The Psychology Behind Holm v Rousey, Then and Now

November 14th, 2015—the date will never be forgotten in the mixed martial arts realm. Ronda Rousey had the world at her fingertips and the world eagerly awaited and grasped to every word that came out of her mouth. The transcendent megastar that MMA had never seen and was never prepared for was not knocked down a peg, she was dethroned, drug out of her castle and executed before an audience of 56,000 blood thirsty Australians.

The Psychology Behind Holm v Rousey, Then and Now


It was a typical UFC promotion of a Rousey fight, let the focus be on her because the challenger stands no chance and isn’t as charismatic as her, but Holly Holm was no ordinary challenger. Promotion began to take a bit of a turn during fight week. Holm was relaxed, she was coming a bit out of her shell, the Aussies seemed to become big fans of her and her confidence began to subtly exude.

Holm’s mild mannered and quiet demeanor is definitely genuine, although Rousey had some thinking otherwise during the weigh-in, Holm stayed calm and showed no signs of nerves or fear.

The execution of the Jackson/Winklejohn gameplan could not have been more on point, but it was in the finish where we saw Holm’s inner lioness come out. Holm had Rousey stunned a few times in the opening round but stayed as disciplined as any athlete in prize fighting ever has.


When Rousey was fighting on nothing but heart and pride, Holm took it upon herself to end her misery and take her belt. Holm evaded one of the most telegraphed and ill-advised left hooks in recent MMA history, with incredulous ease, circled behind Rousey to the center of the Octagon, and remained composed. Rousey had no legs to stand after that and after a glancing punch made her stumble, she turned the aggression full blast, grasped on to Rousey’s waist and maneuvered her face first into a perfectly placed head kick.

The kick was devastating, but the right hand and subsequent hammerfists that followed it were grisly. Holm didn’t even seem to wait for Rousey to move or even fall to the floor. Not even a second after Rousey’s head bounced off the canvas, Holm stormed to the floor to slam the coffin nails in, and this is the trait that was needed in Holm.


Whether the big money rematch is next for Holm, or she takes a fight with Miesha Tate or another top contender, there is no doubt that the challenger will walk in with a fear and/or respect that she may have never felt before. Not because of her boxing credentials, her title, or the fact that she smashed Ronda Rousey, but because she’s done those things when everyone counted her out.

Holm is a very special striker in terms of her adaptability, it’s a rare trait to have but she has come into her own, and her grappling skills are now catching up to her striking. It’s quite the task for any woman to face Holm right now. The difference from her UFC debut, where she won a split decision from Raquel Pennington after having some of the most demonstrable signs a fighter has ever shown of being tense and nervous, to the confident, poised killer that stepped in the cage in Melbourne –  the contrast is night and day.

Holm has been making the rounds in the media in the past two weeks. Her social media accounts skyrocketed with followers, and celebrities and fans alike have been swarming her. She seems to be basking in the attention and glory, yet has still managed to seem as grounded as anybody ever has been in the spotlight. The passing of the torch definitely seems to have applied here, which is rather seldom in combat sports. It is that same humility and discipline that got her this far and when she says “I’m going to train twice as hard for the rematch” you better believe it, because she doesn’t have a Hollywood or modeling career that she’s aspiring for, she’s competing for her honor, her name and the city of Albuquerque.


Holm is a great and humble champion and it’s quite nice to see she’s being lauded and received with open arms by the fans and media. Although the Rousey hate continues and may continue for some time, the two should not be binary. It’s possible to be a fan of both fighters, and you’re fandom of one should not lead to the hate of the other. Rousey had her time in the limelight and Holm pushed her from it, but if the rematch does happen, not only will it be one of the biggest money fights in mixed martial arts history, it’ll be indescribably intriguing. The stakes, the questions, seeing Rousey walk out first waiting for the champion, how the crowd will react to Holm’s entrance? How surreal will it be seeing Holm in the black Reebok champion’s kit and Rousey in the generic white Reebok kit? How will press, both MMA centered and mainstream, cover it?

When everything is said and done, this fight will be met with exponentially grander expectations, excitement and consequences. Holm wants to continue doing her trademark Mike Winklejohn assisted backflip and subsequent fist pump by keeping her belt, Rousey would love nothing more than to get that belt back and show off that iconic post fight Kool-Aid guy grin of hers, and fans would love to see either.

Rousey has not only been shown to be mortal now, she was outclassed and demoralized, a comeback against an elite athlete the caliber of Holm would be sensational. A second consecutive win for Holm would cement her place as one of the best females to ever compete in the sport and forever be known as the woman who ended Ronda.

The dichotomy between Rousey and Holm is a bit strange, but it makes sense why they’re at the top of the heap although they both managed to get there in totally different ways. Rousey is a borderline psychotic competitor, and so is Holm, the difference is Holm is all too aware of her own mortality whereas Rousey had no reason to question her resolve until her last fight. The fight showed that Holm’s discipline is a result of her fear of failure, whereas Rousey overcame her fears by walking into the fire head-on.

Rousey’s comments about her retiring sooner rather than later has become a bizarre self-fulfilling prophecy. She can no longer retire undefeated, she’ll still have Hollywood offers coming her way, at least for the time being, but for how long? The ironic aspect of Rousey’s quick finish rate is that those women never got a chance test her, which is great for Ronda, but didn’t give her the required tools and knowledge to deal with a skilled and well-conditioned athlete like Holm.

She is here to give spectators a reason to tune in and buy pay-per-views that may have been sour on the prospect of spending money on an Instagram sized prize fight. If Holm is what MMA has left in Rousey’s absence, let’s appreciate it. It’s a sad and crazy turn of events to see Rousey in her current predicament, her stunning silence, her total withdrawal from the public eye, but Holm is not an okay replacement, she’s “The Preacher’s Daughter.” The quiet small town New Mexican who earned her level of fame and seems happy to hold on to it. Maybe she won’t be the level of celebrity that Rousey was, but her mild-mannered attitude, slick striking and inviting monotone voice will definitely endear her to many fans.

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