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