After five exciting and often brutal rounds, the official judges scored the fight 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 for the featherweight champion from Brazil.
Two of the judges scored the first two rounds for Holm, meaning Cyborg, though she didn’t know it, needed to win all three of the remaining rounds on those cards to win. She did.
Holm, in becoming the first fighter to go five full rounds with Cyborg, dropped to 11-4 as an MMA fighter. Cyborg is 19-1.
Cyborg and Holm, a former UFC bantamweight champion, were awarded $50,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses, in addition to their purses: $500,000 for Cyborg, $300,000 for Holm.
“To have a great fight, you need a great opponent,” Cyborg said at a post-fight news conference. “(Holm) did very well.”
Holm was unavailable after the fight, having gone to a hospital to have damage around her left eye examined. Mike Winkeljohn, Holm’s trainer, said he didn’t believe the damage was serious.
“I think it’s just swollen,” he said.
Of the fight, Winkeljohn said, “It just came to, we made a few mistakes. The judges always like people that go forward and (apply) pressure.
“We’ll beat her next time. The first thing I told (UFC President) Dana White is ‘rematch.’ We definitely want a rematch.”
Round one appeared to be Holm’s best. Seemingly the stronger fighter, if not the more powerful puncher, the Albuquerque southpaw had Cyborg’s back to the fence for a considerable portion of the five minutes. Holm also landed a couple of solid left hands. Cyborg landed two big rights early in the round but otherwise did no damage.
In the second round, Cyborg began finding the range with counter shots — something that had hurt Holm’s chances in early losses by decision to Valentina Shevchenko and Germaine DeRandamie.
Holm landed a couple of sharp right jabs and again was able to get Cyborg’s back to the fence in the clinch.
In rounds three and four, Cyborg became more and more dominant — Holm did little in those rounds, other than circle and land isolated shots.
“Cyborg hits hard, obviously,” Winkeljohn said. “She’s a strong girl.”
The fifth round was the most action-fraught of the fight, with both fighters hoping to finish strong. Holm managed to bloody Cyborg’s nose — the first time that had happened, Cyborg said — but all three judges gave the round, and with it the decision, to the champion.
Holm never landed a clean head kick with the force of those she used in defeating Ronda Rousey and Bethe Correia. It was Cyborg, in fact, who landed the harder, cleaner kicks.
CONDIT: From an Albuquerque standpoint, it would be pleasant to report that Carlos Condit fought Saturday night as if he’d never been away from the Octagon.
That was not the case.
Denver’s Neil Magny, firmly in control during the first two rounds, defeated Condit by unanimous decision in a featured bout on UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena.
The official scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Condit, who was returning from a 16-month hiatus, is 30-11 in a professional MMA career that began in 2002. Magny improved to 20-6 or 20-7, depending on the source.
Condit opted not to speak to the media after the fight. Magny called the victory one of his most satisfying, given Condit’s credentials as a former UFC interim welterweight champion who had fought the best in the division and defeated many of them.
Magny said he thought the fight was close and that Condit showed no rust from his long layoff.
“He went out there and fought a great fight,” Magny said. “He seemed like the normal Carlos Condit to me.”
During pre-fight interviews, Condit talked about a renewed energy he’d felt during his preparation. That simply wasn’t evident on Saturday.
Some 25 seconds into the first round, Magny caught a Condit leg kick and took the Albuquerquean to the ground. It was first of five takedowns Magny would score during the fight, compared to none for Condit.
Nor was Condit effective in standup until late in the final round, the only round Condit won on any of the official scorecards.
Even then, Magny never appeared in trouble.
In Saturday’s semi-main event, Khabib Nurmagomedov remained undefeated and staked a claim for a lightweight title shot with a dominant unanimous decision over Edson Barboza. Also, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza earned a hard fought decision victory, handing sixth-ranked Cynthia Calvillo her first pro loss.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.