Weighing the Options of Holly Holm After UFC on Fox 20

Fightland Blog

By Tom Taylor

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Back in November of 2015, in the main event of UFC 193, Holly Holm shocked the world by knocking out the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey. Initially considered little more than Rousey’s latest feeding, she was suddenly the best female bantamweight on the planet, and one of the biggest stars in the sport.

Unfortunately for Holm, things tend to change pretty quickly in the fight game.

After losing her title in a back-and-forth battle with Miesha Tate (who has also since been dethroned) Holm then came up short again, losing a decision to the much smaller Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of UFC on Fox 20 last Saturday night. Now on the first two-fight losing streak of her career, Holm has tumbled quite a distance since she ended the Rousey era less than a year ago.

Yet this is clearly not the end of the road for the former champion. Though she is one of the division’s older competitors at almost 35-years-old, she is still one of its very best fighters. And while she is understandably quite disappointed with her Saturday night performance, she also seems to be eager to get back on the horse.

So, when it again comes time for Holm to ride out into battle, who might be waiting on the other side of the Octagon? Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Well, until Holm rematches Rousey, the biggest fight for her will always be a rematch with Rousey. Sure, she decimated Rousey when they first met, and sure, she made it look easy. Yet a rematch with Rousey gives Holm the opportunity to prove that the outcome of their first fight was more than a fluke—and yes, there are plenty of fans out there who believe it was a fluke. For this reason alone, Holm vs. Rousey 2 will always be big business.

Of course, the creation of this rematch is hindered by one ultra-important detail: we still don’t know if Rousey will actually return to MMA. Though she’s stated on several occasions that she’s eager to reclaim the women’s bantamweight throne, there’s been little actual movement toward her comeback. Because Rousey’s fighting future is so foggy, Holm’s next opponent will probably have to be picked from somewhere else.

Luckily, Rousey isn’t the only compelling option out there for Holm. In fact, Rousey isn’t even the only exciting rematch on Holm’s horizon.

Another bout that makes sense for Holm at this juncture is a rematch with Tate, the woman she lost the title to. At one point, there were rumors that this rematch might be part of the UFC 200 lineup. Instead, however, the UFC chose to pair Tate with Amanda Nunes—and we all know how that one went.

Today, however, when Holm finds herself in a hole two fights deep and Tate is recovering from a downright beatdown, the rematch still seems to make sense. It’d give both women a chance to rebound from their current struggles, and it’d give them the chance to settle any lingering scores that resulted from their highly competitive first fight. Of course, the injuries Tate sustained at UFC 200, and the medical suspension she was handed as a result, could keep her out of action for some time. And so, if Holm is hoping for a quick turnaround, she’ll probably have to shift her focus elsewhere.

This brings us to the possibility of Holm’s taking on Cris “Cyborg” Justino—a high risk, high reward fight if ever there was one. Cyborg, who is the current Invicta FC featherweight champion, has long stood out as one of the best female fighters on the planet, but has never been able to get down to bantamweight where most of the biggest names in women’s MMA reside. Because of her size and ferocity, most bantamweights have also been unwilling to move up a weight class to meet her. Most bantamweights, with the exception of Holm.

On several occasions, during and after her reign as bantamweight queen, Holm suggested that she’d be willing to move up in weight to battle the fearsome Cyborg. And while Holm would deservedly be a substantial underdog in this potential showdown, there could be no better time for her to put her money where her mouth is. Yes, she’d probably lose to the Brazilian destroyer, but if she did pull of the win—and that’s a big if—she’d erase any memory of her losses to Tate and Shevchenko, and immediately reassert herself as one of the top contenders in her home division. Indeed, there’s probably no better remedy for Holm’s current situation than a win over a destructive force like Cyborg.

Then again, the best option for Holm might be the simplest one—not a high profile rematch, not a catchweight super fight, but a scrap with another middling bantamweight in Cat Zingano.

In early 2015, Zingano experienced her first pro loss, as she found herself on the receiving end of one of Ronda Rousey’s most emphatic wins: a 14-second armbar. Well over a year later, on the undercard of UFC 200, Zingano attempted to rebound from this first loss opposite Julianna Peña. As we know, however, Zingano would lose the fight by decision, finding herself on the first two-fight skid of her career—just like Holly Holm did on Saturday night.

Yes, Holm and Zingano suddenly find themselves at very similar junctures, both losing by submission and then decision to tumble from the ranks of the unbeaten into an undesirable pool of fighters who could not need a win more badly. So why not pair them with each other? The loser takes a necessary step down the bantamweight ladder, while the winner keeps their spot inside the divisional top-10. Really, this prospective booking makes all the sense in the world.

The main point to note after all this option weighing, however, is that while Holm finds herself on a career-worst two-fight skid, she’s still got a wealth of exciting possibilities ahead of her. And while she’s certainly running low on prime years, all it’ll take for her to burst right back into the title hunt is a win in one of these matchups. 


Check out these related stories:

The Tactical Guide to Holly Holm versus Valentina Shevchenko

The Quiet Genius of Holly Holm's Championship Reign