UFC 193

(As this differs substantially from the published version – mostly in length – I’m posting it “as written” here.


UFC 193

by Leaping Larry L

Sunday November 15th


Right up to the main event of UFC 193 yesterday, the story of the day was an announced 56,214 in Etihad Stadium to see a sport that is relatively young – perhaps not all that well known here even six or seven years ago – and a crossover superstar named Ronda Rousey who had fought and talked her way from sport stardom into movie star and talk show celebrity.

After 59 seconds of the second round, there was a new story, as challenger Holly Holm relieved Rousey of her world bantamweight title, handing her her first mixed martial arts (MMA) defeat and beating someone who a lot of pundits, and many in attendance on the day, believed was unstoppable.

The crowd reaction – standing open-mouthed and yelling fit to blow the roof off – clearly indicated that events were other than expected.

How Holm did it perhaps should have been not quite so unexpected, as her coaching team had flagged ahead of the fight that they believed former Olympic bronze medal judoka Rousey’s stand-up game was a little porous.

Rousey’s aura of invincibility was sufficient that many pundits and most of those filling the paying seats yesterday probably saw that as a smokescreen.

Also footage of Rousey’s recent fights was convincing, as her boxing skills seemed to be moving up more in line with her unchallenged grappling ones, and more to the point, she was knocking opponents’ blocks off and winning fights in under 30 seconds.

Pre-fight, Holm got a nice reaction, dreadlocked veteran UFC ref Herb Dean got a hilarious crowd pop and Ronda Rousey did a heroic job maintaining her stony pre-fight composure in the face of a roaring ovation suitable for lifting the stadium into orbit.

Once it started, it was Holm, Holm, Holm from the moment she connected with a hard right cross seconds in, but moreso when she established the weapons that really won her the contest – a straight long hard left hand, and a forward kick down to just above Rousey’s knee. They landed again and again, the punch Rousey had no answer for, and the kick kept her thinking, kept her out of her game, and wasn’t any particular picnic to take either, slowly reducing her mobility.

Holm was landing, she was using those and other techniques to establish distance, and the champion found herself bloodied but also rushing in, not all that carefully, trying to close space. When she did, Holm managed to stuff Rousey’s takedown, went down from another later but got back up. Later in the first Holm connected with three hard lefts in a short time, and both commentators and crowd were palpably adjusting to the idea that the upset was on.

The second round was formal confirmation. Rousey rushed, Holm expertly evaded, clouted and kicked, and eventually the end came. A rugged infighting exchange ended with Holm landing one that rocked “Rowdy” Ronda, she saw the opportunity and laid in a high left kick that thumped into the neck and caressed the jawline. Very shortly after that Ref Herb Dean was waving off the fight and pulling new champion Holly Holm off a prone Rousey.

UFC Commentator Joe Rogan mentioned numerous times that Holm had fought a perfect fight to depose her famous opponent. In terms of doing exactly what she wanted and letting her opponent show none of her strengths in any significant way whatsoever, that was exactly the deal. The part that no doubt left viewers both live and on international pay-per-view somewhat dazed was that no other opponent had been able to go anywhere close in terms of shutting Rousey game down.

This fight was mostly on the feet, and this is characteristic of the modern (or at least current) state of the sport of MMA, which in earlier stages of its development had seen more time spent by fighters on the ground whether striking or working for submissions.

The semi main event, in which Joanna Jedrzejczyk retained her UFC strawweight title by unanimous decision over a very game Valerie Letourneau, was also mostly a fight on its feet. What was unusual was that in Melbourne you had a major mainstream sport sized crowd watching what was basically 25 minutes of a high quality women’s kickboxing match. Letourneau fought hard and smart early, but after a couple of rounds the damage the hard-hitting champ established at each exchange made it a war of attrition that she was always likely to win.

Post-card, UFC President Dana White announced a crowd of 56,214 and, perhaps somewhat unusually in an Australian context, also announced the box office gross – a tidy-ish $9.3 million. He also commented: “Australia’s been great for us.” Mm, you’d reckon.

He revealed that Ronda Rousey had been taken to hospital both as a precaution after her knockout and to have a split lip dealt with. She may not feel that Australia was great for her. But she lost a title, not movie roles, or star appeal and both she and UFC President White will be well aware that whenever she comes back, any Rousey fight is money.







4 thoughts on “UFC 193

  1. That UFC is one kooky, barbaric sport. When I saw Holm pound Rousy’s head while she was down for the count on the canvas, I thought that was biffo behind play. Shit, turns out that’s in the rules.
    FMB, could never aquire a taste for that.

    The piece was a pleasure to read BTW

    • Thank you re comment, and for letting me know you enjoyed the article.

