It’s the holiday season, and with the new year quickly approaching, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2015. Throughout the remainder of the year, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
In a year with so many surprising outcomes in mixed martial arts, and so many UFC belts changing hands, it was difficult to narrow down the list of nominees for our “Upset of the Year” designation.
However, despite pound-for-pound king José Aldo being knocked out in just 13 seconds and UFC golden boy Anthony Pettis getting completely dominated for five rounds, the fall of UFC women’s bantamweight queen Ronda Rousey made the most waves in 2015.
Former boxing champion Holly Holm entered the UFC 193 main event against Rousey anywhere from a 10-to-1 to a 16-to-1 underdog. To casual fans, Holm was nothing more than another victim for the previously dominant champion. Yet, to the well-versed combat-sports fan, Holm’s decorated striking arsenal created an intriguing match-up for the judoka Rousey.
Adding to the doubt of fans and bettors were Holm’s first two Octagon appearances. She secured a win over a gritty Raquel Pennington in her UFC 184 debut and then cruised past Marion Reneau later in the summer, earning her a crack at gold. Yet, neither performance was the lightning-fast destruction that fans had seen from Rousey.
When the cage door shut in Melbourne in November, many felt it was only a matter of when, not if, Rousey would take home one of Holm’s arms. But the New Mexico fighter had other plans. Much like her fight with Reneau, Holm quickly established her range and kept Rousey at distance. Rousey’s recent success on the feet against Alexis Davis and Bethe Correia proved to be her folly, as she willingly engaged Holm on the feet. The southpaw Holm peppered Rousey with straight lefts throughout the opening stanza, bloodying the nose of the champion. Surprisingly, the brief grappling exchanges in the opening five minutes went the way of Holm, who calmly muscled her way free and even landed a takedown at one point.
Unlike Holm’s previous Octagon bouts, she didn’t hold back in round two. Her confidence grew with every strike landed and once she smelled blood, she went for the kill. After dropping Rousey with yet another left hand, she gauged her distance as Rousey stood. When Rousey turned to face her, Holm delivered a vicious head kick that sent Rousey crashing face-first to the mat. A few follow-up punches later, Holm put Rousey’s aura of invincibility to rest and captured UFC gold.
With the UFC already announcing a rematch at UFC 200 in July, the question now becomes, can Holm do it again?
Other finalists: Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo (UFC 194), Rafael dos Anjos vs. Anthony Pettis (UFC 185)
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2015 MMA Award winners.