Holm and De Randamie fight for the inaugural featherweight title this February 11, 2017 at the famous ‘spot the SUV in an awkward spot’ Barclays Center Brooklyn, New York.
One sentence summary:
Phil: Even by the inconsistent standards of UFC title fights... COME ON.
David: A good fight for Fox Sports 1 gets turned into a title fight for a PPV.
Record: Holly Holm 10-2 Germaine De Randamie 6-3
Odds: Holly Holm +115 Germaine De Randamie -135
History / Introduction to the fighters
Phil: Holly Holm sort of feels like she got to the top of the mountain and is in the process of falling right back off again. Which is weird, because this is uh, a title fight? In general Holm has always seemed to defy expectations, whether good or bad. Hyped up "best women's boxer ever" coming to the UFC? Tepid decisions over (in retrospect extremely underrated) unranked fighters. Going to get destroyed by Rousey? Near-flawless performance. The new face of the division? Going 0-2. Not sure what that means for this fight. Given that its defining characteristic is that it's a black hole of anti-hype, I'm going to assume that it means it's going to be the Fight of the Year?
David: Holm came in as one of the curiosities. A clear talent and specialist who could carve out a career for herself in MMA through sheer force of technique. She’s done that, just with mixed results. In a way she’s like a reverse Charles Oliveira. After some soft matches for the title fight, she’s been given nothing but stylistic elm street contests of technicians equally adept if not more so in the one area Holm was special.
Phil: Germaine de Randamie came to the UFC before the recent trend of kickboxers taking over WMMA, and... didn't do all that well. I'm not entirely convinced that it wasn't because she just didn't take MMA particularly seriously compared to kickboxing. This is understandable: if someone is very, very good at one combat sport, they often tend to settle into its rhythms and styles, and a new sport can feel like a pale imitation. In GdR's case, she had a perfect 37-0 record in kickboxing, and her subsequent MMA career was sporadic at best. However, it has seemed to pick up some momentum in recent years, and she's been looking far more focused and prepared, albeit against dreadful competition.
David: I remember hearing de Randamie’s name during the old days at fight linker, when all they did was post MMA gifs, and talk about how hot Sara McMann was. I don’t know if these are fond memories, or just raw memories, so let’s move on. De Randamie carved out her own violent history for herself as a kickboxing/Muay Thai WIKBA world champion. To be honest, I’ve always reserved a skepticism towards records in sports I can’t even find on channel 23123 on Directv. Even in K-1, there’s a sense that some of these fighters aren’t really the best athletes in their sport. Just the best hobbyists. Likewise for MMA, really. Luckily de Randamie is committed to MMA, and she’s a much more interesting fighter as a result. Whether that takes her past Holm is another question.
What’s at stake?
Phil: Nothing and everything is at stake. OK, basically just nothing. This is in serious contention for the most meaningless belt the UFC has ever made. Not only is it pointless, it may be actively harmful. I think it was originally a moonshot for a potential Holm/Rousey or Rousey/Cyborg double-belt fight, but MMA mocks those kind of plans, and here we are. I guess at some point Cyborg will legitimize the belt somewhat, but with the meniscus-level depth of W145, any kind of injury or drug failure will utterly annihilate future title challenges. To retain any semblance of divisional function, the UFC will have to import fighters from a class which has approximately the same level of quality as super heavyweight. It will bloat with terrible, terrible fighters. No. Nooooooo.
David: A blue ribbon? Whoever wins will basically be the toughest woman on the cinder. The idea that they’re just big fish in a small pond won’t even be a proper metaphor, since its literal meaning indicts the very presence of the division’s existence. I’m guessing there’s some sort of TUF planned to infuse the division with depth, and to bring Cyborg in, but this kind of division construction feels too much the UFC making Castle Grayskull with legos, and leftover big league chew.
Where do they want it?
Phil: With the exception of the Rousey fight, which increasingly reveals itself to be a combination of perfect gameplan, execution, and favourable stylistic matchup, Holm has always been a patient volume kickboxer who noisily beats up the air from the outside while setting up a southpaw round kick to the head or body. Connor has identified her problem with power punching as being a fundamental issue with stance: standing too far out over her lead foot, stepping before her punches, and only being able to put weight on when her opponent steps deep inside her range.
That said, she can overcome these flaws (even within boxing), largely because of her determination and her synergy with her coaches. Her fundamental technical style may be lacking, but Jackson-Wink are perhaps the greatest team in the sport at maximizing the utility of "unique" skillsets. She is ferociously disciplined when it comes to sticking to a gameplan, and is a workhorse. The Anne Sophie Matthis KO isn't just an example of egregious corner and referee negligence, it's an example of someone who just will not quit while a single atom of consciousness remains inside them.
