Pre-Fight Thoughts: Amanda Nunes -vs- Holly Holm
I'm going to be completely honest here, I only realised this was an actual fight about 2-3 days ago when I was listening to Heavy Hands. Coming into yet another title fight, Holly Holm is carrying a 2-4 record in her last 6 fights and recently went to a decision with a very green and overmatched Megan Anderson. Amanda Nunes, meanwhile, has been cutting a swath of destruction through bantamweight and recently took the time to annihilate Cris Cyborg and take her featherweight title as well. Holm has struggled ever since her epic demolition of Ronda Rousey while Nunes' only competition has been making weight. There isn't exactly a deluge of contenders for Nunes to face, but that doesn't excuse to the realities of this pairing.
Holm is still a tough out, however; in spite of Holly racking up a number of losses, Nunes needs to be in top form if she's going to win this. Holm is extremely tough, surviving a vicious 5-round assault from Cris Cyborg, and never having been stopped with strikes. Holm is also incredibly strong, so Nunes will need to employ some finesse as straight-up bullying Holm doesn't seem likely. Furthermore, Holm is always in tremendous shape, prioritises defence highly and is very much accustomed to going all 5 rounds. The one consistent concern / criticism of Nunes is that her flurries of violence come at a cost, and a fighter like Holm is well suited to weather the initial storm and tire her out.
That all being said, Cris Cyborg came into her fight with Nunes boasting similar attributes: incredible strength and expert understanding of the striking arts. Cyborg still got destroyed in under a minute. No one had ever stopped Cyborg with strikes — in fact her only previous loss was her pro debut, via kneebar — until Nunes did it. Nunes has dispatched every other female fighter of significance — there is every chance she could be the first to (T)KO Holly Holm too. It's also not impossible to imagine Nunes winning a decision provided she's reasonably well conditioned. Holm's style is fairly low-output and defensive; provided Nunes doesn't tire excessively, it's very possible she could be busy enough to win rounds.
Were this a few years ago, I would have almost instantly picked Holm to win this fight. Now, a combination of a losing skid followed by alternating wins and losses, in addition to the fact Holm is turning 38 this year changes math considerably. I can't fully count Holm out, but I see her as a significant underdog to Amanda Nunes. Seeing how drained Nunes looked on the scale, yesterday, was not very encouraging, but how a fighter looks at the weigh-ins has never been a reliable indicator of how they will perform in the cage. Provided Amanda Nunes isn't compromised and trained diligently, then this is her fight to lose. In order to play spoiler, Holm will need to be more aggressive than usual — she will need to push a hard pace and wear the champ down.
This is still a good fight, and things get really weird of Holly manages to defeat Nunes — muddying the discussion of the greatest female MMA fighter. Should Nunes retain her title, she will have defeated every female fighter of note and proves that she currently has no peer in the sport currently. The worst outcome would be a tepid, plodding decision, regardless of who wins.
Published: July 6th, 2019.