mma / Columns

Looking at Holly Holm vs. Cris Cyborg

December 29, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Lambert
UFC 219 Cyborg Justino Holly Holm

On Saturday night, we’re finally getting the women’s featherweight title fight we should have had earlier this year.

When the UFC booked Germaine de Randamie against Holly Holm in the inaugural women’s featherweight title bout, it was a rash decision made by a desperate company. They had Cris Cyborg on the roster, forcing her to fight at 140 lbs while dangling a potential featherweight division or a fight with Ronda Rousey in front of her. Cyborg was originally offered the bout, but needed extra time to recover after a needless 140-pound bout.

Instead of waiting for the consensus best female featherweight to start their new division, UFC moved forward with de Randmie against Holm. They desperately needed a main event for UFC 208 and feel every pay-per-view should be headlined by a title fight. Thus, the ill-advised decision to make de Randamie-Holm for the featherweight title.

De Randamie won a rather lackluster and unmemorable fight.

Instead of defending against Cyborg, de Randamie vacated. She was promptly buried by Joe Rogan and others in the company, turning the first female featherweight title fight into nothing more than a footnote.

Cyborg got her rightful title shot at UFC 214, easily defeating Tonya Evinger to become the second ever inaugural undisputed women’s featherweight champion.

Following the loss to de Randamie, Holm moved back down to bantamweight. She snapped a three-fight losing streak with a head kick knockout of Bethe Correia.

Cyborg and Holm went back-and-forth for months about a potential fight. Holm wanted to make sure Cyborg was heavily tested due to her past steroid use. Cyborg accused Holm of ducking her. It looked like the bout would never come to fruition given the parties involved.

But desperate times called likely concessions from each side. The UFC needed a main event for their year end show. Due to a lack of star power, poor scheduling, and injuries, Cyborg’s first title defense was the only viable option for the company. And Holm was the only contender worth considering.

Despite her post-Ronda Rousey slump, Holm is the most recognizable female fighter outside of Cyborg. Her Nov. 2015 knockout of Rousey will forever put her in the discussion as one of the best female fighters of all-time.

While that crown might be unwarranted, there’s no doubt that Holm is Cyborg’s toughest challenge in eight years. That’s when Cyborg fought Gina Carano in the biggest women’s fight to date. Cyborg defeated Carano with one-second remaining in the first round of that bout, cementing herself as the best female fighter in the world. Since then, she’s laid waste to any female who dared to stand in front of her. Most were blown up bantamweights, but the Brazilian’s performances were devastating nonetheless.

No one has been able to withstand the aggressiveness and power that Cyborg unleashes when the bell rings. However, very few, if any, of Cyborg’s previous opponents possess the striking skills of Holm. Her professional boxing experience and counter-striking ability matches up well with the aggressive style of her opponent.

Cyborg is a heavy favorite on Saturday. Rightfully so, given her decade of dominance and Holm’s last four fights.

Holm has been in this position before, but Cyborg is a different animal that Rousey. “Rowdy” was over-hyped as a striker due to quick knockout victories against overzealous opponents. Holm’s patience in that bout was ultimately Rousey’s undoing.

Cyborg is unlikely to fall into that same trap. While she’s known for her aggressive style, it’s a tactical aggression. She doesn’t aimlessly throw with reckless abandon like she used to. She’s become more reliant on jabs and kicks to set the distance and throw off the timing of opponents. Given Holm’s low offensive output, she can’t afford to sit back and get picked apart at range, waiting for that perfect moment to counter.

A victory for Cyborg would further solidify her as the greatest female fighter of all-time. Another upset for Holm would further exemplify the beautiful chaos that is female mixed martial arts.