MMA Ratings Podcast

October 8, 2020

UFC Fight Island 4: Holly Holm Continues To Evolve While Outrunning Father Time

By Raphael Garcia

There is much to say about a professional athlete that continues to develop during his or her career. Development is expected of young athletes who are still trying to hone their respective crafts, but seasoned veterans are rarely seen as continuing to evolve after a certain point in their careers. That does not hold true for Holly Holm. The former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion displayed a new level of fighting this past Saturday on Fight Island, in a main event performance that earned widespread praise across the mixed martial arts space. The performance was deserving of that praise, and it opens the door to questions about what other tools "The Preacher's Daughter" is adding into her toolset.

For twenty-five minutes, Holm battered Irene Aldana around the Octagon en route to a unanimous decision victory. Counterstriking had long been considered a strength of Holm's, but she left much to be desired when it came to being aggressive and acting first. That was not the issue last weekend, as she landed 154 significant strikes during the five-round fight, a display that had not been seen from the 39-year-old former boxer previously. However, it was her statement after the bout that made her future that much more intriguing:

“I didn’t come to MMA to be a boxer in an MMA cage or in the Octagon. I came to be a complete mixed martial artist. I’m still green and I’m still learning.”

The application of what she is learning is what raised all the eyebrows. Holm’s significant strike count was impressive; it was the first time she is landed more than fifty since her fight against Germaine de Randamie for the vacant UFC featherweight title back at UFC 208 in February 2017. But the story does not end there. She landed five out of 14 takedown attempts, and managed to pass Aldana’s guard seven times. Holm has shown the ability to wrestle in the past, but this is the first time she has ever passed an opponent's guard in the Octagon, let alone seven times.

But Holm's evolution of abilities does not immediately vault her back into the title picture -- not at all. However, what it does do is help build a compelling narrative for her future. Holm wants to remain in the title picture, and her performance over the weekend shows that she should. The question is where.

With current UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes potentially out for an extended period due to she and Nina Ansaroff welcoming their new baby to the world, the UFC will have some decisions to make. Is there money in a rematch between Holm and de Randamie, but this time at bantamweight? With de Randamie also having a strong performance on Saturday night, the immediate reaction to that question from fans is yes – if properly booked with a supporting card. Both women stumbled against Nunes, but both are still elite enough fighters to thin out the rest of the 135-pound division while the sport waits on Nunes’s next decision.

Watching a fighter evolve is a fun part of MMA. There are so many different wrinkles to the fight game that it is unfair to expect competitors to master them all. But when fighters continue to develop and apply new tools at a high level, it extends their ability to win fights in different ways. Holly Holm showed us last weekend on Fight Island that she continues to add to her warehouse of weapons, and she is ready to apply them in one last run to the belt.

UFC Fight Night
Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana: Holly Holm def. Irene Aldana via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45).

UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Aldana took place October 3, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night Analysis

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