Shock. Disbelief. Speechlessness. You can insert your own emotion here to sum up your feelings about Holly Holm’s upset win over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 on Saturday night. But please refrain from invoking another emotion: Despair.
It’s going to be popular to assume that Rousey showing she is, in fact, beatable is a bad thing for the UFC or for women’s mixed martial arts in general. You might even go so far as to be like my friend here, who I’m assuming spoke with his tongue planted firmly in cheek:
Someone take Dana’s shoelaces…
— MikeyGilz (@MikeyGilz) November 15, 2015
But please relax, MMA fans. I’m here to tell you why Holm defeating Rousey is actually a terrific thing for both the UFC and women’s MMA in general. Even though he looked crestfallen during the postfight press conference, UFC President Dana White should also be the happiest guy around with how UFC 193 unfolded.
Let’s say Rousey performed her usual routine and demolished Holm in a minute or less. Prior to last night’s bout, Rousey said she wanted to “disappear for a while” after her title defense. Judging by how she looked and acted during the weigh-ins, that might have been a good idea. You have to wonder if the spotlight and all the media attention was starting to get Rousey a little bit.
Anyway, if Rousey dominated Holm at UFC 193, there would be no challengers left. Miesha Tate isn’t getting another title shot, apparently. The memory of Cat Zingano’s 14-second loss to Rousey is still fresh in many people’s minds, so she’s out. It looks increasingly unlikely (especially after Saturday night’s card) that a fight between Rousey and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino is going to happen. If Rousey defeated Holm, the women’s bantamweight division would basically be held hostage by Rousey’s continued success.
But now, we have a plethora of fresh matchups that are possible. Which begins with the immediate rematch that will happen between Holm and Rousey. While it’s not exactly fresh, Rousey/Holm 2 gives the UFC another big fight to promote in the new year that people will want to see. In fact, it would be the perfect main event for the UFC’s 200th card, which will more than likely take place in Madison Square Garden.
When you think about some of the memorable moments that have taken place in the world’s most famous arena, having two women face off in the main event of the first UFC card at MSG will represent another significant achievement for women’s MMA and women’s sports in general.
Plus, the rematch between Holm and Rousey sells itself. People are comparing Holm’s upset to other notable upsets, such as Buster Douglas defeating Mike Tyson. Since the UFC and White have never met hyperbole they didn’t love, all they need to do is invoke a few other famous upsets in video packages for Holm/Rousey 2, sit back and watch the dough pour in. White will practically have to do no work at all.
The outcome of Holm/Rousey 2 is almost irrelevant, as well. If Rousey gets her title back, she can resume her perch as the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time and continue to enjoy all the Hollywood offers that will no doubt keep pouring in. If Holm wins, then the UFC has a brand new star to promote. Holly Holm – “The Ronda Slayer.”
We would also be privy to a bunch of exciting new fights at women’s bantamweight if Holm retains her title. If the UFC relents and grants Tate a title shot, could Holm use her striking to keep Tate and her grappling at bay? If Holm faced Zingano, that would be a MMA striking fan’s dream with Holm’s boxing and kickboxing going against Zingano’s Muay Thai.
It’s easy to think that Rousey losing to Holm somehow portends bad things for the UFC or women’s MMA, as my misguided friend above might imply. But guess what? The MMA world didn’t end when Matt Serra upset Georges St. Pierre. In fact, St. Pierre worked his way back to a rematch with Serra and re-established himself as maybe the greatest MMA fighter of all time. Some people might have thought Brock Lesnar getting exposed by Cain Velasquez was bad for the UFC, but both parties emerged from that just fine.
The bottom line is, stars come and go in MMA, and in all sports. Holm’s victory at UFC 193 is not the death knell for the UFC that some may believe. In fact, it may give the UFC new life as we enter 2016.