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In a pinch, a clinch is just fine for Holly Holm

Holly Holm, left, aims a kick at Raquel Pennington during the Albuquerque fighter’s victory on Saturday. (So, no, it wasn’t all about the clinch. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Style points are nice, but winning is better.

By a lot.

Holly Holm’s reviews following her victory by unanimous decision over Raquel Pennington Saturday at UFC 246 in Las Vegas, Nev., even from herself, weren’t raves.

“I just wanted to be more devastating,” the Albuquerque MMA fighter told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday. “… We were able to make it a clean fight, a clean win, so that’s always a good thing. But I just wanted to do more in the situation I was in.”

Certainly, Holm’s victory over Pennington, a rematch of Holm’s split-decision victory in 2015, will not be a 2020 Fight of the Year candidate. Pennington spent most of the three rounds with her back pinned to the fence, unable to deal with Holm’s superior body strength.

Not surprisingly, Pennington’s reviews of Holm’s performance were, well, not enthusiastic.

“A lot of people don’t realize when someone is using all they have to hold you there it’s tough to get off the cage,” Pennington told the Gazette of Colorado Springs, her hometown newspaper. “I’m pissed and frustrated.

“This is a fight I’ve been waiting for for five years and this girl stalled and hugged me the whole time. She didn’t even want to fight me.”

But, wait. Isn’t this mixed martial arts, and isn’t Muay Thai kickboxing part of the mixture, and isn’t the clinch an integral part of Muay Thai?

And if Pennington couldn’t dominate the clinches, or escape from them, wasn’t that her problem and not Holm’s?

Yes to all the above, and the commentators on Saturday’s ESPN+ pay-per-view telecast were far more approving of Holm’s performance and strategy during the fight than was Pennington – or, for that matter, Holm – afterward.

“She’s beating you up and wearing you down (in the clinch). That’s what Holly Holm is doing right now,” UFC commentator Jon Anik said during the fight. “This is effective mixed martial arts technique.

“… Holly came with an excellent strategy for victory … Holly’s been so dominant physically in these clinch exchanges. Raquel’s (only) been able to hang on .”

HOLM’S DAD: Holm on Monday spoke with Helwani at length about her father, Roger, who suffered a stroke on Dec. 22. He’s doing fine and is expected to make a full recovery, she said.

Her father’s condition, she said, made preparation for the Pennington fight more challenging than it otherwise might have been. After spending time with her dad at the hospital, she often wound up sleeping there.

Holm also did much of her training at night, she said, and did roadwork at night wearing a head lamp.

“It was kind of a different training camp,” she said, thanking family, friends and her team at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA for their help and support.

THE ROAD TO TOKYO: Albuquerque’s Abraham Perez is taking what he hopes will be another step toward the Olympics this week at the Strandja international amateur boxing tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Perez, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials at 114 pounds last month, is not guaranteed an Olympic berth as a result of that victory. He and Los Angeles’ Anthony Herrera, whom Perez defeated for the title at the Trials, are both entered in Sofia.

The Strandja, according to a USA Boxing release, “is serving as the final evaluation process for the 2020 USA Boxing Qualification Team.”

The U.S. boxers selected will then compete at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Buenos Aires, scheduled for March 26-April 3.

Perez was scheduled to open in the Strandja early Tuesday morning Albuquerque time against Ukraine’s Dmytro Zamotayev, who won a bronze medal in the Sofia tournament last year.

The Albuquerque boxer also competed in the Strandja last year, losing by decision to India’s Gaurav Solanki in the first round of the single-elimination tournament.

LEGACY CARD: Albuquerque’s Legacy Promotions will cap a busy 2020 winter of boxing with a March 28 card at the Convention Center’s Kiva Auditorium.

Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez (15-1, eight knockouts) is scheduled to face Mexico’s Daniel Rosas (21-4-1, 1 13 KOs) in the main event.

Sanchez is under contract to Top Rank, Inc., a major national and international promoter, but Legacy’s Jordan Perez said the March 28 card is strictly a local promotion.

“(But) Top Rank will be taking care of Jason’s purse, so they’re aware of it,” Perez, Abraham Perez’s uncle, said.

Super featherweight Aaron Angel Perez (10-0, six KOs), Abraham’s older brother, is scheduled to fight a co-main event on the March card against a yet-to-be named opponent. Welterweight Jose Luis “Guero” Sanchez (11-1, four KOs), Jason’s brother, is scheduled to face Moris Rodriguez (8-16-1, five KOs) of Sacramento, California.

Jordan Perez said Jason Sanchez, who has been campaigning at featherweight (126 pounds) is planning a move to super bantamweight (122). He has made the 126-pound limit easily, Perez said.

“He’s gonna be fighting at 122 (with an allowable two extra pounds) on this one,” Perez said.

Sanchez and his father, Pepe, Perez said, “believe he can make 122 and maintain being strong.”

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