      Re mixed martial arts (MMA), the rules are the rules, just like any other sport. In the rugby codes you’ll witness bizarre acts of what might best be termed ultra-gonzo battlefield cruelty and the only consideration the ref seems to make is whether someone had a boot-stud one squifteenth of a cm offside.

      The probability is that if it hadn’t already existed and someone tried to bring in either rugby code or Australian football as a new sport now, the exact same things would be said about them, as they all allow blindsiding, physically engaging a downed opponent and plenty of other crazy-go-nuts stuff besides.

      The assumption by the nay-sayers seems to be that the punching on the ground allowed in MMA is more dangerous than the punching that is legal in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai and, for all incense and porpoises, ice hockey, and the punching that happens in various other sports whether it’s legal or not there.

      In terms of provable fact, 20 years on the record of UFC competition has failed to demonstrate this. That’s 20 years.

      In the absence of that proof, it’s just a different combat sport with different rules.

      Of course, there are other differences. Boxing and other forms protect the hands of their fighters with big whoofy gloves, so they can punch more and for longer. In UFC and other MMA promotions, the grappling gloves they wear don’t offer this protection across the knuckles, so they can’t punch as much or for as long, before their hands will break up.

      Also the fights in boxing are longer. 36 minutes top weight, and a lot of main events are 12 x 3 minute rounds, whether they should be or not.

      The vast majority of contests in UFC are 15 mins – 3 x 5 minute rounds.

      Only main events and championship fights are 25 mins – 5 x 5.

      Putting it as rudely as possible, that’s a lot less time to get punched in the head. Also in boxing, all you’re legally allowed to do is punch in the head or body, and a decent percentage of punches are aimed above the neck.

      In MMA there’s a lot more techniques allowed (inc kicking to legs and body, and all grappling and submission hold attempts), they’re used frequently, and thus significantly less time on average (per minute, per round, per fight) is spent on concussive head blows, even when the legal headkicks are factored in. (And those also obtain in various kickboxing forms anyway.)

      Any contact or combat sport has a certain amount of brutality built into it. All sport that isn’t more up the lawn bowls/curling end of the pool has risk built right into it.

      The one other thing I’d add about what you said is that your reaction as a newcomer to the sport of MMA is conditioned by your expectations built up by the rules of sports that are more familiar to you.

      Like when you say that Holm pounded Ronda Rousey’s head while she was “down for the count on the canvas”.

      She wasn’t down for any count, because there isn’t a count in MMA. There is a referee who says the fight is over when he is sure one fighter can no longer defend themselves. Holm and Rousey both knew the rules going in – the fight is over when the ref says it is, or when the other fighter submits. Until then you keep working.

      The ref knew Rousey was world champion and undefeated. It’s common in boxing, even when a fighter under those kind of circumstances is copping a pasting, for the ref to give the fighter a few seconds to see if they can work out of it. After two punches down, the ref physically intervened and waved it off – as usual for UFC much quicker than boxing or kickboxing refs wave it off for a beaten fighter trapped in a corner and getting run over.

      I’m not trying to talk you or anyone into liking MMA – that part doesn’t concern me. But the type of arguments against it have to be the same as would be advanced against any other sports. There needs to be the consistency. That’s what I don’t see.

      Also, most people who talk about it just don’t know what they’re seeing. It’s not something you look at once and you magically “get it”.

      I’ve long said that for anyone who really wants to understand a bit about MMA as opposed to just popping off about it, it’s pretty easy and accessible.

      Ahead of one of their big cards, they run documentaries for free on Main Event channel that UFC make about the fighters training. An hour or two of those will give you some idea of the discipline, the multiple fighting disciplines, and training, that go into top level MMA competition.

      Then you need to watch one card, all the way through. It’s about three hours worth. It needs to be one Joe Rogan is doing the colour commentary on. In doing that, across the duration of the card, he’ll explain to you the techniques and tactics of the sport, and you’ll be able to pick up the range of techniques involved as well.

      When anyone has watched those 4-5 hours of UFC TV with an open mind, they’ll be in a reasonable position to make some level of informed comment on MMA.

      If they haven’t, I just can’t take anything they say about it seriously.

  2. Fair call Leapster. Didn’t mean to be dismissive of UFC’s merits, but I guess I came across that way. I’ll look to give it a good slab of my time next time I stumble on it channel surfing. Shits me too when folks are dismissive of sports I love, and especially when they haven’t even grasped the basics, let alone got a feel for its nuances.

  3. Hungry today. Had some white bread, cornichon and cheese. Thought hey that sounds like a pickle-dog! (Vague memory from an old aots episode).

    Thisarvo randomly put on a podcast and heard your disgustation first course (c. 2010) – thereby realizing my recipe error. Oh well. Coincidences and heartburn go hand in hand. I enjoyed my snack.

    Bon jovi.

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