Who Takes It? UFC 193: Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm

“I feel like we’ve got the ‘Perfect Storm’ brewing against Ronda Rousey,” Matt Griffith said on this week’s edition of  the MMA Nuts podcast.

Matt predicted that the UFC’s biggest star, Ronda Rousey, might be headed for trouble in her defense against Holly Holm this weekend at UFC 193.

In fact, he thinks Rousey, who is a staggering twenty-to-one favorite in the bout according to BestFightOdds.com, will lose in a historic upset — and see her reign as UFC women’s bantamweight champion come to an end.

Why? Well, admittedly, there’s been trouble brewing for Rousey.

First there’s the case of her controversial trainer Edmund Tarverdyan, who has declared bankruptcy and may soon face jail time for tax evasion. Tarverdyan has also made enemies with Rousey’s mother, who memorably remarked “I’d run him over with my car if there wasn’t a law against it” in a recent interview. (Tarvedyan is scheduled for a court appearance in the days following UFC 193.)

Matt also mentioned the controversy brewing over Rousey’s own personal life. At a conference call earlier this month, when asked about her relationship with fellow UFC fighter Travis Browne, Rousey reportedly hung up the phone. (She says her phone died.) Browne was accused of domestic violence by his ex wife back in July. Is Rousey cracking under the pressure of constant media obligations?

Finally, and probably more relevant, Rousey has claimed that she will win this weekend not with the grappling acumen which has made her a worldwide star, but by standing and trading punches with Holm.

This could be a case of being foolhardy rather than being courageous, as Holm amassed a 33-2-3 record as a professional boxer. She earned shares of the world title in several weight divisions and also competed successfully in kickboxing.  She’s nowhere near the star Rousey is, but she has carried those skills to MMA well enough to earn a 9-0 record, under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and John Winkeljohn in New Mexico.

“Holm has been doing well with her kicks, and she throws a lot of the oblique kicks to the knee,” Matt said. “When Jack Slack wrote an article about how to beat Rousey, he mentioned throwing a lot of oblique kicks to the knee. Holm throws that, and trains with Jon Jones. Talk about creativity? And — it wouldn’t surprise me if you see a few eye gouges from her!”

I’ll admit it’s an interesting mix. Rousey faces intense media obligations and personal issues, and with the possible match-up problems which Holm represents, is it all a recipe for disaster?

Holly Holm weighs in at UFC 184.

I… don’t think so.

All the talk about what lies under the surface, from Matt and others, has led many observers away from what is obvious: the fact that these two athletes are simply not of the same caliber.

When the bout was announced, I described it as “unfair to fans” — as well as unfair to Miesha Tate, the fighter who was said to be Rousey’s next opponent.

Tate has won four consecutive UFC bouts against the division’s best, while Holm has looked unimpressive in her two UFC wins:

… but maybe Holm’s shortcomings are working in her favor. The UFC may want to “cash out” on the 33 year old ex-boxer before another lesser fighter exposes her. As it is, it’s possible to carve out a “dominant pro boxer with an undefeated MMA record” angle for her career as a selling point.

Watching Holm’s two UFC wins reveals a clearly less dynamic athlete, plodding about using her leg kicks and punches to limited effect.

I’m reminded of Dave Camarillo’s interview earlier this year with BJJ Brick, where he described a different “genetic envelope” for different athletes. He used the example of cornering Cain Velasquez in his bout against Rodrigo Nogueira:

“Nogueira gets in the ring. Nogueira’s awesome. But he’s not athletic compared to Cain… he had almost no chance to beat Cain. Of course there’s technique, but technique is just one variable… I saw Noguiera jump up and down before the fight, and I thought there’s no way he can beat Cain. I had to see it in front of my eyes, not on TV. He’s the champion not just because he’s good. He’s the champion because he’s the most athletic guy in his division.”

I think it’s a mismatch physically here.

To be fair, there will be mental obstacles for Rousey to overcome. But what about Holm? The event will be in a 50,000+ capacity stadium in Melbourne, Australia — far from the casinos in Albuquerque where Holm won and defended her boxing titles.

Boxing trainer Freddie Roach was asked about the fight recently, and mentioned that female boxing never really caught on. He picked Rousey to destroy Holm.

The talk about standing and trading? Don’t believe it. Rousey has trained to win an MMA fight, and that’s what she’ll do.

I see the bout beginning with an awkward clinch exchange and quickly ending in an armbar.

As always, enjoy the fights!