UFC’s newest division goes from one disaster to another

The new women’s 145lb division looked shaky as soon as the revelation hit that Cyborg would play no part in the inaugural fight, and things didn’t get any better at UFC 208.

After the first women’s 145lb championship fight was made – Holly Holm vs Germaine de Randamie, I was equal parts relieved and disappointed. I was disheartened that Cyborg wouldn’t be fighting, because it just seems crazy to not have the Brazilian killer involved given that almost all MMA fans agree that she’s the best fighter at this weight class.

But at the same time, all of Cyborg’s nonsense and self-victimisation regarding her weight cut issues was driving me nuts. OK, so you can’t make 135 lbs. We’ll accept that. But then you say you can’t even make 145lbs, after the UFC basically made the division a reality just for you, and then I see new videos of you power-lifting in the gym?! Get out of town.

So I, and every other WMMA fan, was just about ready to finally begin this division, with or without her. And without her it would indeed be. But things went far from smoothly at UFC 208. After a bunch of mostly forgettable decision fights, and (another) lacklustre performance from the legend Anderson Silva, we finally got to the title fight. Dana White said after the event that he knew the event had been poor, and was hoping the final fight would save the night. But that wasn’t to be.

If I’m frank, I’ve not been a fan of Holly Holm ever since her terrible UFC debut, an astoundingly boring decision win against Raquel Pennington. Neither her fight style nor her mentality does it for me, and she’s failed to evolve whatsoever across six UFC fights. Tonight she did absolutely nothing to sway my opinion. Of course I was impressed by her in the Rousey fight, but out-striking someone who’s not a striker is an easy way to look good. A better question is: how has Holm fared with her striking against women who actually know how to throw hands? At this point the answer is assuredly: not well.

Holm’s elite boxing experience has proven to have given her elite stand-up defence. She’s really not been rocked a single time in her MMA career so far. But her offensive output is downright frustrating. She throws a lot of volume, but it’s like she’s afraid to really engage, to really put herself in danger. So even when her strikes do land, they often land right at the end of the punch, or kick, inflicting very little damage. She ends up looking like the quintessential ‘pitter-patter’ fighter. Basically, she dances about and moves a lot, but her opponent usually looks fine at the end of the fight. The reason I say I’m not a fan of her mentality as well as her fight style is that if she truly had confidence in herself, she could easily put herself in danger, she could risk getting hit a bit more, and in doing so she could become a lethal and dynamic striker instead of the safe (RE: boring) one that she is.

Now Holm did land a couple of big head kicks on de Randamie that got the Dutch Muay Thai master’s attention, but for most of the other rounds, Holly was either dancing about punching air, or failing to take de Randamie down. It just wasn’t exciting.

Shall we dance?

On the flip side, de Randamie, a pure striker, has clearly worked on her takedown defence, because she was able to stuff Holly’s attempts. She was not able, however, to work off of the cage, and spent minutes upon minutes being held in place by Holm. The clinch could have actually been an exciting position for these two to be in, given de Randamie’s Muay Thai-related knee and elbow skills, but she had to focus too much on takedown defence for any great output, while Holm was content to hold the Dutchwoman in place and try to grind out the rounds.

The whole thing made for a stale affair, and after the decision was awarded to de Randamie, she made clear she knew this was the case. She said “It was close, but I came to fight and she didn’t want to fight me. I’m a brawler. I want to fight. Clinching is not my game.” Perhaps then this clinching was why de Randamie let her frustration get the better of her at the end of the second and third round, when she landed strikes after the bell, inadvertently creating the only interesting thing about the fight, and some genuinely rare and unusual controversy.

After the bell to end the second, she landed a massive blow that rocked Holly. I know I’ve criticised Holly’s performance already, but that’s partly unfair given that this illegal blow without question had a very real impact. Holm was on wobbly legs. The ref failed completely in his duties and didn’t even warn de Randamie, when he should have taken a point immediately. Then, at the end of the 3rd, de Randamie landed TWO illegal blows. They weren’t anywhere like as powerful as the initial late shot, but this still should have been a second point deduction. Instead, the referee managed to muster up a tiny sliver of bravery, and gave de Randamie a stern warning. Pathetic.

So we now have a champion who under my knowledge of the rules should have had enough points deducted to not be crowned champ. And we have a loser in Holm who is now calling for a rematch – a fight that literally no-one wants to witness.

It was pretty clear in the octagon interview Joe Rogan had with de Randamie that the UFC wants to book the new champ against the infamous Cyborg. Joe kept bringing it up, and the cameras kept cutting to Cyborg in the audience. Every time they showed Cyborg I would scream at the TV “that should be you in there, you fool!”

Things got even worse for the division once de Randamie dropped another bombshell – she now needs time off to get surgery on her hand. I’m never one to get annoyed at a fighter taking their health seriously, but she apparently sustained the injury two years ago, and has been fighting since then. If the UFC come a-calling with a contract that looks enticing enough, de Randamie could have her mind changed.

I hope they book that fight and we get the all-out war that it should be, even if we have to wait for months for a hand to heal. Germaine de Randamie has lost a lot of fans with her late strikes, and if she wants to get back in our good books she needs to be involved in an epic battle, and her and Cyborg absolutely have the potential to make it happen. With Cyborg, of course, all of her real battles are with herself and her moronic training and diet plan. But if she can step on the scales at 145 lbs, and finally make that walk toward the octagon and a title fight, we can hopefully put UFC 208 behind us.

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