In the days leading up to the fight, people close to Holly Holm said the Albuquerque MMA fighter’s fans should expect to see some new skills and tactics from “The Preacher’s Daughter” Saturday night in Chicago.
They did not lie.
Holm, a former world champion boxer who through her first 15 MMA fights had campaigned almost exclusively in standup, took Megan Anderson to the ground four times en route to a victory by dominant unanimous decision at the United Center on UFC 225.
In improving her record to 12-4, Holm put herself in prime position for a UFC title shot at either featherweight (145 pounds), the weight at which Saturday’s fight was contested, or bantamweight (135).
After the impressive victory, Holm said her preference was a shot at bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. The bantamweight title, which she held from November 2015 to the following March, is of special interest.
“I want both. I want it all,” Holm said in the Octagon after the fight. “(But) I think sometimes when you get a little attached to something you might want that a little more.
“The 135-pound belt kind of calls my name a little more because I had it and I lost it, so I want to get it back.”
After the fight, Nunes responded. “Let’s do it @HollyHolm,” the champion posted on her Twitter account.
Let’s do it @HollyHolm
— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) June 10, 2018
Holm, who had lost four of five fights following her historic victory over Ronda Rousey in November 2015, was in control virtually throughout the three rounds against Anderson (8-3).
Anderson’s best moments came at the outset, when the tall Australian landed some hard punches and knees. But some 40 seconds into the fight, Holm put Anderson’s back to the cage and kept her there for almost three minutes — landing knees, elbows and left hands with little response from Anderson.
Then, with approximately a minute left in the round, Holm scored a takedown and retained the advantage until the horn sounded.
The remainder of the fight followed a similar pattern — clinch control by Holm, followed by a takedown and ground-and-pound. Anderson was ineffective on her back, her long legs seemingly unable to scramble.
After scoring one takedown in the second round, Holm effected two in the third — both times securing a full mount. Only in the final 10 seconds was Anderson able to get a reversal and a too-little, too-late attempt to secure a guillotine choke.
Holm’s four takedowns during Saturday’s fight were two more than she had achieved during her previous eight UFC fights.
Asked if takedowns were part of the game plan, Holm said, “The game plan is always open-ended. I really don’t know how it’s gonna go, so I just want to play it round by round.
“Sometimes I’ve tried in my other fights, but maybe I wasn’t playing as confident for takedowns. But it’s about time I started trying them (in a fight). I do it in practice.”
Here’s how dominant Holm was Saturday. According to statistics provided on the pay-per-view telecast, Holm landed 65 strikes to Anderson’s 22. She was in control, either in the clinch or on the ground, for more than 10½ of the fight’s 15 minutes.
“I felt good tonight,” Holm said. “I thought, you know what, we fight for a reason and we never know what’s going to happen. So, let’s just try to make our thing happen.”
In Saturday’s action-fraught main event, Australia’s Robert Whittaker (20-4) retained his UFC middleweight title with a victory by split decision over Cuba native Yoel Romero (13-3). Romero could not have won the title because he weighed in two-tenths of a pound over the 185-pound limit.
In the co-main event, Colby Covington (14-1), of Springfield, Ore., defeated Brazil’s Rafael Dos Anjos (28-10) for the UFC interim welterweight title by unanimous decision.
In a flyweight fight, Sergio Pettis (17-3) of Milwaukee defeated Joseph Benavidez (25-5) of Sacramento, Calif., by split decision.
Benavidez is a Las Cruces High School graduate.
The scorecards read 30-27 and 29-28 for Pettis and 29-28 for Benavidez.
In a strawweight fight, Claudia Gadelha (16-3) of Brazil defeated Carla Esparza of Redondo Beach, Calif., (13-5) by split decision. Gadelha trains in Las Vegas, Nev., but is coached by Albuquerqueans Chris Luttrell and Ray Yee.
All three judges scored the bruising fight 29-28 — two for Gadelha, one for Esparza.