They didn’t carry with them the blinding glare of the headliners, but Holm and Pennington knew they were still an integral part of the milestone night at the Staples Center, where women on Saturday night took the top two spots on a UFC fight card for the first time in the promotion’s storied history.
Holm and Pennington lived up to the expectations, fighting toe-to-toe for the duration of their 15-minute bout.
Pennington immediately took the center of the Octagon and put her cards on the table. She wanted to press and then take Holm down, getting out of the former world-champion boxers comfort zone and staying away from the end of her punches.
The only problem with that strategy is that Holm would have none of it. She darted in and out on Pennington, stinging her with a jab and flurries of punches, all the while stuffing any and all takedown attempts.
Holm looked particularly sharp in the first and second rounds, using her hand speed and footwork to keep Pennington perplexed, although she was never able to land the head kick that would send Pennington’s cranium flying.
As the fight wore on and Pennington’s frustration grew, that frustration turned to desperation and she finally did in the waning minutes of the fight what, in hindsight, she probably should have done from the beginning: she brawled.
When Pennington let loose, she started to find some success, bulling her way through Holm’s punches and landing a few of her own, as well as mixing in some hard elbows. By the end of the third round, she had bloodied Holm’s nose, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Holm walked out of her Octagon debut remaining undefeated, courtesy of a split-decision nod from the judges.
“Finally,” said Holm, whose original UFC debut was derailed due to injury. “There were so many expectations, I didn’t feel like I could really live up to them.”
Holm may not have felt if she lived up to expectations, but the fact remains that she won her Octagon debut and is now 8-0 in her MMA career, on a championship trajectory.