Arguably one of the strangest title fights in UFC history will be taking place this Saturday, February 11th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
For perhaps the first time, a fighter on a two-fight losing streak will fight for a championship belt in MMA’s most prestigious organization. If that wasn’t enough her opponent is completely unknown to the casual fan. Finally, the two will be fighting for the inaugural UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship fight.
When news first broke about this Saturday’s fight between Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie there was overwhelming confusion as to the absence of one woman. It was taken as a forgone conclusion that should the UFC ever institute a Women’s Featherweight Division Cris “Cyborg” Justino would be the woman fighting for the belt.
Her absence led to a veritable investigation in which it was revealed that extensive damage caused by excessive weight cutting rendered “Cyborg” unable to compete on the UFC’s timeline. Many have attacked the UFC’s decision to make this fight without Justino claiming they could have easily put the inaugural bout on the line just a month or two later.
However, it is apparent that with the likely retirement of Ronda Rousey and the less than imminent return of both Jon Jones and Conor McGregor, the UFC is in desperate need of headliners.
The fact that the headliners for UFC 208 are frankly mediocre speaks to the company’s current predicament. Although, Holm will likely draw a number of casual and hardcore fans (largely due to her reputation as being the woman who dethroned Rousey) the same cannot be said for De Randamie. Why then would the UFC even put this fight at the top of a largely average card?
Again, without any viable stars and a need to fill up events, the UFC has essentially been forced into making this fight. The fact is that putting together a lackluster PayPerView is still better than scrapping the entire thing; a precedent set at UFC 206 in Toronto.
With the fight set and no way to remedy the situation there is still a silver lining to examine. Regardless of Holm’s current skid this should be a very competitive bout. De Randamie’s two-fight win streak, both wins by knockout, also adds the possibility of fireworks.
Both Holm and De Randamie can also look forward to conferring a few benefits from the 10-pound jump in weight i.e. improved cardio, strength, hydration, reflexivity etc. They also both benefit from a intriguing style match-up. A multiple time World Champion Boxer versus a multiple time World Champion in Muay Thai makes this fight, on paper at least, a strikers dream.
However, I think there is reason to suspect that this fight will hit the mat more than a couple of times. On the feet this fight will chiefly be fought with a few signature weapons on each side. Holm will use a kickboxing heavy game with lots of jabs, oblique kicks, and high kicks. Conversely, De Randamie will use the eight weapons of Muay Thai particularly heavy leg kicks, knees, and elbows.
The x-factor in this match-up will be the grappling. While the Dutchwoman’s clinching and foot-sweeps should give her a marked advantage at securing take-downs the sheer athleticism of “The Preacher’s Daughter” ought to make things interesting. Moreover, should the fight actually hit the floor we might see the perceived skills gap widen.
Most people expect these two to be evenly matched on the feet. After all, they are both multiple time World Champions in their respective disciplines. However, if and when the fight goes to the mat we might see an enormous gap in ability. The fact is we are not in the gyms of either of these fighters so we really have no clue how their wrestling and jiu-jitsu is progressing. Neither of these women has ever won by submission so again it is difficult to ascribe any level of prowess to them.
Yet the athlete who has spent more time on the mats certainly has a marked advantage in this bout. This fight is a difficult one to call for a variety of reasons. We have to ask ourselves whether or not Holm is overrated and to what extent were her previous losses a product of a poor mindset or reflective of her actual ability. We also have to ask howunderrated De Randamie is. “The Iron Lady” has knockout power, flawless technique, and world-class experience but little to no hype behind her.
As with any bout everything is contingent on the mental states of the two combatants. However, on paper it seems as though the momentum and ability of De Randamie will be simply too much for the Albuquerque native.
On Saturday February 11th , in Brooklyn, New York, the UFC will crown its first Women’s Featherweight Champion. That champion will not be the one most expected would first hold the belt but that doesn’t leave this fight without merit.
Two World Champions will collide and make MMA history but only one will get the chance to win the approval of hardcore fans by taking on the new division’s rightful but uncrowned queen.