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Ronda Rousey Is Fighting The Anti-Ronda Rousey

UPDATE (Nov. 15, 10:36 a.m.): Well, the anti-Ronda Rousey won. In a matchup of opposites, Holly Holm, a champion boxer and kickboxer, knocked out Rousey in the second-round in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday night. Rousey’s major weakness was striking defense; and Holm is as skilled a striker as there is in MMA. As we wrote before the fight: “When Rousey is not landing blows, she’s liable to be receiving them. Holm will hope to take advantage of this weakness.” That’s exactly what Holm did.


Ronda Rousey fights like an outlier. The world’s premier female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter will defend her bantamweight title against Holly Holm this weekend in Australia, and the fight will be a study in opposites.

Let’s start with the obvious: Rousey is a massive favorite. Holm and she go into this fight — which airs in the U.S. on Saturday night — with lopsided expectations. According to Oddsshark.com, a compendium of various sportsbooks, bettors think Rousey is a -2000 favorite — meaning that you have to bet $2,000 on Rousey to win $100. Rousey’s more of a favorite now than she was in her last fight, against Bethe Correia — whom Rousey demolished in 34 seconds.

Rousey and Holm also have different backgrounds: Rousey was an Olympic judoka, Holm a professional boxer. And because of this, they have distinct styles, which are evident in how they win. Nine of Rousey’s 12 wins came by submission1 (all of them by her devastatingly effective — and gruesome — armbar). Rousey’s grappling moves naturally lead to takedowns, which create opportunities for submissions. Holm’s style, meanwhile, is heavy on striking rather than takedowns, which is expected given her boxing background. Six of her nine fights have ended in a knockout (KO) or technical KO. She’s never won by a submission. Like Rousey, Holm is undefeated, although this is only her third fight within the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest MMA promotion company.

Rousey’s and Holm’s fighting fingerprint is made clear thanks to data from FightMetric,2 a company that provides MMA statistics and analysis. Of Rousey’s offensive attacks, 88 percent are submissions or takedowns, while only 12 percent are strikes. That means relatively fewer punches and kicks and more attempts to wrestle her opponent to the ground or get a tapout. Holm is practically the inverse. She rarely goes for a takedown — with less than one attempt per fight. Instead, Holm uses a strike for 80 percent of her attacks.

Take a look at this FightMetric breakdown of Rousey’s and Holm’s fight statistics:3

rousey-holm-fightmetric-screengrab

These contrasting styles dictate different strategies. Rousey’s war is won by shock and awe, while Holm uses entrenched, grinding battles. Rousey’s aggressive attacks culminate in quick submissions or a lightning KO. Her last three fights have taken a total of 64 seconds. On average, her 12 fights have lasted just 2 minutes and 8 seconds. Holm, by contrast, has the genes of a patient boxer: Even her KO wins take awhile; on average, those six bouts lasted nearly 11 minutes. Three of Holm’s fights went all three rounds and had to be decided by the judges — something that’s never happened to Rousey.

One final difference between Rousey and Holm — to go along with judo vs. boxing, submissions vs. knockouts, takedowns vs. strikes, and fast vs. slow — is in how this fight will look. Rousey’s stance is orthodox, while Holm is a southpaw. So that’s righty vs. lefty.

If there’s one argument in favor of Holm, it’s that Rousey’s hyper-aggressive flurry of attacks can leave her vulnerable to strikes. And Holm is probably a better striker than anyone Rousey has faced. Rousey’s striking defense stands at only 52 percent — meaning Rousey’s opponents connect half the time. Holm is a better defender, deflecting 69 percent of her opponent’s strikes. In short, when Rousey is not landing blows, she’s liable to be receiving them. Holm will hope to take advantage of this weakness.

Read More: Ronda Rousey Fights Like An Outlier

Footnotes

  1. Submissions happen when a fighter verbally or physically “taps out,” usually by being in a vulnerable position such as a chokehold.

  2. FightMetric data does not exist for every fight; it’s mostly just UFC fights. Thus, this data can be limited in that it doesn’t cover every fight of every fighter.

  3. This match card is a screenshot taken from the FightMetric homepage on Nov. 13, but many of these statistics can be found at the other link above.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.

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