Ali Abdelaziz, the senior vice president of the World Series of Fighting, represented Egypt as an 18-year-old in judo at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. A five-time national champion, Abdelaziz got to know former UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey very well while both were on the judo circuit. He said he's also very close with Justin Flores, Rousey's judo coach.
Abdelaziz, who had a brief career as an MMA fighter, trained at Jackson's in Albuquerque, N.M., for four years, and became close friends with Holly Holm, the woman who dethroned Rousey in one of the greatest upsets in UFC history Saturday in Melbourne, Australia.
Abdelaziz lived in Holm coach Greg Jackson's home and said the new champion "is like a sister to me." He said he still talks to Holm striking coach Mike Winkeljohn at least once a week.
He has a unique perspective on their fight and said that it wasn't hard to see Rousey's defeat coming. He placed much of the blame on Rousey coach Edmond Tarverdyan.
"Greg Jackson is Genghis Khan and Mike Winkeljohn is Salahuddin going up against Edmond, who is like a regular sergeant in the Army," Abdelaziz told Yahoo Sports.
Holm, a former boxing champion, knocked out Rousey at 59 seconds of the second round in the main event of UFC 193 on Saturday. Rousey was as big as a 20-1 favorite at one point in some sports books, and brought a 12-0 record into the match.
But Abdelaziz said that while Rousey is a great athlete, she wasn't well-schooled by Tarverdyan in MMA and doesn't know basics like checking leg kicks.
Holm, he said, had been training in MMA at Jackson's for years with the men, many of whom are among the best in the business. A young Georges St-Pierre is in the photo above with a red t-shirt, directly in front of Holm.
Holm didn't make her MMA debut until 2011, but she'd been training much longer than that.
"[Holly has] been training MMA longer than Ronda has been in the sport," Abdelaziz said. "When people looked at the fight, they said, 'Wow, I think Ronda is going to run through Holly Holm.' And I think Ronda is a Ferrari. When you are in Olympic competition and win a bronze medal, take second at the world championship, that takes a world-class athlete. With those ladies she's been fighting, she had an advantage.
"Ronda made all the other girls look like amateurs, because she was so much of a better athlete than them. But Holly was in this sport for a long time and she was training with all the guys down there at Jackson's, every one of them. That made her better. Plus, she had the advantage when it came to coaching. It wasn't even close.
"Holly walked into that cage on Saturday with an army, having Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn with her. Ronda came in very much alone."
Abdelaziz called Tarverdyan "a mid-level boxing coach' who wasn't prepared to match wits with the likes of Jackson and Winkeljohn. When the athletes are even, as they were in the Rousey-Holm fight, he said, coaching makes a tremendous difference.
"When Ronda got taken down [by Holm], she was only looking for one thing, the armbar," Abdelaziz said. "But guess what? Holly Holm knew how to defend the armbar. You didn't see Ronda looking for a sweep, trying to sweep and get on top and do some ground-and-pound. She was a one-trick pony.
" ... Edmond knows about boxing and he bragged about how good she hit the mitts. Yeah, she looked good on the mitts, but guess what? The mitts don't hit back. The mitts won't kick you in the head. Anybody can look great on mitts. ... They had the worst plan I've ever seen."
He said he didn't want to publicly criticize Rousey because "she's a sweetheart and a very nice lady," but said he felt she deserved better.
She beat herself, he said. He said Flores is a very good coach, but isn't high on Tarverdyan.
"She hasn't surrounded herself with a great team," Abdelaziz said. "Holly Holm was sparring with Carlos Condit [the former UFC interim welterweight champion] and a bunch of tough Russian guys. She brought a judo guy in. She was prepared the way someone fighting for the world title should be prepared."
He suggested that Rousey should approach Rafael Cordeiro of Kings MMA and see if he will train her. Cordeiro used to train Rousey rival Cris "Cyborg" Justino but is no longer, Abdelaziz said.
He said the results of a rematch will depend upon what Rousey does with her coaching.
"The first time, Ronda grabbed Holly by the head and by one arm and she took her down, but Holly got up," Abdelaziz said. "The second time she tried that, Holly took Ronda down. The reason is, when someone knows you're doing judo, they try to take you down backward. Ronda should have done the whizzer. She has an unbelievable whizzer. When you do those head throws, it's much easier to be countered if you grab the head, and Holly was taught that.
"Ronda Rousey was only doing boxing in her camp with this coach. I'll tell you this: If Ronda Rousey has the same team with her in a rematch, she has no chance. But if Ronda gets someone like Rafael Cordeiro, if there is a rematch, wow, that's a great fight. I don't know who would win. But it was a mismatch with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn going up against Edmond."