Over the weekend we witnessed the best Holly Holm and the worst Ronda Rousey the UFC has seen.
Holly Holm broke a 12 win streak securing a KO win after utterly dominating both rounds. Holm was a huge underdog coming in to the fight but not without risk; a 10 win streak of her own 7 of which were secured by way of knock out but she did manage what had started to seem impossible.
And as is often the case it wasn’t one secret move or silver bullet that enabled her to achieve this but several factors that coalesced to devastating effect.
Southpaw: This can be a huge frustration for many orthodox fighters especially when the opponent switches stances. With Southpaws the power shots will be coming from different directions and the footwork will be different than if both fighters are orthodox. Rousey would need to ensure her lead foot was on the outside which would require solid footwork and lateral movement. Instead Rousey moved forward and back which made it easier for Holm who used angles and footwork to evade, demoralise and counter her opponent.
Footwork: Holm managed to evade Rousey whilst still managing to actively engage her with well-timed strikes. This footwork negated Rousey’s game plan, requiring her to pursue Holm who was able to use range and counters to pick apart her opponent. Rousey found herself quite literally running after her opponent in the first round and fumbling in the second round after Holm pivoted out of reach.
Counters: Rousey was used to her opponents rushing in allowing her to overwhelm them by bull rushing or striking her way in. Holm managed to stay composed, patiently waiting and picking her shots. This ability to stay focused and composed enabled her to fight her fight on her terms and in her own time. This composure also served to further vex Rousey who grew visibly frustrated as the fight wore on.
Range: Holm knew Rousey would want to get in the clinch and out of kicking range. This meant that Holm had to keep Rousey at a reasonable distance. She used her striking to brilliant effect, punishing her opponent whenever she attempted to execute her game plan. Every punch Holm threw in that fight made full use of her height and reach to create distance allowing her to make full use of her kicks.
Setting up kicks: This strategy overwhelms opponents with attacks from two levels making it hard to predict where the next shot will come from when done well. Rather than telegraphing her KO shots, she concealed them behind punches, elbows and knees that exacted damage as well they distracted from the big shots. The strikes were an effective distraction for the most dangerous weapon in Holm’s armoury which completely caught Rousey off guard in the end.
Bad Intentions: The audience can clearly see that countless shots landed clean and hard, bloodying Rousey’s face or visibly dazing her. Holm ensure every strike was thrown with bad intentions, whether it was a jab, elbow or kick she threw every shot with conviction. This menacing energy is felt quietly as they start to trade punches and gradually builds to a shocking crescendo at the end of the fight.
The important thing to bear in mind is that this is hardly the perfect game plan for all opponents or for all fighters. Styles make fights and is especially apparent in this recent outing. Every opponent will have strengths that can see intimidating but it is worth bearing in mind that it’s often a matter of strategy and composure.