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Is Holly Holm Trigger Shy?

Holly Holm (12-5) was a strong prospect coming into the UFC. She was able to dominate fighters with her superior kickboxing skills in Legacy FC (currently LFA) and Fresquez Productions. When she made her UFC debut, it was against Raquel “Rocky” Pennington (10-7), the same woman she will face as the co-headliner for UFC 246. Holm won in a split decision that would eventually lead to the fight in which she dethroned MMA superstar Ronda Rousey. However, her fighting style is very methodical in how she approaches fighters and it’s perhaps not in a good way.

A post shared by Holly Holm (@hollyholm) on Jan 3, 2020 at 12:34pm PST

Before I go further, I will point out that styles must be rearranged if certain strikers want to avoid takedowns. But, decisions in MMA tend to favor aggressors. Even in Lyoto Machida’s loss to Phil Davis, the judges awarded their nod to Davis for moving forward despite the amount of damage he took while advancing.

Becoming more timid with strikes is common in MMA amongst high level strikers. Fighters like Uriah Hall have a tendency to not be as aggressive when fighting people who are perceived to be lesser strikers. Arguments can be made that these striking specialists tend to counter strike or try to avoid takedowns but the lack of action tends to stand out. Holm’s fight against Bethe Correia was slow-paced and filled so little action that the referee had to pause the match to tell both fighters to be more busy. Not too long after the pause, Holm lands a head kick so effortlessly that it makes me wonder why she didn’t do that sooner. In total, Holm threw 108 strikes within two minutes of the third round according to fight recap on the UFC’s official website. 

When Holm began her MMA career, she was winning by KO or TKO in Bellator and Legacy FC. In one of her highlight matches against Allanna Jones, Holm is clearly the mounting offensive attacks. The correlation of finishes begins to not be as frequent when Holm enters the UFC. The only knockouts come against Bethe Correia and the infamous win against Ronda Rousey. Of course, anyone could argue that the level of competition in the UFC can make it difficult to score those highlight reel finishes but fighters like Marion Reneau and Miesha Tate aren’t exactly known for their striking game. More bluntly….. Reneau and Tate aren’t elite level strikers. 

Holly Holm threw a grand total of 302 strikes against Miesha Tate for the better part of five rounds. That sounds like a lot of strikes but Holm was able to throw a total of 428 strikes within three rounds of her first fight with Pennington. What breaks these numbers is Holm’s fight against Megan Anderson with 352 strikes thrown total in three rounds. 286 of those strikes landed.

In fact, there were times in her match against Miesha Tate where Holly had massive openings to lay down some serious strikes but never did. Holm was way too hesitant to throw strikes to Tate who would be retreating or sometimes trying hard  to regain her footing. It was that kind of hesitancy in the cage that inspired Dana White to say that Uriah Hall “wasn’t a fighter.”

I reference Hall’s situation early in his UFC career because he came into the organization with a lot of hype. The expectations of him were high with his incredible performances while being on The Ultimate Fighter. After a few disappointing performances, Dana White was not opposed to cutting him from the roster. Under performing in the UFC a few times is enough to land a fighter like Holm in hot water.

Of course, there’s any number of reasons why Holm has adopted a more passive fighting style. Level of competition, perhaps trying to hide certain injuries or even being coached to fight safer. Since the beginning of her MMA career, Holly Holm has trained with the well-known Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The two main coaches for the facility are Greg Jackson and John Winklejohn with a reputation for training a range of fighters from Diego Sanchez to Michelle Waterson and Tim Kennedy. But even Jon Jones, another fighter under Jackson-Wink, has put on grinds with recent decision victories despite finishing fighters like Mauricio Rua and Rashad Evans in the light heavyweight division. 

A post shared by Holly Holm (@hollyholm) on Jan 11, 2020 at 12:56pm PST

For Holly Holm, she will have to decide which approach to take for Raquel Pennington. Coming off a split decision win against Irene Aldana, Pennington has evolved into a different fighter since their first fight. Pennington preparation for Aldana will probably carry over into this rematch since Aldana is no slouch when it comes to letting the gloves fly. Will “The Preacher’s Daughter” continue on with a higher volume of strike like she did against Megan Anderson or keep it conservative like she did against Bethe Correia?

Holm vs Pennington will be the co-main event to the UFC 246 card that will be headlined by Donald Cerrone and Conor McGregor. The main card will begin at 9PM CST on pay-per-view. ▪︎

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