The unthinkable happened. Ronda Rousey, highly-regarded as one of the best female athletes of all-time, put her UFC Bantamweight championship on the line once more - against a worthy opponent in former boxing champion Holly Holm.
The outcome? Ronda's first loss in her MMA career, her three-year reign as champion over. How? A brutal, relentless blow which sent her crashing down to the canvas in dramatic circumstances.
The build-up to an excellent duel
Going into the fight itself, Holm was touted as the strongest challenger that Rousey has had to face - considering her impressive pedigree in both boxing and her current unbeaten streak in MMA too. The build-up to the match was eerily subdued, up until Saturday evening's weigh-ins. Tensions got heated, so much so that to describe the conflict between the two as intense, would be an understatement.
Nothing was scripted, fake or exaggerated. Raw emotion was expressed on both their faces because ultimately, they both wanted to win. In the past, Ronda has always been heavily criticised for her outspoken approach, but has been able to back that up with her fighting style.
The main event in Melbourne, the match everyone wanted to see
No-one was disappointed either, as you could tell after the first 60 seconds that Holm wasn't just there to make up the numbers.
Constantly navigating her way around the Octagon, she had a rigid gameplan and was eager to stick to it. Ronda's impressive streak in the past has been somewhat helped by a defensive nature from the majority of her opponents, who have a frustrating tendency to back into corners and consequently allow her the freedom to unload with a succession of punches, kicks and jabs to effectively finish the job quickly.
Holm's gameplan an excellently executed one
Holm continued to circle around the Octagon, refusing to give Rousey much space to bully her - like she did so emphatically against Bethe Correia three months prior.
Oblique kicks helped to slow Ronda down, whilst each straight punch was met by a gasp from the record crowd of 56,214 inside the Ethiad Stadium. The champion, was receiving a firm beating and Holm made sure everyone knew about it, too.
That's not to say, Rousey didn't put up a fight. She sure did, but her gameplan was fragmented and meant she often found herself chasing shadows to try and keep up with Holm - who seemed to be sensing the perfect moments to attack and hurt Ronda to devastating effect.
Meanwhile, Ronda's approach was a disappointing one
One of the main issues surrounding Ronda was her approach, she came from the wrong side - from right-to-left, even though Holm is a left-handed striker, giving the 34-year-old plenty of space to dodge and weave her way around some of the punches attempted. Not to mention, the fact that she was virtually playing to Holm's strengths by trying to outbox her, instead she should have focused on her grappling, because that's one of her strengths.
The first round, over. Five minutes of relentless energy from both athletes, but it was clear who'd won the round. The brief talk between coach and fighter at the corner was short-but-sweet, it seemed inevitable that Holm just needed to continue the way she'd began, and she'd end up victorious.
This was achieved less than a minute into the second round, as Rousey was caught with her back turned - Holly saw her opportunity and kissed Ronda sweet in the face with a left-high kick, which sent Rousey crashing down within a flash.
Gasps of shock were heard, screams, everything you could imagine. The champion, the queen was dethroned in such a surprising manner you'd think you were dreaming.
Blood plastered across Rousey's face, lip, chin, she was down and out. Holm meanwhile, she celebrated as the realisation began to sink - she'd just beaten the world champion and ended her unbeaten streak.
Ronda was not available for comment after the match itself, as she was sent to the local hospital to get herself checked out after the injuries sustained, mainly to her split lip and head too, as she seemed momentarily dazed upon occasion.
Holly though, admitted she doesn't feel as though she's "made it" yet, despite the historic win. As quoted by Fox Sports, she said: "I don't look at this belt and think that I've made it. I think I still have things that I need to do. I think a rematch, that's kind of unspoken just common sense to me I guess."
If a rematch is to take place, it is expected to be somewhere between May and July, possibly at UFC 200 - after Rousey completes her break from the sport as well as finishing the movie she stars in, having competed thrice in nine months.
UFC president Dana White, said that the rematch "makes a lot of sense", and added that Ronda was "obviously completed bummed out and depressed, but that's it", after the 28-year-old left the arena for further medical treatment.
Holm afterwards, also said this: "I have to say, everything we worked on presented itself in the fight. I have not spent this much time in the gym before any fight in my life."
|Ronda Rousey||Holly Holm|
|Knockdowns: 0||Knockdowns: 1|
|Total strikes: 21||Total strikes: 38|
|Strike percentage: 30%||Strike percentage: 72%|
|Significant strikes: 17||Significant strikes: 38|
|Takedowns: 0||Takedowns: 1|
|Match time: 5 minutes and 57 seconds|
This defeat will come as a shock to plenty around the world, and is certain to rule the headlines in the coming days as the media and supporters alike come to terms with a surprising result - one that no-one admittedly expected, either. But, this is a setback in the road for Ronda: how will she react?