Holly Holm made her UFC debut in 2015. She entered the UFC as the No. 13 ranked fighter in the official UFC women’s bantamweight rankings, which was one spot higher than the woman she faced in that fight, Raquel Pennington. Since her win over Pennington that night, Holm has not slipped from the top-10 of the division.
Today, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion sits in the No. 2 spot, second to the woman who knocked her out in July 2019, Amanda Nunes. Holm, who has not fought since she earned a decision win over Irene Aldana in October 2020, looks to prove she deserves her spot in the UFC rankings when she faces Ketlen Vieira in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 55 fight card.
At 30, Vieira is 10 years younger than Holm. A member of the UFC roster since 2016, she did not make her professional MMA debut until 2014. By then Holm had left a Hall of Fame boxing career—where she had 18 title defenses across three weight divisions—firmly behind her and moved on to a full-time MMA career. Vieira, who is the No. 5 ranked fighter in the official UFC women’s 135-pound rankings, is coming off a win over the woman who ended Holm’s run as UFC champ: Miesha Tate.
Holm had something to prove in her last outing. The talk entering that contest was that her opponent, Irene Aldana, was in line for a shot at the title with a win. As for Holm? Well, she was not, at least not publicly, in the mix for that same shot. So, what did Holm do? She went out and put on what might have been her finest performance since she head kicked the bantamweight title off Ronda Rousey in 2015.
Holm set a personal record in significant strikes landed against Aldana, connecting on 154 of 301 attempted strikes. She won the fight with ease.
Holm once again has something to prove when she steps into the octagon on Saturday night. There will be questions about her ability to bounce back from the injuries that kept her out of the cage for a career long 20 months. There will be questions if age and time have caught up with her and most of all, there will be questions about her feasibility as a title challenger in 2022.
Holm’s plan, she told CBS, is to answer those questions definitively.
“I have to win, regardless,” Holm said. “I hate to lose, anyway. I just hate to lose no matter what is on the line. That’s No. 1. I want to get in there and I want to win on Saturday. But, also, as far as a career, if you don’t win, the next steps and options are never as many as you want. They are limited. In the long run, I need this win if I want to keep progressing to getting the belt.”
Judging from how she performed the last time she faced doubts, Holm has an excellent chance of proving her doubters wrong.