David: Does the UFC not realize that the Moneyball revolution happened over a decade ago? Her significant striking accuracy sits at 32 percent. Basically, she’s an overrated offensive fighter with limited finishing skills, but a solid defensive presence, which keeps opponents who don’t know better honest against her. I’ve never been impressed with Holm’s technique for reasons Connor already articulated, but it’s also a philosophical problem: MMA rarely forgives fighters who can’t cut off an extended timeline. Unlike Mousasi, her problem is not urgency. It’s propulsion. She’s rarely moving forward with the kind of momentum opponents feel threatened by.
I feel like we can always key in on a fighter’s flaws the more obscure we get with their qualities. Determination, synergy, physicality? I don’t mean to mock these descriptions. They are latent variables, which are important. But I get the feeling Holm is about to drop her third bout in a row precisely because she’s skilled, but not talented.
To the extent that Holm works the way she does, the threat of her left leg kick gets the most mileage. She has a clean right hook, and straight left, but except for Katie Merrill, she’s finished all her bouts with that left leg of hers. Her size and strength are good for counter scrambling, like she did against Ronda Rousey. Other than that, this is de Randamie’s fight to lose unless Holm suddenly starts wrestling.
Phil: de Randamie is an example of someone who hasn't really changed fundamentally in their time in the UFC, but has merely quietly tightened up on the things which got them in trouble in the past. In de Randamie's case, she's made sure she got pushed to the fence less, and made sure she had more grip awareness in the clinch. Other than that, she's relatively barebones. A crisp jab and one-two (still a very difficult combination for a lot of MMA fighters to throw) are the core of her game, together with some brutal knees from the clinch. Like a lot of kickboxing transfers, GdR doesn't throw too many kicks, likely due to the takedown threat, but she's a powerful kicker when she wants to be.
De Randamie's ground game hasn't been tested much in recent years. It was never quite the "hit the ground and get insta-subbed" which you might expect from a kickboxer, but nor has she ever shown elite takedown defense, and she has in the past tended to sell out for rookie guillotines instead of working defense.
David: The thing I like about de Randamie is the way she cuts that inside leg kick to manage distance. It won’t be an option because Holm is a southpaw, but the potential for her to power her right leg into Holm’s thigh could be the tactical x-factor. Basically, de Randamie shouldn't be prone to getting bullied by Holm's left leg. She has better movement than Holly, and should be able to punish Holly with her chopping buffalo wing of an overhand right. de Randamie isn't perfect on the feet, of course. She's not active enough for me to be comfortable picking her, and she's not a physical enough to take over in intervals of the bout. de Randamie can win at range, and in the clinch, but Holm has a lot of theoretical options supported by a quality camp.
Insight from past fights
Phil: de Randamie likes to lead with the jab, and Holm's ability to shut down Rousey's jab was a key part of her win - she circled and countered, or parried it like a focus mitt. However, as per Dan Tom's fine breakdown, Holm has herself been vulnerable to right hands, and it seems like de Randamie's jab, right hook combination may be key to catch Holm circling out.
David: Nunes and Shevchenko are elite talents within their shared inventory of battles against strikers. I wouldn't put de Randamie in their category even if she has a solid pedigree. I just don't think she has the raw athleticism of those two (or in Shevchenko's case, raw instincts). That works in Holm's favor, since she won't be at a speed, or strength disadvantage.
Phil: Can Holm wrestle consistently? She put Rousey on her back briefly. If she can hit takedowns as rhythm breakers or a clinch escape route, that will serve her well against a fighter who has never been a comfortable grappler at all.
David: For de Randamie, her progression. She's tightened up core methods of attack, but against Holm, she'll need to tighten up core methods of defense since this bout should project as a points war.
Phil: Strange fight. De Randamie may well be better in their core discipline, but Holm has beaten and competed with much better fighters in her time in this sport, and MMA is most definitely not kickboxing. However, I'm not sure I believe in Holm's counter left against a bigger, more powerful and more technical puncher, and GdR has been pretty hard to kick against in her MMA career. Germaine de Randamie by unanimous decision.
David: Like you said, strange fight. De Randamie is the stronger technician, whereas Holm might be more well rounded. However, I can't help but feel like Germaine will have the benefit of fighting in the vacuum Holm wll be willing to participate in. Germaine de Randamie by Decision.