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With A Looming Date With UFC Champion Rousey On The Horizon, Who Will Holm Pair Up With In Her UFC Debut?

As the MMA world continue to buzz over the UFC signing of Holly Holm, fight fans are now embracing the reality that “The Preacher’s Daughter” has joined the ranks of the UFC’s WMMA roster and are now beginning to ask questions about the details of the monumental announcement. The highlight reel of Holm’s devastating punches and kicks have truly captivated fans across the globe and now the New Mexico born and trained fighter’s every move will fall under the anxious eyes of fight fans who’ve been anticipating the arrival of Holm to the UFC.

According to Holm’s manager Lenny Fresquez, the World Champion Boxer turned WMMA Star signed a five-fight deal with the UFC and did not disclose financial specifics. In the past, the negotiations of Holm and the UFC have stalled and even turned somewhat ugly when UFC President Dana White Fresquez a “lunatic”; much has changed since that point as White removed himself from the negotiations and allowed his counterparts to continue the discussion.

As soon as the signing was officially announced, most fight fans immediately begin to launch their opinions on a potential fight between Holm and UFC Champion Ronda Rousey. After Rousey’s recent drubbing of contender Alexis Davis in 16-seconds, it seemed as if Rousey had run out of challengers inside the Octagon. Aside from a public rivalry with Christiane “Cyborg” Justino, Holm has been the most discussed name in WMMA as a possible threat to the throne of WMMA currently held by Rousey.

With a fight between Holm and Rousey now realistic, many wonder if Holm would step in and immediate challenge Rousey for her title. The answer to that question is not yet, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times, UFC President Dana White told the publication via a text message Thursday that he plans to give Holm at least one non-title fight before matching her against Rousey.

With that cleared up, the speculation will now begin as to whom Holm will stand across in her first UFC bout. MMA Mania gave a brief breakdown of the current state of Women’s Bantamweight Division:

Cat Zingano, the current No. 1 contender, is set to take on No. 8 ranked Amanda Nunes (details) at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, while Miesha Tate (No. 3) is booked to swing leather against Rin Nakai at UFC Fight Night 52 the same month.

Alexis Davis will likely need some time to heal from her recent beatdown at the hands of Rousey, which brings us to Sarah Kaufman, a fight that is unlikely to happen as Holm and Kaufman are teammates at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA.

Jessica Eye and Liz Carmouche are both coming off losses, so the chances of either of those two women getting first dibs at the former boxer is unlikely to happen.

An interesting first fight that would have made sense for Holly would have been one pitting her against undefeated (8-0, 2-0 UFC) Brazilian bomber, Bethe Correia. But she already has plans to tango with Shayna Baszler next month at UFC 177.

That brings us to Jessica Andrade, the person I believe will have the privilege of welcoming Holm into the Octagon.

That from MMA Mania’s Adam Guillen Jr. who believes Jessica Andrade will be Holm’s first opponent. Andrade (11-3) is 2-1 in her UFC run with the loss coming via the toughness of perennial contender Liz Carmouche. Andrade is a grappling specialist with much improved striking. The opponent would be on par with Holm’s opposition thus far in her career, a fighter who will be at a disadvantage on the feet but an advantage on the ground should she be able to get the takedown. To add to his list of Bantamweight fighters who could challenge Holm but are already scheduled, Invicta Bantamweight Champion Lauren Murphy and Amanda Nunes.

The popular website Bleacher Report shared their guesses as to a possible opponent as well. The website pegged the aforementioned Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman and former top contender Alexis Davis. I don’t believe Kaufman would be considered as the two women have spent time training together in the past and Kaufman has the connection to the Jackson-Winkeljohn gym. Carmouche and Davis may be pushing Holm to quickly into the lion’s den so to speak and if the UFC really plans on pairing Holm with Rousey after the first fight, they definitely want to keep that buzz building.

If Holm wins her first UFC bout, it would work out perfectly for Holm to fight before October and attempt to pair Holm and Rousey up at the beginning of January for the blowout show the UFC customarily promotes at the end of the year or for the Super Bowl Weekend show that is similarly  stacked with marquee matchups.

With that being said, in my very uneducated opinion, I believe the UFC has three really good options for Holm’s first bout.

Germaine De Randamie (4-3) – UFC Rank #12

De Randamie already owns a victory over Holm’s now retired teammate Julie Kedzie and is a striking savant like Holm. Any fight in the UFC will be Holm’s toughest to date but this would be the first time Holm stands in front of a fighter who won’t be afraid to trade leather with the World Champion Boxer. De Randamie is a Dutch Kickboxer who owns the recognition of being the WIKBA, IMTF, and WPKL  Champion and holds the Dutch Women’s Kickboxing record for most consecutive victories (37).

