When Holly Holm steps into the octagon in Melbourne on Sunday, she will do so as the biggest underdog Ronda Rousey has faced in her 12-fight career. At the time of writing, Holm is priced at around 12/1 with most bookmakers for the UFC 193 main event.
To put that into perspective, Rousey's UFC 190 opponent Bethe Correia, was widely considered to be her weakest challenge to date. Correia closed at 11/1. No other Rousey opponent has come close to those odds.
Considering Rousey's consistent level of performance in the UFC, it is easy to see why. Six straight UFC opponents have lasted a combined 17 minutes and 57 seconds against the champion. Only Miesha Tate was able to make it out of the first round.
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Rousey has been presented by her promoters as a flawless and unbeatable champion, but the women's bantamweight title fight at UFC 193 is not the one-sided mismatch many would have you believe. Holly Holm can beat Ronda Rousey.
Holm, a former multi-time boxing world champion, has a set of skills that are unlike any of Rousey's previous opponents. Holm holds considerable advantages with her footwork and movement and controls distance with her kicks and quick combinations. That presents a unique problem for Rousey, whose success has been based on engaging opponents early and looking for the clinch.
Unlike the boxing rings where Holm competed for over ten years, the UFC's octagon is a wide open space with no corners to get trapped in. Catching Holm is going to be a problem, and Rousey will not be able to throw someone that she cannot get a hold of.
Holm also has a considerable coaching advantage. Working with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn at their gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Holm has a team around her who are arguably the best in the sport when it comes to creating a workable game plan and ensuring a fighter follows through with its execution. On top of that, Holm has received assistance from fellow Jackson-Wink fighter and former UFC light-heavyweight champion of the world Jon Jones, while preparing for this fight.
Rousey meanwhile trains primarily at the Glendale Fighting Club under Edmond Tarverdyan. Rousey is the only fighter to find notable success after training there, and even her Mother AnnMaria De Mars has been vocal about her Daughter's choice of coach. In a recent interview with LatiNation De Mars said,
"I think Edmond is a terrible coach and I will say it publicly. I think he's a terrible coach, I think he hit the lottery when Ronda walked in there. She was winning before she ever met him."
As a former judo world champion De Mars is not your typical protective Mother. She speaks from a position of authoritative knowledge, and has been there in Rousey's corner for each and every fight so far. That is to change, as MMA Latest News recently reported that De Mars is not part of her Daughter's entourage at UFC 193.
Chinks in the armor are beginning to appear and those outside influences cannot be ignored. It has been an incredible year for the bantamweight champion. Ronda Rousey has appeared in movies, on major mainstream television shows, and had her private life receive the sort of scrutiny reserved for those at the very top of the celebrity food chain. That includes her relationship status.
In a recent interview on The MMA Hour, UFC heavyweight Travis Browne confirmed rumors that he was in a relationship with Rousey.
"Dating is for children. Dating is for kids. Over the summer, through all the sh*t that I had to shuffle through, that I had to sift through, Ronda and I started talking throughout the summer and I'll say now that we are together. She's my woman and I'm her man. There's no boyfriend, girlfriend stuff. There's no dating. We're together."
Browne had been subject to an investigation by the UFC conducted by a former FBI agent, following accusations of domestic violence made on social media by his estranged wife Jenna Renee Webb. The investigation found inconclusive evidence to support claims of domestic violence against Browne, and inconclusive evidence that the fighter had violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.
Rousey has faced questions regarding the relationship ever since. They have been deflected with a confident insistence that her private life is just that, private. On a recent media conference call to promote UFC 193, Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting.com was left hanging after asking Rousey whether she was happy that Browne had made their relationship public. The women's bantamweight champion dropped from the call, and could not be reconnected. Whether that was an intentional act, or simply a technical glitch, remains to be seen.
Either way it is clear that there has never been more attention on Rousey as a woman, a partner, a role model, and even a lover. The champion was recently featured in a question and answer segment on Maxim.com, where she fielded questions about the perfect date, the secret to great sex, and the things you should be doing in bed.
"What should a guy always do? Take his time. In general, a girl takes a minute. He needs to get her ready. You should never need lube in your life. If you need lube, then you’re being lazy...and you’re not taking your time."
Once again Rousey faced a backlash for her comments. Salon.com writer Rachel Kramer Bussel was quick to point out that there are a number of reasons women may need to rely on lube, rather than simply men being lazy. For those of us who didn't, we now know that lube-shaming is real, and Rousey is guilty of it.
On the surface, these things can be laughed off as Rousey continues her incredible media tour and takes it all in her stride. However, these remain unwanted distractions at exactly the wrong time. Even someone with the strength of character displayed so often by Ronda Rousey has to flinch when their Mother is missing for their upcoming fight, they are questioned constantly about a relationship that they believe is nobody else's business, and they are branded a lube-shamer.
The New Buster
It is all starting to feel like that moment everyone claims to have seen coming after the fact. When Mike Tyson lost to James "Buster" Douglas in February 1990, Douglas was a 42/1 underdog. Nobody had given him a chance against the most ferocious heavyweight the boxing world had seen in years. After Douglas knocked Tyson out in the tenth round to become world champion, fingers were instantly pointed. Tyson's failing marriage, his change of management and trainer, and the constant pressure spent under the spotlight. We were told that they had all played their part.
Rousey has been referred to as the Mike Tyson of women's MMA on more than one occasion, destroying everyone she has faced in a manner that no other UFC champion has before her. Now she faces a challenger in Holly Holm, who like Buster Douglas fifteen years ago, has a rangey style that can make this an awkward and troublesome title defense.
No fighter has ever had a better chance to halt Ronda Rousey's run as the UFC bantamweight champion. If Holly Holm can execute the correct gameplan and use her definite, substantial advantages, she can win this fight and become a UFC champion.
If that does happen, we will be looking back over the past twelve months of Rousey's life in search of answers, with a greater scrutiny than ever before.