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In the space of a year, Holly Holm has been through just about everything

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Other than Nate Diaz and maybe Jon Snow, you’d be hard pressed to find a set of fortunes that have changed so drastically over the last year than Holly Holm’s. In that time, she’s been fighting one name or another that doesn’t make complete sense for her, which continues Saturday night in Chicago against Valentina Shevchenko.

Just take a look at the calendar year Holm had.

Last July, Holm won just her second fight in the UFC against Marion Reneau, a skillful if unimaginative decision where the biggest takeaway seemed to be that she was a little gun-shy. Though she was asked about it a lot, at that time Holm was still considered too green to face the mighty Ronda Rousey, and with her ranking somewhere in the lower half of the top ten, she was a benign threat to do much of anything. Yet, when the UFC thought better of giving Miesha Tate a third shot at Rousey, Holm’s number was called. Rousey, the UFC’s star angel, used the nauseous Good Morning America platform to make the announcement that she’d face Holm next. And Rousey had to sell it a bit, talking up the incredible danger that comes with facing a world champion boxer of such renown.

The small outcry seemed to be that Holm’s prospects were being dished up as an appetizer to Rousey, the juggernaut who needed feeding. Strategic on the UFC’s part, maybe, to give Rousey Holm sooner rather than later. Just to make things more tidy heading into UFC 193, Rousey — fatigued by the demands of fame — had a nice eight-month plan. She’d beat Holm, go film some movies or whatever, then return for UFC 200 to continue laying waste to the ladies in her field. (Maybe even Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino!).

We know what happened. Holm knocked Rousey out at UFC 193, scoring the upset of the year. She wasn’t gun-shy anymore. She was conqueror. She took Rousey’s belt, turned her invincibility into a scam, and inherited her broadest covets. In warp speed, Holm went from intriguing prospect with a boxing pedigree to the Woman Who Savaged Ronda Rousey. It bordered on sacrilege, that treatment of a game-changing icon, yet thousands of pent-up fans rejoiced anyway at the overthrow. Holm became a folk hero to those that hated Rousey, and she unmuzzled a good amount of that hatred.

Holm had the power. She gave voice to the seething underbelly.

Remarkably though, in keeping with the easy demeanor she went to Melbourne with, Holm stayed rooted. She wasn’t globally refined like Rousey; she was Albuquerque. And, having tamped out Rousey’s mojo just before Rousey embarked on Hollywood, she didn’t want to wait on recovery timetables and shoot schedules before she fought again. So she dangled her title against the originally spurned Miesha Tate at UFC 196 in March. She lost late. It was just short of cataclysmic, because she was winning early. She had the title for three-and-a-half months, all told. Holm wanted a rematch, and with Rousey still on the lam from TMZ, she wasn’t alone. Lots of people did.

But Tate was booked against Amanda Nunes at UFC 200, and just like that Holm was back to earthbound pursuits, namely I guess fighting Valentina Shevchenko at UFC on FOX 20. The name Shevchenko could have easily been Tate. Tate’s name could have been Rousey. And Rousey’s name, all the way back in July of last year, might as well have been Shevchenko, because Holm needed more seasoning.

It’s been a little topsy-turvy, Holm’s road to this Saturday night’s main event. Leading up to this fight, the talk has been about regrets. Regrets of fighting Tate rather than waiting on Rousey. Taking that fight seems to bother people more than it does Holm, who has been coolly bobbing along with the ebb and flow of the fight game since she got the call to face Rousey to begin with, since she was thrust into the maelstrom logic of money and belts and the maximization of spotlights. Somehow Holm just keeps fighting the person in front of her with, even if that person never quite feels ideal. If anything, she has remained well beyond our expectations on every level. Holm has fighter instincts, and you can’t prescribe her regrets. That part is clear.

Hard to believe it was just a year ago that she beat Reneau and the verdict was still out on what to think of her.

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