Now officially signed onto the UFC's roster, arguably WMMA's best striker will find herself on a collision course with UFC Champion Ronda Rousey.  Photo Credit: Will Fox / Sherdog / Southwest Fight News / The Fox Identity

Now officially signed onto the UFC’s roster, arguably WMMA’s best striker will find herself on a collision course with UFC Champion Ronda Rousey.
Photo Credit: Will Fox / Sherdog / Southwest Fight News / The Fox Identity

Without a notable ground game, De Randamie would fight Holm in Holm’s strongest area of combat and could provide fireworks for the fans. While this would be risky for the UFC being that Randamie could definitely spoil the plans of a Rousey showdown, it would definitely test the talents of Holm and prepare her for the bright lights of a main event fighter competing against arguably MMA’s biggest star.

Jessica Eye (10-2) – UFC Rank #6

Having fought the likes of Zoila Frausto Gurgel, Alexis Davis and Sarah Kaufman, Eye is definitely a tough out for any woman currently in the UFC. Most of the Ohio native’s victories have come via a judge’s decision and her durability may be her single greatest asset. Before a failed drug test changed the result of a win over Sarah Kaufman, Eye proved that she was able to get the “W” on the sport’s biggest stage. Eye would prove to be durable and a tough test for Holm should they be paired together.

Holm would definitely hold the striking advantage as she would typically own over most of the WMMA fighters in the UFC stable but she would be presented with a veteran of WMMA who has seen her fair share of tough opponents and tough fights.

Raquel Pennington (4-4) – UFC Rank #13

I believe that the UFC has invested considerable money into the contract of Holly Holm and fully expect her to challenge Rousey in a marquee PPV event and in a perfect world, sparks some serious buzz into WMMA and MMA in general. The UFC may match Holm up with an opponent that will definitely be tough enough to force Holm to perform at her highest level to date but also present minimal danger in terms of submission or knockout abilities.

Enter The Ultimate Fighter veteran Raquel Pennington, who with all due respect possesses exceptional toughness and talent, is a far stretch from competing for a title in the UFC. More often than not, a Pennington fight sees a judge’s scorecard as she hasn’t shown knockout power in any of her match-ups and hasn’t submitted an opponent since a regional bout back in 2012. Still, Pennington has stepped into the cage with the infamous Kim Couture, top ranked Cat Zingano and top talents Leslie Smith and Jessica Andrade.

Holm’s path to Rousey very well may come via a highlight reel knockout which will give the UFC the ability to replay a spectacular finish during the build-up hype to a Rousey fight. Pennington offers that opportunity as Holm will find the brawling Pennington to leave openings for her amazingly powerful and technical striking. If I had to wager, I would bet that Pennington or a similarly talented opponent will stand between Holm’s pathway to Rousey.

Gina Carano (7-1) – Not Signed With The UFC

This one is a bit out there being that “Conviction” isn’t currently signed to the UFC and hasn’t fought since a 2009 loss to “Cyborg” but this is definitely the biggest money fight for the UFC right now in terms of the WMMA ranks. With Rousey out with multiple injuries, the state of WMMA is a bit in a fray being that Meisha Tate and Cat Zingano’s respective bouts are the most notable right now in the world of the Women’s Bantamweight Division. Holm vs. Carano on paper would be a blockbuster and an easy sell on PPV or free TV.

Carano would be  a bit overmatched being that she would be coming into the cage after five years of inactivity but her name is just as popular if not more so, than it was in 2009. Carano’s Muay Thai has always been her fighting asset most acknowledged and her striking background would provide fans the treat of seeing a stand-up affair between Carano and Holm. The winner would definitely leave the cage the most marketable name in WMMA outside of Ronda Rousey and would perfectly set-up the biggest fight ever in WMMA history.

This is definitely the dark horse match-up of anyone’s guesses concerning Holm’s first opponent but it makes sense as a marketing angle as well as in a fight context being that the reward is high regardless of the outcome. Carano has been buzzing for months now alongside Holm as a potential marquee fighter for the UFC and an opponent for Rousey. Carano is respected by many as a true pioneer of WMMA and was part of the first women fight to be broadcast on a major outlet when she fought Julie Kedzie back in 2007 for the EliteXC promotion.

 

Regardless of who the opponent is, the Mike Winkeljohn product will be showcasing her world-class talents on the sport’s biggest stage and will be the newest member of the club of New Mexican trains athletes who will be anticipated to compete for a world title. Stay tuned to SWFight.com for Holm coverage and announcements and share with us your thoughts as to who will be Holm’s first opponent inside the UFC’s Octagon.

About Phillip Lujan

Phillip Lujan is one of the lead contributors and a featured writer for SWFight.com. Specializing in MMA breakdowns and analysis, Phillip is considered the MMA aficionado on staff. With nearly seven years of experience in combat sports, gazing through the eyes perceptively as a fan and a cornerman and from fight manager to analyst. He can be reached on twitter at @KingStark24 or through email at marcello.lujan@gmail.com.