Holly Holm's background is boxing and she was a multiple-time champion in the sport. So why does Ronda Rousey's coach hope that Holm decides to stand and box with his star pupil?
It's simple, really, Edmond Tarverdyan said recently at a UFC 193 media day at his Glendale Fighting Club gym in Los Angeles. Rousey's range strengths are in the clinch and on the ground. And if Holm stays at boxing distance, there's a good chance the two women will end up in a clinch in the main event of the UFC pay-per-view Nov. 14 in Melbourne, Australia.
"Why I had Ronda box from the beginning more instead of kicking was because we know you can box your way into a clinch much easier than kicking your way into a clinch," Tarverdyan said. "We know in boxing, they clinch up also, but nobody is afraid of being taken down. Holly is not gonna try to box with us. Because if Holly is in a boxing distance, then that clinch happens. Holly doesn't want that to happen. Holly is going to be running. Holly is going to try to keep it at a kicking distance. We're going to be ready for everything."
Holm (9-0) is a former three-division boxing champion and two-time Ring magazine female boxer of the year. Yet, as an MMA fighter, she has excelled with her kicks. Five of Holm's nine wins have come via TKO after big kicks -- to the head, body and legs. For someone with a background in pure boxing, she's arguably the most effective kickboxer in the UFC's women's bantamweight division.
"We know she moves," Tarverdyan said. "She's gonna be moving in both directions. We're aware of that. The distance is going to be a bit different, so we've gotta be sharp on our feet, meaning that it's not about the kicking, just quick, explosive feet, so we can get her where we want her to be. And as we're pressing we have to be aware of those counterpunches or counter kicks coming in."
If Holm has a chance to beat Rousey (12-0), the UFC women's bantamweight champion and heavy favorite, she has to keep the titleholder at bay with side kicks and counters. Rousey is a pressure fighter with superior athleticism, speed and strength. And if the fight goes to the ground, the former Olympic bronze medalist in judo will have a sizeable advantage.
Tarverdyan believes Holm is a much tougher matchup for Rousey than Miesha Tate, whom many expected to earn the title shot. Rousey has already beaten Tate twice, but Tate is the only person to go past the first round with her.
"Both of them are tough," the coach said. "Holly Holm is a different fighter. Holly Holm likes to pick her shots. Holly Holm likes to not be all over the place. She's a bit cautious of not being taken down. She's a bit more polished. She knows how to shoot a bit precise. We have to be careful of that. She knows how to counterpunch better. Miesha does not know how to counterpunch. She swings her head down when she comes forward, but does she know how to counterpunch? Absolutely not. Which is nothing taken away from her, because we have a lot of champions out there that don't know how to counterpunch."
While Holm has been a boxer since she was a teenager, Tarverdyan actually believes Rousey would defeat her in a straight up boxing match. He swears by Rousey's improvement in that part of the MMA game.
"If the question is, does Ronda need to prove that she's a boxer?" Tarverdyan said. "I wish [Holm] does box with us, because Ronda could box. Ronda has knockout punching power in both hands. It doesn't matter what hand she touches you with -- it's dangerous. She's proved that with the last fight."
That said, Tarverdyan is not too confident that Holm will make this a boxing match despite her prowess.
"To prove a point is she gonna go out there and box with us, Holly?" he said. "I wish she does that and Ronda can show her skills. But I doubt it. Regardless of what she does, how much she runs, we know that she can't hide."