Post-Fight Thoughts: Amanda Nunes -vs- Holly Holm
Prior to the main and co-main events of UFC 239, we'd already been seen quite a lot of violence — including the newly minted fastest KO in UFC history just prior to this fight. I was somewhat concerned that we'd be getting an upset, despite my decision to pick both champs to defend their titles. MMA is a sport that is prone to absurd upsets and weird outcomes, moreso than any other I can think of. Coupled with that, Holly Holm is tough as nails and possessed of a style that could — at least in theory — pose a lot of problems for a power brawler like Nunes.
Right away, Holly seemed a lot more aggressive than usual. She was actively leading, pressing forward and trying to engage with Nunes. That ended up not working out so well, as Nunes was able to easily absorb what shots did land and was able to start tagging Holm almost immediately. In the final minute of the first round, Nunes blasted Holm with a headkick and sealed the end with vicious follow-up shots on her still-dazed opponent. Just like that, in less-than a round, Nunes destroyed the only remaining, former bantamweight champion she had yet to fight. There wasn't a whole lot of room to argue against Amanda Nunes being the best female MMA fighter in history and now there is none — her status as the greatest is inarguable at this point.
There's not much fight to analyse; Holm, while more aggressive than usual, didn't have any notable success. The assumption was that if she could keep Nunes at distance and winging heavy punches at air, that she would tire as the fight progressed. I don't know how feasible that would have been, in hindsight, as Nunes' ability to close distance is very good and Holm isn't known for her power — I'm not sure what she would have done to dissuade Nunes from walking her down. The reality is that Nunes is a proficient striker, not just someone who hits hard. Holm's style has been effective because, historically, she hasn't fought very good strikers and, when she did — against Cris Cyborg and Germaine De Randamie — things didn't work out so well for her. (There's a good argument she won the fight against GDR, but it was a really terrible fight so it's probably best to not think about it any further.)
It took me about 2 minutes to realise that Holly had no way to get Nunes to stop advancing, and unless the fight devolved into a clinch battle, that we would be seeing Amanda do that thing where she hits people and they fall down and don't move properly. I wasn't expecting the headkick, but it added a nice bit of symetry as Nunes demolished Holly Holm in almost the exact same fashion that Holm defeated Ronda Rousey and ended her title reign. A fitting way to scratch the final name off a hit list. At this point, aside from a rematch with Cris Cyborg, there's really no one left for Amanda Nunes to fight; bantamweight has no viable contenders and featherweight doesn't really exist as a division.
As for Holm, who knows what is next for her. Holly drops to 2-5 in her last 7 fights, racked up her first KO loss and is in her late 30s. It would not be a huge shock to see Holm retire after this loss although, provided she still really wants to fight, both the 135 and 145-pound divisions are barren enough that she could still find herself in big fights. I truly thought Holly Holm would be a dominant champion, with a long title reign, after she beat Ronda Rousey. In hindsight, it seems like she was the perfect foil for Rousey but that skillset did not translate into much success at the highest level. I expect Holm will take some time to evaluate her options, but I won't be surprised if she decides to keep fighting or not.
Right now, Amanda Nunes has no peer. It's been incredible to watch her blaze this trail of destruction through the UFC and I'm excited to see whatever comes next. The UFC really, really needs to market Nunes better, though.
Published: July 7th, 2019.