Ronda Rousey was unbeatable. Invincible. Undefeated.
She was the greatest ever.
And then she was flat on her back, her face bloodied, knocked out cold and no longer the undisputed UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion.
Who could have imagined this?
But Saturday night at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, Holly Holm proved to be the better boxer and better kicker, a fighter capable of staying out of Rousey’s range and delivering decisive shots. Rousey wanted to prove she could box, but she was no match for the more experienced Holm.
More from UFC 193: Missed history? Order UFC 193 replay | Post-fight bonuses | A new future awaits Ronda Rousey after loss | Holm becomes new champion of the world | How Holm shocked the world | Jedrzejczyk goes distance for win | Hunt finishes job in rematch with Silva | Aussies win big in prelims | Early prelims had it all | UFC 193 results | Blog: UFC 193 as it happened | Best pictures from UFC 193 fight night
UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan called Holm’s stunning second-round knockout of Rousey “the greatest upset ever in UFC history.” Does anyone disagree?
Today’s taking points:
1. A new UFC champion
Holm’s strategy was perfect: stay on the move, avoid clinches, use her left hand to land punches and her kicks to keep Rousey off balance.
No one has done this before to Rousey, who always used her judo expertise to attack quickly, drive her opponents to the mat and apply armbars. But Holm made sure to move side-to-side and force Rousey to chase her. The only time Holm was taken down, she scrambled back to her feet.
Rousey looked exhausted by the end of the first round. The first time she tasted a solid shot from Holm, she looked surprised. Same thing the second and third times. Her face was red by the end of the opening round, and she had no idea how to turn the fight in her favor.
But Holm did. A big left hand staggered Rousey in the opening minute of the second round, and a head kick caught the champion flush on the neck, knocking Rousey unconscious. Such a strange sight.
It was, as Rogan said, the perfect fight. Holm earned it.
2. Unbeatable, but not unchallenged
Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s past two fights – a title bout against Carla Esparza and a defense against Jessica Penne – were nothing short of one-sided. But Saturday’s fight against Valerie Letourneau turned out to be a true test for the strawweight champ.
Make no mistake, Jedrzejczyk gradually imposed her will on Letourneau, throwing a succession of jolting leg kicks and heavy punches to win a unanimous decision. But their fight was intense and competitive.
Letourneau landed some effective shots and at times looked the equal of Jedrzejczyk. But the champion was methodical, relentless and on target, landing 220 significant strikes and taking control from the third round on.
Joanna remains unchallenged among strawweights, but now we know what she can do when the temperature rises in the Octagon.
“I knew Valerie is kind of tough, so I was not in a hurry,” Jedrzejczyk said afterward. “I did my job, that’s all.”
3. Big man, big right hand
Their first fight was epic. The rematch was much less so, but it proved that Mark Hunt, at age 41, still packs a punch in his right hand.
That’s all it took for Hunt to dispatch Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the first round – a vicious right that landed near the top of Silva’s head and dropped him to the canvas at the 3:41 mark. Just like that, it was over.
Where does Hunt go from here? The No. 8-ranked heavyweight lost his previous two fights, one of them a title match with champion Fabricio Werdum, but he’s back on the map. Still, he’s not likely to get another shot at the belt without at least a couple of more wins like this one.
4. One to watch
Middleweight Robert Whittaker put on a superb performance against Uriah Hall, one that should be good enough to propel him into the division’s top 10.
Against the enormously talented Hall, Whittaker (16-4) won by striking quickly and using effective leg kicks to control the first two rounds. Hall, a replacement for Michael Bisping and fighting for the fifth time this year, had an effective third round, but it was too little too late. Two judges had Whittaker ahead 30-27, and one had it 29-28.
Whittaker, who fights out of Sydney, should continue his path up the rankings. Frankly, we can’t wait to see him again.
5. A stirring comeback
Jake Matthews, a 21-year-old lightweight from Melbourne, offered an impressive comeback to defeat savvy veteran Akbarh Arreola, a win he needed after suffering the first loss of his MMA career earlier this year. Matthews (10-1) went down from a head kick in the first round but dominated the second before the fight was stopped by the ring doctor between rounds.
The stoppage might have been premature – Arreola’s left eye appeared shut, although he wanted to continue – but it gets Matthews back on track after he lost to James Vick by submission in May. He’s clearly a rising star among UFC lightweights.
Michael Martinez is a longtime sports journalist and former staff writer at The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMMartinez