UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes will cut back down to bantamweight to defend her title against former champ Holly Holm in the co-main event of this weekend’s (Sat., July 6, 2019) UFC 239 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Nunes recently knocked out former UFC, Invicta, and Strikeforce champion Cris Cyborg at last December’s UFC 232 in one of the most shocking bouts of 2018. After that history-making win, you could argue vehemently that Nunes is the deserving female GOAT. Indeed, she’s taken out Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, and Miesha Tate in the last three years. I’m not exactly sure what else a female fighter could do to be considered the greatest.
Holm, meanwhile, has not had the same track record, although few have. Since shocking the world by knocking out Rousey at 2015’s UFC 193, she’s gone 2-4. Her wins are over Bethe Correia and Megan Anderson, not exactly victories that have aged well. However, she’s fought the best like Cyborg and Tate, and hasn’t been knocked out in any of the losses. She still has the technical striking skills to give ‘The Lioness’ a sneakily difficult fight.
Let’s take a look at how Nunes and Holm match up in the major areas of mixed martial arts (MMA) in our fight breakdown.
This one is a tale of two completely different sides. Both women are absolutely world-class in their respective areas of expertise standing up.
Nunes is obviously a brutalizing knockout puncher. She’s known for her scary power that can end the best female fighters’ nights in record time. Her wins over Rousey, Cyborg, and Tate lasted under five minutes combined. Her recent dismantling of Raquel Pennington was a brutal display of Muay Thai kickboxing. Trained out of the renowned American Top Team (ATT) gym in Florida, Nunes stalks her opponent with vicious leg kicks and straight shots using her dangerous reach advantage. She also has two wins over flyweight champ Shevchenko, proving she can take on a technical challenge similar to ‘The Preacher’s Daughter.’
Holm, a former boxing champion, is one of the most technically precise strikers in the women’s divisions of MMA. She has the skillset to stay just out of the way and avoid Nunes’ power punches. The champion is so powerful that it’s her most obvious path to victory, in fact. Expect Holm to look to engage from a distance and throw lighter, point-scoring shots at range if Nunes fails to close the distance and make the fight ugly. Her always-lethal head kick will be in her back pocket throughout the fight.
Nunes has 12 knockouts in 17 wins and Holm has eight knockouts in 12 wins, a similar finishing rate on the feet. Both women can end the fight at any point.
Overall, this aspect is incredibly close. However, Nunes proved in her second bout with Shevchenko, who beat Holm, that she can defeat a more technically sound opponent. If Holm is unable to make Nunes work and tire her out, I have to give this area to the champion slightly.
Advantage: Nunes 60-40
This aspect of MMA is a bit tough to predict because neither woman really uses it all too much.
However, it’s important to note that Holm did show a newly-refined takedown game in her last fight against Anderson at UFC 225. She took down the larger, former Invicta champion a multitude of times, displaying excellent control when on the ground. Her time spent training wrestling at Jackson-Wink MMA is obviously paying off.
On the other hand, Nunes is a strong, powerful woman who is almost never pushed around. However, she did tire quite significantly in the last round of her first fight with Shevchenko. The smaller “Bullet” was able to capitalize so much that many thought Nunes would be finished had the fight gone to championship rounds. It did not, but there is the possibility that Holm makes Nunes work so much that she is tired by the later rounds. If so, she may be able to use her evolving takedown skills to ground ‘The Lioness.’ It’s no easy task, but it’s not impossible either.
For that reason, I’ll give Holm the slight edge in the wrestling department.
Advantage: Holm 60-40
This final area of the fight, if it gets there, should prove to be in favor of the champion. Nunes has three submission wins out of 17 total, proving she prefers to slug it out. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but “The Preacher’s Daughter” has zero submission wins on her record.
Nunes usually uses her earth-shattering punches to rock and drop her opponents, where she finishes them by rear-naked choke. All of her submissions came by the maneuver. She was submitted via armbar in her first-ever fight back in 2008. It should be noted she has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a brown belt in Judo.
Holm has no submissions but was tapped out, well, choked out, once by Tate at UFC 196. She showed incredible toughness by going out from the hold in a fight she had been winning. While that was admirable, it also shows she is at least partially susceptible to Nunes’ clear favorite hold on the mat. That plays into the champion’s game plan quite significantly. While Holm’s ground game improved by leaps and bounds in her last fight, the double champ is quite a step up from Anderson.
Nunes holds a strong edge here.
Advantage: 75-25 Nunes
This fight, although Nunes being between a three and four-to-one favorite on most betting lines, does have the possibility of being a close affair. Holm has never really been blown out in her losses. If she can stay on the horse and score while avoiding Nunes’ power, rounds will begin to sway in her favor.
She could also show some of her newfound wrestling and ground control as Nunes tires, but holding ‘The Lioness’ down is no easy task. Holm will also be in danger of being reversed and submitted if she does take it to the ground. Prolonged wrestling exchanges will drain Nunes’ gas tank, something she’ll need to avoid. Because of that, I expect this one to play out on the feet.
Holm will land her shots, but I don’t see them having as much effect as Nunes’ inevitable blows will. The former champ will work a movement-heavy game plan, but at some point, she’ll have to slug it out with Nunes when the champ closes the distance. That’s not where she wins her fights. I’m picking the champion to retain as a result.
Final Prediction: Amanda Nunes def. Holly Holm via unanimous decision (49-46)