Holly Holm’s stunning second round knockout defeat of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium introduced a new star of the MMA world, and also sent one of the UFC’s biggest drawcards into a now prolonged absence.
News has come out that the much-anticipated rematch will take place later this year, rather than at UFC 200 in July, when it was initially hoped for.
Rather than being a time for worrying what Rousey’s absence means, this makes for an interesting time for both UFC women’s divisions.
Holm’s UFC women’s Bantamweight title win has posed exciting new questions for the women’s UFC divisions, with the new champion’s first defence coming at UFC 197 on March 5 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Holm stated a desire to be an active champion rather than having to wait for Rousey’s return, the UFC granted her wish, booking their new champion against veteran Miesha Tate. It will not be an easy fight for Holm, Tate was a fierce rival to Rousey, giving her two of the toughest fights of her UFC career prior to her loss.
Should Holm retain, and likely still wanting to be an active competitor, her next challengers as less clear cut. Which makes for some fun speculation and match-making for fans, and a chance for female fighters to emerge from the superstar’s shadow. Should Rousey return much later in the year and Holm defeats Tate in March, does the currently third-ranked bantamweight Cat Zingano then challenge Holm? Does someone else? All part of the intriguing year ahead for the UFC.
As for Rousey, it is hard to begrudge her taking an extended absence from the octagon, blazing a trail for women in the UFC and juggling a movie career at the same time for three years. Her eventual rematch with Holm is keenly anticipated, and is sure to do good business for the UFC.
Her time away will add to even more hype to the rematch, one can’t help but wonder what she will be like upon return. Will she get back to her dominating best, or will Holm get the best of her again?
It isn’t just the Bantamweight division making waves, undefeated UFC Strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valerie Letourneau, who were also on the UFC 193 card, went the five-round distance. Jedrzejcyzk retained her championship by unanimous decision over a brave Letourneau, leaving her next challenge set to come from Claudia Gadelha in July this year.
The bout is a long awaited one, with Jedrzejcyzk having inflicted Gadelha’s first and only career defeat via split decision in 2014. The two were reportedly set to square off again at UFC 193, only for an injury to Gadelha to rule that out. Injury has again set the bout forward in the calendar, with Jedrzejcyzk requiring surgery on a broken right hand sustained during her successful title defence at 193.
21-year old strawweight Paige VanZant is also making the MMA world take notice following her recent fight at UFC Fight Night 80 against Rose Namajunas. Though thoroughly defeated, many were quick to praise the bravery of VanZant. VanZant’s performance even drew praise from Jedrzejcyzk, with the reigning Strawweight champion telling mmafighting.com: “she’s still young, but she’s very talented and she’s a bad ass. She’s got the character. She still must learn a lot, but she’s a very good fighter. In the future for sure she will become a UFC champion.”
One thing is certain, VanZant is one to watch.
With many bouts and subplots in the UFC to look forward to, the women’s divisions look set for a huge 2016.