While Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, and Cris Cyborg were fighting for MMA championship gold, Amanda Nunes was splitting wins and losses in Strikeforce and Invicta. So when Nunes made her UFC debut in 2013, few could have predicted her path to glory. But six years later, on the cusp of UFC 239 (which you can watch on ESPN+), it’s Nunes — not Rousey, Tate, or Cyborg — who prepares to step inside the Octagon with an opportunity to claim the title of the undisputed greatest of all-time.
Nunes has accomplished nearly everything a fighter can, knocking off MMA legends one-by-one and making UFC history one fight at a time. In 2016, Nunes sparked her unreal run by dominating Tate, at that point the Bantamweight champion, en route to a submission victory for her first UFC title. Just five months later, Nunes needed 48 seconds to end Rousey’s historic MMA career with a knockout.
She was impressive in the years that followed, earning a decision victory in a rematch against future UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. She then added the cherry on top with a stunning first-round knockout of Cyborg, ending her 13-year unbeaten run and claiming the featherweight crown. With the win, Nunes became the first woman to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, and just the third fighter overall in UFC history to accomplish this feat.
“I am the greatest of all-time. I beat the most dominating woman on the planet. I feel like I deserve (to be called the greatest) now,” Nunes said, per MMA Junkie.
Nunes isn’t wrong. Her run atop the UFC is unlike anything we’ve seen before. She’s demolished some of the very best women in the sport with blistering strikes, suffocating submissions, and the heart of a champion. As Nunes moves into greatest of all-time territory, she has an opportunity to close a conversation that has been muddled in recent years. Jon Jones’ dominance over the light heavyweight division has been marred by doping suspensions, Daniel Cormier still hasn’t beaten arguably the most dominant opponent he’s faced in Jones, and it’s fair to question the quality of opposition for guys like Demetrious Johnson. But if Nunes is truly going to claim the title as the greatest of all-time — better than Cormier, Jones, Rousey or any other man or woman — she’ll have to knock off a resurgent challenger who just won’t seem to go away in Holm.
The odds say Holm shouldn’t even be here. She had her Cinderella moment back in November 2015 against the unbeaten bantamweight champion, Rousey. Holm picked apart the champ and ended her night with a head kick in arguably the most famous knockout in UFC history.
Just as quickly as she reached the top of the mountain, Holm’s moment in the limelight was over. Holm’s only championship reign would last less than four months. Exhausted in the fifth round of her first title defense, Holm gave up her back and was choked unconscious by Tate.
Over the next three years, she lost three consecutive fights and dropped a decision loss to Cyborg. But after getting back in the win column against Megan Anderson in 2018, Holm is refreshed coming into her title fight with Nunes. She’s spent much of the last year recovering from a surgery to repair an injured meniscus and is laser-focused on becoming the first two-time bantamweight champion.
“Usually when people lose the belt, they don’t get it again,” Holm told UPROXX Sports in January. “I want to show people I’m still here and I can do that.”
To stun Nunes, Holm will need to employ much of the same game plan she used in fights against Rousey and Cyborg, looking for openings and punishing her opponent when given the opportunity to counter strike. The “Lioness,” on the other hand, will look to overwhelm Holm early and often, something she has done artfully over her eight-fight unbeaten streak. But Holm knows better than anyone that it only takes one strike to change the entire complexion of the fight.
“When you go out for a slugfest, anybody who lands that is going to go down,” Holm said, per MMA Junkie.
Holm and Nunes will face off for the bantamweight title in the co-main event of UFC 239 on Saturday, July 6, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. UFC prelims will be shown live on ESPN at 8 pm ET with the main card available on ESPN+ starting at 10 pm ET.
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