Holly Holm's coaches on plan vs. Ronda Rousey: 'Just a math problem to us'

ByBrett Okamoto via ESPN logo
Sunday, November 15, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Ronda Rousey'sfighting career most likely didn't end at UFC 193.

Rousey (12-1) can still reclaim the UFC bantamweight championship. In fact, oddsmakers have already declared her a favorite if she fights Holly Holm in a rematch. Some likely still consider her the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world.

That said, Sunday's knockout loss to Holm (10-0) changes a lot. And whether Rousey ever reclaims the title, she'll never have the same mystique she had going into Etihad Stadium this weekend. Rousey wasn't just a champion -- she was other-worldly. She could beat every woman in the division in less than a minute, outbox Floyd Mayweather Jr. and submit Turtle from "Entourage" in her spare time.

That piece of Rousey, that unbeatable characteristic, will never quite be the same as it was before UFC 193. And a big reason Holm was able to beat her is she never believed any of it to begin with.

"It was pretty much what we thought would happen," said Greg Jackson, one of Holm's head coaches. "Obviously, she's an amazing athlete and we have nothing but respect for her, but she's been very successful doing the same things for a long time, and we were able to capitalize on that.

"The other coaches and I got together, and we're not fans. We're not like, 'Oh God, Rousey is the greatest ever.' It's just a math problem to us. So it's hard to understand the perspective just because this is what we do for a living. This is my job to figure it out."

Jackson and Holm's other longtime striking coach, Mike Winkeljohn, drew comparisons between Sunday's bout and a light heavyweight fight between Rashad Evans and Chuck Liddell in September 2008.

Evans, who trained under Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA at the time, was an underdog going into the fight -- not nearly as big an underdog as Holm was heading into Saturday, but Jackson remembers fans literally worrying about Evans' safety in the matchup. Evans knocked out Liddell in spectacular fashion in the second round, a highlight that's still widely played at UFC events.

"We had Rashad Evans fighting Chuck Liddell and all we did was practice that overhand he threw, let Chuck come to us and good things happen," Winkeljohn said. "It's magical in those moments when it does work and they realize game plans work, they can be successful."

On the other side is Rousey, who will likely have to answer questions about the game plan she employed. Jackson said Holm was expecting Rousey to either come hard or hang well back on the outside -- and avoid anything in between. Rousey committed hard to coming forward and never turned back. After she lost the first round, her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, told her she was doing "beautiful work."

"The game plan was pressing," Tarverdyan told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "We knew Holly Holm was going to keep the distance. So we had to feint and get inside and pressure the right way so we can get the [fight] on the side of the cage. ... Holly Holm did a good job with moving today and stayed calm."

Rousey came out and fought the second frame very similarly to what she did in the first. At one point, she threw a left hand so wild she tripped and stumbled into the fence. Winkeljohn said he felt Rousey tried different tactics, but Holm was simply prepared for all of them.

"She tried to box, and that wasn't successful," Winkeljohn said. "She tried to clinch and found out how hard that was. She tried to armbar. There was a lot of things that happened in that short amount of time, as a matter of fact, Holly took her down. So people are seeing a lot of what Holly can do.

"We knew we were fighting Ronda Rousey one day, so Holly never wanted to show all her cards. She still hasn't shown all of her cards after tonight."

UFC president Dana White also defended Rousey's game plan in the fight. Rousey did get a takedown and work an armbar in the first round. Had that been successful, White says obviously the entire narrative of the night would have changed.

"Everybody thinks they're an expert and thinks they know about fighting, but very few people do," White said. "If Ronda went out there and ran after her like a maniac and knocked her out, then Ronda's the best ever, this and that. Now this happens, and the game plan was all wrong. It's easy to sit back and criticize when you're watching the fight.

"There's no doubt, that's exactly how Holly was going to fight this fight and the question was, 'Is Ronda going to try and stand with her and take her out or is Ronda going to go for double legs and get her in the clinch and throw her?' To sit here and question the game plan is as stupid as the people that thought this wasn't a good fight."

Regardless of whether Rousey had the wrong game plan, it was clear Holm had the right one. It will be up to Rousey to make adjustments for what looks to be an inevitable rematch, but even if she makes them, the unbeatable aura that surrounded Rousey prior to UFC 193 is gone.

"I'm just heartbroken right now. Champ is the best," Tarverdyan told ESPN. "[Rousey] is an amazing champion. Our belief says a lot, and we believe in everything we do. And she does, also. She works hard, and what she has done is very difficult to explain unless you witness it. The things she has done --- no one can do them. She'll come back stronger."

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