If you’re Holly Holm, a rematch with Ronda Rousey sounds like a string orchestra swelling to life with every warm memory of Melbourne. If you’re Rousey? It’s the sound of emptiness and vacancy — just a chain clinking against the flagpole on a cold winter day.
It’s understandable that Holm would be open for an immediate rematch, even if she’s too classy to insist on it. The first fight wasn’t close. It’s been well over a week and Holm is still doing her victory lap after UFC 193, carrying the shiny symbol of her Astonishing Feat onto television sets that not so long ago didn’t exist for her. Everybody asks the same questions, and Holm gives some variation of the same answer. Yes, she welcomes a rematch with Rousey. Why not? That’s a no-brainer. But, then again, you know, she’s open to fight anybody the UFC wants in her first bantamweight title defense.
The old company line.
Holm is so polite that she comes off as Rousey’s antipodes. The sharp contrast from the former titleholder to the new one is part of a building fascination that we never knew to appreciate. The one thing everyone can agree on is that Holm has been a true professional through it all. But it’s complicated in the fight game. It really is, because professional is just one way to be. Bombastic, outrageous and psychotic are others that give professionalism a run for the money. People sometimes celebrate idiocy, so long as it’s attached to a big overhand right.
The truth is, we never know what we want until we see it (and even then we reserve the right to change our minds).
Time will tell, but the Holm era is either totally refreshing or already expiring by the day. Rousey’s loss is either the greatest example of comeuppance the fight game has known, or the proverbial bit of adversity that calls her back to greatness. The rematch can be billed a million different ways.
Within the many skews and angles, it could easily become the biggest MMA fight of all time. It likely will.
And this is one of those crucial moments in matchmaking — with Rousey temporarily vanquished and Holm taking her spot in the process of deification — that really has some lucid stakes. Rousey-Holm II is a very profitable fight, but it’s also the truth-teller. Rousey will stand trial in this one. There’s a lot of overhead, too. Should Holm beat Rousey a second time, Rousey enters the kind of no man’s land that she herself put Miesha Tate in. Limbo is no place to share company. Only, in a situation like that, with Rousey no longer holding a belt and no course back to it, Tate is no longer in limbo and free to rub it in Rousey’s face.
The fight game can be cruel. Rousey knows that better than anyone, and she commanded that cruelness brilliantly for a long time. That’s one of the reasons so many have applauded so eagerly seeing her fall. Turnabout, as they say, is fair play.
Then again, should Tate fight Holm while Rousey recovers and makes movies, there’s a movement to consider. Tate would get her promised title shot, and it’s a novel fight. Should she beat Holm, she’s the champion, and presto — we find ourselves in a topsy-turvy world where Rousey could then challenge Tate for the title in the trilogy, coming full circle back to the original Strikeforce encounter. If Holm beats Tate, the big rematch is still in play. To complicate matters, there’s the lurking presences of Julianna Peña, Amanda Nunes and Cristiane Justino, the latter who is still psychoanalyzing the lbs that are slow to come off her frame. How she factors in remains to be seen.
So, what to do if you’re the UFC?
That’s the question. Dana White insisted that Rousey just had a bad night out there in Melbourne. If by "bad night" he meant she suffered a soul-crushing defeat that very well could end up in crippling existential vertigo, well, then you’ve got to appreciate the UFC boss refusing to sugarcoat it.
Because who knows how deep that loss really went. One day Rousey was the greatest, the next she is no better than a distant second. That’s a tough swallow. And it has to sting, this redirection of fates. Rousey is wildly famous for fighting. Hollywood, a city crawling with poachers, is a byproduct of that. Rousey herself knew that score. Now she’s off to fulfill something within the byproduct while everything that was vital about her belongs to Holm. One minute Beyoncé is trotting out Rousey’s anti-DNB campaign, the next Holm is asking Beyoncé, very innocently, what her name is.
It’s half crazy to think of Rousey wanting that rematch right away, but there again she is a competitor. Fall guys can be found in her coaching staff. Film can convince her of mistakes she made. She might see a tendency that in the heat of the moment she missed in Australia. Rousey could talk herself into anything through her own will and stubbornness, and in some ways you expect it. The UFC may convince her otherwise. Or it could gamble its biggest star against Holm and the idea of purgatory. That’s a huge rematch.
There’s no wrong answer, really. There’s just a lot to think about. And of course Holm’s readiness to execute as instructed.
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