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The devastating and dazzling Holly Holm

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On Friday night Legacy Fighting Championship 24 took place at the Allen Event Center, Allen, Texas. It featured the return of Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (4-0) to the cage where she faced Nikki “Knuckles” Knudson (2-1). Announcers Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletich informed the viewing audience that LFC had a hard time finding someone to fight Holm. They literally had to go all the way to Alaska to find Knudson. After another devastating stoppage it will not get any easier for them to find her next opponent. They may have to go to Katmandu or the mythical Parts Unknown to find her. Holm was clearly fighting at another level than the extremely tough Knudson and it will be a challenge for LFC to find a fighter to not just face her but also one who can challenge her. Holm is not ready for Ronda Rousey, yet, but this fight was another example of why many people view her as a legitimate threat to Rousey in the future.

There is something different about her and that was evident before she was even in the cage for this fight. Schiavello noted that both Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn are with her along with Izzy Martinez her wrestling coach. They show some footage of her sparring with Jon Jones and Miletich pointed out that it is probably good training for Jones as Schiavello goes over her boxing credentials. She is a former fourteen-time champion at three different weight classes, and two-time Ring magazine fighter of the year. She went 32-3-2 in her professional boxing career. One thing people do not talk about too much is her kick boxing background and after the fight she reminded everyone that is the discipline she started out training in first. When you see her inside of the cage she cannot sit still as she waits for them to finish the introductions. If it is nervous energy it does not seem that way and comes across more like a pacing tiger in a cage before feeding time as she is focused and locked in.

Moments before the fight began she was bouncing rhythmically back and forth. At the sound of the bell she crouched down and quickly shuffled towards Knudson in her southpaw stance. In the early moments she clinched with Knudson and drove her back against the cage. From there she controlled Knudson and used her knees very effectively to the legs, body and head. After about twenty seconds or so of this she landed a solid left knee to the body, released the clinch and flowed into a lightning quick four-punch, then knee to the body into a one-two combo. The whole sequence took three to four seconds, and everything landed. It was not just her strikes that were quick. Her footwork is not only text book but also like a dancer the way she moves and controls the distance of the fight is always balanced. She is also effective at fighting going forwards or backwards. She continually danced backwards forcing Knudson to follow and then as Knudson would start to close the distance, she would plant and launch a strike.

The ease effortlessness at which she throws her variety of kicks make it difficult to know when they are coming. She also mixes them with her punches and rarely throws just a single naked kick that can easily be read, caught and used to take her down. She has used her kicks to end three of her first four fights. Her last fight was a highlight reel head-kick KO win over Allanna Jones. Her pro-debut was a leg kick TKO win over Christine Domke and her second fight was liver kick KO. At the 1:11 mark of the first round she used a right step-in side kick that launched Knudson ten feet backwards into the cage. It prompted Miletich to say, “If there had been a wall there behind her she would have went through it.” It is an example of the speed and explosiveness she has in her hands and feet.

The striking clinic as the  first round continued and with twenty-one seconds left in the round Holm unleashed an attack that almost ended the fight. It was a beautiful display of fighting while coming at Knudson. Once again it was another combination and it started with a one-two-three-four as she stepped forward at the tail end of the punches came another leg kick that almost upended Knudson. As Knudson retreated Holm flowed forward into a head kick that Knudson was able to mostly block. That flowed into another four punch body kick combo right into a teep to the face. Knudson tried to circle away and Holm moved right with her keeping her lead foot on the outside and controlling the distance. In the closing seconds a left head kick just brazed the top of Knudson skull and it was just an inch away from ending the fight. Instead the tough and tenacious Knudson survived the round.

In between rounds they show some of the highlights of the different kicks and punches from the first including a head kick foot to the teeth and a tricky hook kick that just glanced off of Knudson’s face. It led Miletich to note that she is crisp on her feet. In her corner Winklejohn tells Holm to throw whatever she wants to at her and emphasizes combos. She bounced off of stool and then continued to bounce up and down like a kid on a pogo stick. She has that special quality that you see in certain fighters that enjoy the fight at a different level than other fighters. She fights at a different level than other fighters seeming to either see things before the other fighter or she is setting it up. Doing well and winning fights in such a dynamic fashion makes it easier to have fun inside of the cage. Watching her bounce up and down in an almost child like fashion she was loose and moving like a kid who is just having fun bouncing. Then the bell sounds and in that instant everything changed. The movement, while still free and easy, definitely had a purpose behind it, and like a hawk focused on its prey she moved forward toward Knudson.

