Holly Holm used her legs, conditioning and top-notch wrestling to roll to a one-sided victory over Irene Aldana on Saturday in a key women’s bantamweight fight at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi that might have been her best performance since she knocked out Ronda Rousey in 2015 to win the title.
Holm largely neutralized Aldana’s offense by circling constantly away from her power. She mixed in combinations and seemed to surprise Aldana with her wrestling.
Judges scored it 50-45 twice and 50-44 for Holm. Yahoo Sports had it 50-45 for Holm.
Aldana statistically had the best takedown defense among women in the UFC, but Holm managed to get her down five times. She nearly finished her with ground-and-pound in the fourth, but mostly, it was a bout where Holm just kept piling up the points.
Holm, 38, scored five takedowns after Aldana had been taken down only twice in her previous eight fights. She finished with a flurry, landing a kick as Aldana got up from a takedown and then landed a series of hard shots that were rocking her Mexican opponent.
Not since Holm upset Rousey at UFC 193 in 2015 was she as on top of her game as she was on Saturday. Aldana made few adjustments and was never able to cut off the cage, making it easier for Holm.
“She’s a mover just like me, so I had to think about what I needed to do,” Holm said.
She was clearly on top of things as she was never in jeopardy and limited Aldana to a negligible output in each round.
The wrestling and the kicks showed the growth in her game since she went to MMA in 2011 after a superlative boxing career. Holm is on the ballot now for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
She said her goal immediately upon turning to MMA was to diversify her game and she’s done that.
“I didn’t come to MMA to be a boxer in an MMA cage or in the Octagon,” Holm said. “I came to be a complete mixed martial artist. … I’m still green and I’m still learning.”
She taught Aldana a lesson, though. It was Aldana who was the one-dimensional boxer, while Holm showcased all parts of her game. She would frequently throw a sidekick after a combination with her hands which prevented Aldana from getting into scoring range.
She’s ranked No. 2 in the division, behind champion Amanda Nunes and No. 1 contender Germaine de Randamie, who choked out Julianna Peña on Saturday. They fought for the featherweight title several years ago, but a rematch between them for the No. 1 spot in the women’s bantamweight division seems to be the most logical next step.