LAS VEGAS, Nev.. — Holly Holm was 600 miles from Albuquerque, but with yellow New Mexico state flags scattered around T-Mobile Arena waving in delight, and the cheers of a sellout crowd of more than 19,000 adoring fans pouring down on her in victory, the “Preacher’s Daughter” was home again at UFC 246.
Bantamweight opponent Raquel Pennington swore she wouldn’t let her rematch with New Mexico’s queen of combat sports go to the judges like it did in a 2015 split decision loss. But Holm smothered every ounce of her opponent’s ambition and game plan against a chainlink fence for three sometimes boring, but unquestionably dominating rounds of fighting, leading to a unanimous decision victory for Holm (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) on Saturday night.
“I definitely wanted to be more clear and dominant, and I feel like I did that,” Holm said. “I feel like I dominated, but I just didn’t do enough damage. That’s what I want to do — damage. I never want to make any excuses — a lot happened this camp — but my coaches are so amazing and always worked with me when I was available and we made it happen. I have a lot of people around me that are really loving and really supportive, plus everyone has something going on in their lives. This was a lot, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”
Holm’s victory, her third in five fights, improves her to 13-5. And while the 38-year-old fighter has her sights set on another title shot, she realizes that losing to 135-pound champion Amanda Nunes in July might mean she has more to prove.
“I think I need to show more of my abilities to get that title shot again,” Holm said. “I always want to have big knockouts, but I’m still learning and improving as a martial artist, so we’ll see where it goes.”
Judge Mike Bell gave the second round to Pennington, the only judge not to give all three rounds to Holm.
A smattering of boos were heard in each of the three rounds as Holm continued to overpower Pennington against the cage, preventing the Colorado Springs fighter from ever inflicting much damage on Holm, but also not seeing Holm ever inflict much damage on her opponent.
“It feels really good to have a win,” Holm said. “I always want more, I always want perfection, I know that I have more that I could show.”
Holm’s co-main event victory was followed by the highly anticipated main event return of Conor McGregor against Holm’s fellow New Mexican, and former Jackson-Wink MMA teammate, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
McGregor put a quick end to any upset hopes Cerrone brought with him from his BMF Ranch in Edgewood, stunning the UFC’s all-time wins leader with a head kick, a few awkwardly landed but effective shoulders and then several ground-and-pound strikes before the fight was stopped just 40 seconds in.
“I’d never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said. “He busted my nose, it started bleeding, and he stepped back and head-kicked me. Oh, man. This happened this fast?”
After being checked out by doctors and wiping away plenty of blood, Cerrone said he loves the sport and he can’t wait to get back in and fight again before walking back to the locker room with his young son, Dacson Danger Cerrone, in his arms.
Cerrone was transported to the hospital after the fight.
It was the first win since 2016 for McGregor (22-4), the former two-division champion.
“I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,” McGregor said. “I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”
The 36-year-old Cerrone (36-14), after being checked on by doctors and cleaning up his bloodied face, said he isn’t going anywhere. Cerrone earned $200,000 for Saturday’s fight and revealed earlier in the week he has a newly renegotiated contract for at least five more fights.
Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Eddie Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.
A true pioneer of the game. 👏
— UFC (@ufc) January 19, 2020
NOTES: In the heavyweight fight prior to Holm’s co-main event, Aleksei Oleinik submitted Maurice Green in the second round to become the first UFC fighter with wins in four decades — 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s.
… The gate of $11,089,129.30 was the fourth highest in UFC history.
… A 50/50 raffle in the arena netted a payout of $108,650.
… It wasn’t only New Mexico with a unique claim to half the top two fights on the card. Holm’s opponent, Raquel Pennington, was born and raised in Colorado Springs, where Cerrone lived when he was younger and went to high school.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.