It had been a long time between back flips.
Saturday in Singapore, Albuquerque’s Holly Holm flipped the script on her MMA career — flooring Brazil’s Bethe Correia with a spectacular head kick and finishing her with a left hand to the jaw before referee Marc Goddard stepped in.
The end came at 1 minute, 9 seconds of the third round. Afterward, coach Mike Winkeljohn assisted Holm in her signature victory back flip — something that hadn’t been seen since November 2015, when the Albuquerque southpaw scored her unforgettable victory over Ronda Rousey in Australia.
Since then, Holm had lost three fights in a row.
“Amazing,” Holm (11-3) said in the octagon afterward. “… There’s so many people who supported me through these three losses.
“This fight was for them.”
Actually, for the first two rounds, there was barely a fight at all.
Holm, typically a tactical fighter, kept her distance while landing the occasional body or leg kick. Correia, normally aggressive, refused to come forward and make the fight. The inaction drew boos from the crowd and action from Goddard, who called the fighters together during the second round and admonished them to pick up the pace.
At a post-fight news conference, Holm said neither the boos nor Goddard were going to keep her from following the fight plan that coaches Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson had devised.
“One of my goals for this fight was to not let it look messy,” she said. “A lot of times that’s (Correia’s) style, she just wants to get in there and make it a brawl, make it look messy.”
Simply because Correia (10-3-1) wasn’t following her script didn’t mean that Holm was going to alter hers.
“I wanted to take a clean shot,” she said. “I wanted to do it right, and the game plan was not to rush anything.
“We knew the crowd might boo. … (But) as soon as I heard it, I just thought, ‘I’m the one in here fighting, I’m gonna stick to the game plan and I’m gonna pick the right shot.'”
So she did.
Early in the third round, Correia taunted Holm — beckoning her to come forward.
Seconds later, Holm obliged with the decisive head kick. Holm’s left shin caught the Brazilian flush on the chin, and down she went.
Correia, badly dazed, raised a hand in an apparent “I’m done” gesture. But Holm stepped in and landed the left hand because Goddard had not yet signaled the end of the fight.
At a post-fight news conference, without sharing specifics, Holm said there definitely was a connection between the taunts and the kick.
“Yeah, there’s a little bit with that and there’s a few more details with that, but I don’t want to let everything out,” she said. “But yeah, the taunting doesn’t do anything to me. That’s never affected me in any fight I’ve ever had.”
For her efforts, Holm was awarded — in addition to her fight purse, thus far undisclosed — a $50,000 performance bonus by the UFC.
Another possible bonus: Albuquerque’s Lenny Fresquez, Holm’s agent, believes Saturday’s victory puts “The Preacher’s Daughter” back in the UFC title picture. That could be at the bantamweight limit of 135 pounds, at which Saturday’s fight was contested, or at the 145-pound featherweight limit.
Holm lost the bantamweight title she’d won from Rousey in losing to Miesha Tate by submission (fifth-round rear naked choke) in March 2016. She lost a bid for the featherweight title to Germaine de Randamie by unanimous decision last February in the first women’s UFC bout fought at that weight.
Fresquez told the Journal via text that there’s no preference as to at which weight a title shot becomes available.
Asked how imminent a title shot might be, Fresquez said he believes Holm’s next fight will be for a belt, unless “they offer us anything (else) that makes sense.”
Holm, for her part, wasn’t looking that far ahead.
All she wanted, she said, was “maybe a beer, some French fries and a beautiful view over Singapore from the top of the hotel.
“It sounds amazing to me right now. That’s my immediate goal, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
ARLOVSKI LOSES: Belarus heavyweight Andrei Arlovski, Holm’s longtime teammate at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, lost to Poland’s Marcin Tybura by unanimous decision on the Singapore card.
Arlovski (25-15) has lost five straight fights and is in jeopardy of being released by the UFC. He did not train at Jackson-Wink for the fight with Tybura (16-2), instead training in Florida, where he has a young son.