here.
Holm outclassed Pennington from the start, and efficiently mixed up her striking. For 15 minutes, "The Preacher's Daughter" essentially kept her distance, utilizing a stiff jab and an abundance of kicks -- both high and low -- to stifle Altitude MMA's Pennington.
Perhaps, even more impressively, the 33-year-old Holm's takedown defense was up-to-snuff, as she thwarted five takedown attempts from "Rocky."
Following her successful debut, the- -trained Holm reflected on her performance, and what the last few months of build-up have been like.
"Well, it's a new experience and the unknown is there. There are a lot of nerves with it. With all the hype, I don't feel like I could live up to it," Holm toldin her post-fight interview.
With Holm's highly-touted striking ability, many questioned whether Pennington had the chops to stand and trade with the former multiple-division boxing champion. The 26-year-old was more than up for the task, finding success with leg kicks and rocking Holm in the final frame.
When pressed to see if anything surprised her, The Preacher's Daughter didn't foresee as much wrestling action from the Colorado native.
"I felt like we'd be in the clinch a little bit more, I didn't think she'd be shooting as much," Holm said. "I just tried to get better."
Where Holm goes from here is up in the air, but there has been a certain palpable buzz surrounding a future showdown between her and the reigning 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey. "Rowdy" solidified her place as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet with a 14-second armlock victory over Cat Zingano in the pay-per-view (PPV) main event.
The kind of victory Holm turned in doesn't exactly convince you that she's capable of hanging with the champ, but her boss -- UFC President Dana White -- was happy enough with it.
"A lot of people have to understand it's her first fight in the UFC. She went in there tonight, performed and slid right into the co-main event spot and did a great job," White said at the UFC 184 post-fight press conference. "She needs a couple more fights."
The 33-year-old stated prior to Saturday night that she would "like to have more experience" before an encounter with "Rowdy" Ronda. Following the events of UFC 184, Holm would be wise to do that.
It was the most difficult fight of her career for obvious reasons. One because she's a former 18-time world champion boxer fighting in mixed martial arts' (MMA) biggest promotion. And two because Pennington is one tough cookie.
"I'm never completely satisfied with any fight that I've had," Holm told reporters. "I really didn't sit down on my punches tonight. I know I'm capable of more. Ronda is really impressive and I'd like to get my feet wet."
Holm's UFC debut marked the first time she won via split decision in her budding career. This means that she's likely looking at a potential 2016 tussle with Rousey -- Rousey averages two fights per year -- if she were to extend her win streak.
And that's fine because it was revealed during the press conference that Rousey will be filming a movie later this year. She would not reveal the specifics of the film, nor would she reveal when it begins filming.
The most dominant female champion of all-time also has a burgeoning acting career, and has insisted that her future in the sport is limited. Rousey has already filmed two movies, and was recently featured in the trailer for the 2015 film "Entourage."
Spoiler alert: around the same time major motion picture studio Warner Bros. signed her for "Entourage", they also signed her for the "Athena Project."
When the news broke by Variety in Feb. 2014, the "Athena Project" didn't have a writer. Justin Kroll of Variety said ""The Athena Project" could give her a possible franchise and perhaps the chance to become the female action star Hollywood is lacking."
Some, like Fox Sports' Damon Martin, have their own guesses as to what lies behind this mystery role for Ms. Ronda.
Playing conspiracy theorist: Captain America 3 starts filming soon. Ronda could certainly fill a role similar to GSP in Cap 2 #UFC184— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) March 1, 2015
After not taking much visible damage in her fight with Pennington, Holm could make a quick return to action and embark on her mission of one day facing Rousey, and becoming a UFC champion.
Holm recently had over a nine-month layoff between MMA fights, suffering injuries to her arm and neck, the latter of which forced her out of her original UFC 181 meeting with Pennington.
"I usually fight four times a year. Last year, I only fought once because I had a broken arm and then a herniated disk. I've never had a injury take me out of a fight," said Holm.
Prior to her Octagon debut, the former Legacy FC women's bantamweight champion had an impressive run through the regional MMA ranks, knocking out the likes of Allanna Jones and Juliana Werner.
Although she didn't show it in her debut, Holm has proved she's more than just a boxer. The New Mexico native has dropped six women with kicks in her four-year career thus far.
As Rousey continues to clean out the bantamweight divison, and take her MMA skills to new heights, she makes life difficult on White to find suitable challengers. White said repeatedly in the shows' post-fight presser that Cris "Cyborg" Santos "must make weight."
While a fight with "Cyborg" remains the most high-profile title defense for the UFC and Rousey, until Cyborg successfully drops to 135 pounds, White will need to look at other options.
The Glendale Fight Club standout did make mention of Holm and dangerous Brazilian Bethe Correia in her post-fight interview. Correia is undefeated at 9-0, and also holds wins over three of Rousey's training partners.
It's clear that Holm doesn't fit the challenger mold for the time being, but one convincing win may be all it takes for White to throw her in with the champ. A fight with Correia would make sense and usher the winner towards contention. Then, there are also Top 10 fighters like Jessica Eye and Sara McMann who are coming off of wins and are opponent-less.
Holm will receive an upgrade in competition her next foray into the Octagon in which we'll find out if she's a pretender or a contender.
"I felt good going in there tonight, I hope to show you something more next time," said Holm.
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