Had there been no title change at UFC 193, it would still have gone down as one of the most significant events of the year. Four women in two title fights at the top of the card was unthinkable four years ago. On top of that, UFC President Dana White referred to the success of this event being responsible for breaking multiple records when asked at the press conference, with reports suggesting that more than 56,000 fans were in attendance.
On the night, the in-cage action did not always live up to those expectations. Yet once the main event was done, fans had witnessed one of the most memorable moments in UFC history. Everything that came before had been forgotten.
So who were the biggest winners, and losers, and what fights should be made coming out of UFC 193?
Holly Holm, Mark Hunt and Robert Whittaker impress
From the moment the world title fight between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm was announced on Good Morning America, this had been the Ronda Rousey show. From the main event’s opening bell in Melbourne to the time the UFC went off the air, Holly Holm turned UFC 193 into her own tele-visual and sporting masterpiece. Few people gave Holm a chance of dethroning the dominant champion, and what she achieved in the octagon in Melbourne cannot be downplayed. Holm has shown improvement each time she has graced the UFC cage, and this was the culmination of years of hard work and goal-focused determination.
For fans of the sport this fight will be forever etched in their memories, the small details will still hold up in their minds in years to come. This was not one well-timed strike, or an out-of-nowhere submission. Luck played no part, and the words “fluke” and “flash” cannot be used. This was the systematic dismantling from opening bell until merciful knockout 59 seconds into the second round, of a fighter that most believed could not be dismantled. If Ronda Rousey was the Terminator that Arnold Schwarzenegger had likened her to, Holly Holm was 10 Sarah Connors rolled into one on Saturday night and her stock could not have risen any higher.
UFC 193 was also a great night for a couple of home-nation — sort of — favorites. While Mark Hunt and Robert Whittaker were both born in New Zealand, both men fight out of Australia and received strong support on Saturday — Sunday local time. Hunt was coming off an overwhelming, tough-to-watch defeat to Stipe Miocic in May, the manner of which was so one-sided that fans had questioned whether he should still be in the sport. Knocking out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in less than four minutes helped provide the answer, but this was more than just Hunt getting into the cage and knocking out an opponent. Throughout fight week, fans and media alike had highlighted how Hunt appeared to be in much better physical shape and how seriously he was taking the fight. At 41-years-old, with 22 mixed martial arts fights, and 43 kickboxing fights in the bag, that means everything.
Robert Whittaker had been considered the underdog going into UFC 193, facing Uriah Hall who had shown enough in his most recent win against Gegard Mousasi to suggest he was finally starting to fulfill his potential. For the best part of three rounds Whittaker shut Hall down, landing the cleaner strikes and outmaneuvering his opponent. Whittaker won by unanimous decision improving his record in the middleweight division to 3-0. Bigger fights await.
Defending Champions Lose in Very Different Ways
It is easy to say in hindsight what only a select few said before the fact, but UFC 193 and the defeat that it bought for Ronda Rousey was the culmination of an incredible twelve months. From inside the MMA bubble, it seemed like she had the whole world cooing after her. Movies were released, television appearances kept getting bigger and more grand, and this was her third fight in nine months. When very few major champions defend more than twice in a calendar year at this point, it really has been an amazing run.
In Melbourne, Rousey lost her undefeated record and her title. The way she was defeated by Holly Holm crushed any notion that she was superhuman, at a time when the world fully believed that she was. But this is only the end of the Ronda Rousey story, if Rousey herself lets it be. While she lost almost everything in defeat, the telling of the remaining chapters remains in her hands and will be the product of her own actions. Defeat at UFC 193 humanized Rousey in such a way that her redemption — if it can be found — should win back many of the detractors she was accumulating before the event in Melbourne.
Such was the breathtaking spectacle of the main event, that the rest of the card was given barely a mention and that is no good thing for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Many will baulk at the inclusion of her name in the losers column, but this was a massive opportunity that she was unable to capitalize on. With millions of fans around the world watching, and more importantly fans who we knew were open to the idea that women could fight at the very top level as most were watching to see Rousey, Jedrzejczyk could not capture the imagination of a new fanbase.
