It was a fight she was winning until she wasn't. Now former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm was very likely ahead on the scorecards entering round fight against Miesha Tate on Saturday night at UFC 196, but it didn't matter. Before the final bell could sound at the end of the fifth round, Tate submitted Holm with a rear naked choke after a desperate back take.
Holm tried to shuck Tate off and seemed to hand fight as much as one could, but in the end, she was put to sleep before a tap could ever be elicited. For her part, Holm chalks up the loss to a lack of urgency. When it came time to ensure she was as disciplined and focused as she needed to be, well, she wasn't.
"You know, I think that I just have to for me, any time in loss, I just have to be honest with myself. I feel like I knew I was ahead on the scorecards and honestly, maybe I felt like I was getting a little too complacent there instead of being there acting with that sense of urgency," she said at the post-fight press conference. "She got in, I should've been fighting the hands before doing that. I let her get it way too tight before I tried to shuck her off.
"Just big mistake," she continued. "Cost me everything tonight, but I'll be back."
Holm had likely won the first, third and fourth rounds. She sat behind her jab, trademark movement, side kicks and, for the most part, lights out takedown defense. Tate had a strong second round with a takedown and top control along with a submission attempt, but by the time the fifth round happened, appeared to be in cruise control before losing her title.
"It isn't easy, but it's a growing experience," Holm told the media. "There's always these odds on paper, I always say, but for me it's always 50-50 when you get in there. There's a winner and a loser and that's all there is to it. Tonight I do feel like I was doing enough to win the fight. She had a great second round. I had 1, 3 and 4 and event 5 until I slipped up there.
"It's a learning experience for me," she noted. "I should've been fighting those hands right away. I should've just so not gotten so complacent. I kinda let my guard down a little too soon and it cost me the fight."
Hindsight is always 20/20 and some might suggest Holm didn't need to take this fight. Many wondered why she wouldn't wait to rematch Ronda Rousey whenever the former champion returned. For Holm, however, that was never going to work.
"I want to fight Miesha tomorrow. She'd want the same thing. She's been around the sport a long time. I'm more anxious to get in and train right now than I have been in a long time," she said.
"Before this fight, a lot of people asked, 'Why are you taking this fight? You should wait for the rematch." You know what? I'm in it to fight. That's what I'm in it for. Tonight I made some mistakes and that's all it comes down to. I need to fix those mistakes and I'm going to come back stronger.
"Miesha capitalized. I've said this from the beginning: she's a scrapper," Holm reiterated. "She can be behind in a fight and she can still finish and I let my guard down. It cost me the fight. It cost me the fight. So, the next thing I want to do is go in. I want to go back in the gym and get better. This is a whole different fight I had and I do feel like my whole MMA career has been on this fast course, which I love. I want the challenge. I wanted to take this challenge. I wanted to get back in there, I want a rematch or whoever they'll set up a fight with. I want that. I'm here to fight."
As for what's next, it's too early to tell. Perhaps a rematch with Tate at UFC 200 or maybe a different direction altogether. What is clear, though, is that Holm still isn't willing to wait. For her, this is about competing as often and regularly as possible.
"I'll be training right away and I'll take the fight as soon as they'll give anything to me. It's whatever opportunity they'll give me right now. We'll see where they want to go with this.
"I do want a rematch. Who doesn't? If you're at this point in your career, making this your career, it's because you have passion for it," Holm claimed. "It's because you have pride. It's because you have that want for victory and that is what I want. The biggest thing that hurts right now is my heart. I just gotta get back in and work hard. I do want the rematch, but who's to say they'll give it to me right away? If I have to fight somebody else to get there, if I have to fight my way back, that's OK, too, because I'm OK and I can put in the hard work to do that. I'm willing to do that.
"I'm ready to go as soon as they're ready to give me a fight."