by wjw on November 14, 2015

I’m just back from seeing Penn and Teller at the Route 66 Casino, west of Albuquerque and owned, I believe, by the Laguna tribe.  (Indian casinos seem to own most of the new concert venues.)  The concert was great fun, though I was a bit disappointed that I’d recently seen almost all the tricks on P&T’s summer TV series, Fool Us.

I’m heading back up Route 66 tomorrow night, because I’ve got a ticket to watch the Ronda Rousey/Holly Holm fight on HD.  (The actual fight is taking place Sunday morning in Australia.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 11.57.38 PMI’ve never watched a martial arts event in this fashion before, but then Holly Holm is New Mexico’s darling, and I used to train alongside Holly’s trainer, the champion kickboxer Mike Winkeljohn.

Holly is a 1-20 underdog, but I’d suggest that she’s got a much better chance of victory than that.  True, Rousey is a terrifying martial artist, as this compilation video will attest.  (It ends with her win over Beth Correia last August.  The fight lasted all of 14 seconds.)

Rousey is a pit bull in the ring, pure aggression.  This reflects her judo background, where the contestants shove and yank and generally manhandle each other until one of them makes a mistake, and then the other tries to take instant advantage.  Rousey has no problem thinking on her feet, and her improvisations are lightning-fast.

Holly Holm’s background is in boxing, having held championship belts in light welterweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight divisions before going on to win the welterweight championship as a kickboxer.   Most striking artists tend to spend some time feeling out the opponent first, trying to find a weakness, before moving in to exploit that weakness, and that’s what Holly does— she’s a stalker.  Her footwork is superb, and her kicks are usually unexpected and disorienting.

So the longer the fight lasts— if Holm can use her footwork and striking ability to keep Rousey from shooting— the better the chance for a Holm upset victory.  And of course Holm’s team has been aiming at this fight for a long, long time, and have had a lot of time to plan strategy.  So there may be surprises.

But then again if Rousey’s on form, the whole thing may last less than a minute.  (Fortunately there’s a full undercard.)

I admire the hell out of both these ladies, so in a way I’m happy with whatever the outcome might be, but still I have a connection to the Winkeljohn team, and it would be nice to see another championship belt come to New Mexico.

This will be the biggest UFC event ever.  I think probably the biggest event in women’s sports ever.

And there I will be, with my little pasteboard ticket, ready for whatever surprises the match has in store.

wjw November 15, 2015 at 2:45 am

Holy Mike! What an upset!

When the fight opened, I was counting the seconds. “Holly’s lasted longer than Zingano . . . she’s lasted longer than Davis . . . she’s lasted longer than Correia . . . Hey! She’s lasted longer than Rousey’s last four opponents put together!”

By the last half of the first round, Holm was hitting Rousey whenever she wanted to. When it went to the ground, it was Holm taking Rousey down and not the other way around.

And then in the first minute of the second round, there was the wheel kick to the head and the KO, and Rousey didn’t see it coming.

Congratulations to Holly Holm, Jackson-Winkeljohn, and all Team Holm. Another championship belt for New Mexico!

wjw November 15, 2015 at 2:46 am

Here’s a video of the fight. Warning: it’s in Russian.


Geoff November 15, 2015 at 7:02 am

Thanks for providing insight into this fight – most sources had titles like Deadspin’s “Ronda Rousey’s Latest Challenger Is Entirely Legit And Has No Prayer” so it was good to read about some counterarguments. Congratulations!

Jason Musgrave November 15, 2015 at 10:41 am

Must have been amazing. I’m glad you got to see such a crucial turning point in an epic story.

wjw November 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm

I came to the casino with a pocket of cash, because I thought I’d put some money down on Holm, because the odds were just too damn tempting. But the casino wasn’t allowed to take bets.

What part of “casino” doesn’t the casino understand?

mearsk November 16, 2015 at 10:57 am

Was this a case of Holm being more talented or Rousey believing in her own invincibility?

wjw November 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

I put the win down mainly to Team Holm. They analyzed Rousey’s fighting style and came up with ways to counter it that meshed with Holm’s skills. Holm had far more ring experience, and she clearly knows how to hit.

Women’s MMA is a very new sport and there isn’t the depth of field you see on the men’s side, so very likely Rousey never had to fight an opponent of Holm’s caliber, and was caught by surprise.

Of course Rousey may have looked at the 20-1 odds in her favor and decided she didn’t need to take the fight seriously. Or she may have got distracted by the hype or her Hollywood career or her growing celebrity or the feud between her trainer and her mother. But that kind of judgment required an understanding of Rousey’s psychology that I don’t have.

In any case, with that broken jaw she’s out of the game for at least a year, so she’ll have plenty of time to consider her options.

pixlaw November 16, 2015 at 8:08 pm

I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this, but to be honest, I’m more than a little creeped-out by the notion of anyone fighting in matches like this, given the whole concussion/early dementia thing bubbling up via the NFL. The fact that Rousey was knocked out and taken to the hospital makes it impossible for me, at least, to not start wondering about how her cognitive and physical abilities will be affected 10 or 20 years down the line.

Muhammad Ali proved that you can be The Greatest and still be finally, irretrievably, knocked on your ass as a result of getting hit in the head enough times.

wjw November 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Pixlaw, I share your concerns. Though in the NFL, players are armored up so that they can smash into each other full-force, over and over again. I think if they went back to the old leather helmets, players would preserve their brains much better because they would be physically unable to hit each other as hard as they do now.

In boxing, hands are padded heavily so that they can hit again and again without direct damage either to the hand or the target. Then the fights go on for nine or twelve rounds of constant hammering. The result is brain damage on the scale of Muhammad Ali’s.

MMA may look more brutal, but the matches don’t go on for nearly as long, and the hands aren’t as heavily padded. Probably at least half the bouts are settled by submission in the first round. I’m guessing the incidents of scrambled brains are going to be far less in MMA, but the sport hasn’t existed long enough for generate any real data.

Etaoin Shrdlu December 2, 2015 at 1:30 am

Hey WJW,

I was reading Reddit after the fight, and someone mentioned that Rousey has a personal rule that she will stop after a certain amount of time in the ring (total, across all fights), because she’s done some math and figured that that’s how long she can safely fight. Apparently that’s also why she tries to take down opponents so quickly, so that she won’t suffer the many-many-many-hits-to-the-head that cause such long-term damage.

I hope it works for her.

wjw December 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm

That seems very logical, though I think the reason she tries to end fights quickly is that she can. Usually, anyway.

Fish House Music April 19, 2016 at 6:06 am

This was definitely a turning point for Rhonda.

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