This isn’t really her fault. Jedrzejczyk was facing her toughest championship opponent to date, and even if you were someone who didn’t believe it before the event, that manifested itself on the night. As well, it seems Jedrzejczyk broke her hand in the fight which would have hampered her performance. The problem is that to most of the people watching Letourneau was not perceived to be her stiffest test, nor would many be sticking around long enough afterwards to know she had injured herself.
This was an audience, conditioned by Ronda Rousey, who marvel in unbelievable acts of human ability. Had Jedrzejczyk been able to replicate what she had against Carla Esparza and Jessica Penne, those fans would have been forced to take notice. Instead, in a different way, fans were reminded that Jedrzejczyk too is human. We already knew that, only three fights removed from a bout most people thought she lost against Claudia Gadelha, but this new audience she was put onto the card to win over? They won’t have a clue, and it is unlikely they will be sticking around to seek out Jedrzejczyk’s next title defense.
Rousey rematch is deserved, but lets get Holm back in the cage first
When Ronda Rousey next steps into the octagon it must be for the UFC title. There is no suggestion that she has to earn a title shot, it is unreasonable to think that she hasn’t already. Rousey remains a major commodity on pay-per-view, and has beaten most of the top contenders. Ronda Rousey vs Amanda Nunes on FOX Sports 1? That isn’t happening, and it shouldn’t. Rousey has proven she is better than the rest of the division. There is no need to prove it again.
But if talk before the event had been of her wanting to take a break until UFC 200, now more than ever it seems like exactly what she needs. Careful decisions need to be made regarding her coaching and training for a start, and those cannot be rushed. What Rousey had put herself through in 2015 is enough to burn out even the brightest star, and time off to recharge is important if we are to see the best version of Ronda Rousey yet. That should not be sacrificed for a quick pay-per-view payday.
As for the new champion, Holly Holm is a fighter with the sort of incredible skill that should be shared with the world. She absolutely should agree to a rematch with Ronda Rousey, and she has said she would do, but that should not mean sitting on the sidelines for eight months waiting. We want more title fights, not more contender fights, and Holm vs Miesha Tate some time in the first half of 2016 seems like the right move. Excluding Rousey, Tate is by far the most popular fighter in the division. Nobody else comes close. It would also serve as a way to repair the broken relationship between the UFC and Tate. There are obvious added bonuses too, not only would it be a great fight, but whoever came out victorious would create an easy story to sell on pay-per-view for Rousey’s return.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk‘s next opponent seemed to be laid out before she got into the cage in Melbourne, with Claudia Gadelha waiting in the wings. Valerie Letourneau reminded us Jedrzejczyk could be beaten — even if Letourneau was not the one to do it herself — but Gadelha gave “Joanna Champion” such a hard time in their 2014 fight that Carla Esparza was considered a favorite to beat Jedrzejczyk. No other fight makes sense.
Valerie Letourneau remains an incredibly tough opponent for anyone else in the division, and showed enough in Melbourne to suggest she can challenge for the title again one day. For now, either of Jedrzejczyk’s previous world title opponents — Carla Esparza or Jessica Penne — would serve as ideal opposition.
Elsewhere on the main card, Mark Hunt made it clear that he is in favor of a quick turnaround, and Ben Rothwell is chomping at the bit to get back into the cage after his bout with Stipe Miocic fell through. Let the two heavy handed sluggers blast it out and see who is left standing.
For Robert Whittaker, revisiting the originally scheduled bout with Michael Bisping would seem like the easy option. Bisping has dashed the hopes of many an aspiring top ten middleweight, and he would be the perfect measuring stick to hold Whittaker’s 185 potential up against.
And in a fight that was easy to forget, Jared Rosholt earned himself a crack at another ranked UFC heavyweight. Stefan Struve sat the bottom end of the top 15 and was beaten comfortably in Melbourne. That said, Rosholt’s style makes him a tough sell at the top end of the division, and progession through the rankings is likely to be slow. Roy Nelson is on a three-fight losing streak, having been beaten five times in his last six outings. Heavyweight is a thin division, and matching the two up is about the least-bad of a bunch of far from ideal options at this point.