As the round started Kudson threw several punches, none of which were even close as Holm read then easily and was able to avoid them. For the first thirty-five seconds of the round Holm is content to dance away and feint launching just a lone front kick. Then she caught Knudson with a lead right as she was coming in and that lead to another flurry which included a smacking face kick. Amazingly Knudson was still standing but her mouth was wide open and her face was a bright reddish pink courtesy of Holm’s hands and feet. Knudson gamely came forward and threw three jabs one at a time and none of them were close to landing. Holm caught her coming in with a left-right and followed as Knudson rapidly retreated. She was spurred on by Holm who continued to fire away landing a left hand, left head kick combo that had Knudson reeling around like Kirsten Bell’s character Flora in Deadwood during her final scene. When she hit the cage Knudson instinctually threw a pawing right hand that was not close and Holm landed a side glancing side kick. Then Holm stalked her back and forth like a tiger moving almost imperceptibly forward at the same time waiting for that opening. In an instant she launched another step-in side kick to the body that dug the heel in deep into the left side of Knudson. She screamed in visible pain as she hobbled to the side of the cage refusing to quit. The tiger in Holm again came out as she glided forward and methodically went for the clinch, simultaneously grasping the back of the head and stepping forward into the initial right knee. That flowed into a rhythmic Muay Thai style with four straight bouncing left knees to the body. A release of the clinch and a blurring four punch combo ended the fight as the tough but hurt Knudson collapsed to the ground on while the referee stepped in.

After the fight when Miletich asked her why Jackson, Winklejohn and Martinez come to corner her fights and that they all do not do that for everybody? She pointed out that she is about to turn thirty-two-years old and has been with them since she was sixteen-years old and that is almost half of her life and they are family. You see that when she fights as she might be the perfect distillation of Winklejohn’s striking philosophy. She is never off-balance or in a bad position, and is always ready to throw whatever strike is needed at that moment. Almost everything she throws is part of a combination including her knees and kicks. If she does throw something singularly it is something tricky like the hook kick, a quick step-in side kick or a quick front kick. After her KO of Allanna Jones she made a video game control reference about her relationship with Winklejohn. Essentially saying that she is able to instantaneously do whatever he calls out during the fight and credited him for setting up the finishing kick. It is a rare thing that she is able to respond in the moment so effectively.

She is not ready for Rousey yet but she is definitely ready for a step up in competition. She has not been tested on the ground at this point. She has displayed excellent takedown defense that is enhanced by her lethal kicks and knees. If you mistime your takedown and get caught with a knee or kick your night is probably over. In this fight her clinch work was much better than Knudson’s. It will be a tough task for LFC to find some fighters to challenge her. Most of the fighters that would be good match ups for her, and willing to fight her are in the UFC or Invicta FC. If you are trying to get into one of those organizations the prospect of becoming Holm’s next victim is not going to look very appealing to you. She is probably being pushed harder in practice by the likes of Julie Kedzie and Clay Guida than any of her opponents so far. Given that she trains with world-class MMA competitors like Jones, Guida, Kedzie and others at Jackson/WinkleJohn you know she is working hard in all facets of MMA. Soon we will see somebody that will be able put to those skills to the test, and it just might have to happen inside of the octagon for the UFC. My personal dream matchup would be her and Miriam Nakamoto to settle who is the most lethal striker at bantamweight. Do not be surprised if a year or so from now that very fight is scheduled as a number one contender fight for the right UFC women’s bantamweight champion. Until then enjoy the ride aboard the Holly Holm hype train because it is just getting started and it is going to get real crowded real quick. Especially if she continues to devastate and destroy her opponents so efficient and effectively.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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