MMA Mailbag: Was Holly Holm overrated? Why is Amanda Nunes the GOAT? Why watch PFL? (2024)

There’s a lot to talk about in the aftermath of a very busy and very violent night at UFC 239. There’s also forthcoming action from the PFL, among others, to consider. All will get their due in this week’s MMA Mailbag.

Is it possible that many fans (myself included) and media members have overrated Holly Holm simply because she shocked Ronda Rousey? Holm has lost 5 of 7 fights since, with her only victories during that time frame coming against Bethe Correia and Megan Anderson. Though Holm was undefeated going into her fight with Rousey, most of the Holm’s opponents prior to that fight are of the lesser-known variety. – Adam R.

If we’re going to re-examine who Holly Holm has beaten, let’s also talk about who she’s lost to.


Most recently there’s Amanda Nunes, who had already cemented herself as the best female fighter of all time even before this win. Then there’s Cris Cyborg, who was high in the running for that title before her own loss to Nunes. There’s Germaine de Randamie, who squeaked by Holm with a questionable decision after several late punches. There’s current flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko, who’s been dominating everyone at 125 pounds. And finally there’s Miesha Tate, who pulled off a sensational comeback at the end of a fight that Holm was clearly winning.

Losing five of your last seven sure sounds bad, but it’s not like she had a lot of easy fights in there. She also, let’s not forget, got into the upper echelon of MMA relatively late in life, and only after first having an entire boxing career.

Now she’s 37, coming off a TKO loss, and her last best path to another UFC title seems to be blocked for good. But it doesn’t mean she wasn’t legitimately skilled and worthy of a ton of praise and respect.

What skills make Nunez the GOAT compared to other Champions? – BJ F.

What she started with was power. From her early days on, Nunes could hit you and hurt you, and she had an instinct for the finish. What she added later was everything else. Her wrestling, her cardio, her patience – those were all improvements she made later. She made them well and she made them quickly, especially after moving over to American Top Team.

Now she’s not just a blitzing striker. She can adjust on the fly and assess openings and opportunities as they appear. That’s the difference between being another good fighter with power and being the best champion women’s MMA has ever seen.

And she is that, let’s not forget. She doesn’t get the same adoration as Ronda Rousey did, in part because the UFC is way more enthusiastic about promoting a pretty blonde media darling and maybe doesn’t know exactly what to do with a generally affable Brazilian lesbian, but the record doesn’t lie. Anyone else who could plausibly claim to be the best woman to ever do it in MMA? Nunes has now beat them. She didn’t just win, either. She beat them up. Badly. You can’t argue with those results.


Remember how GSP always fought people where they were weakest? Jones has seemed hellbent on showing he can play in his opponents’ worlds (I remember a quote to the effect of “We always stand with the scary ones.”) Do you think this strategy will endear him to fans, so long as it doesn’t look like this weekend’s fight. Or would you rather see him work his absurd ground and pound prowess and dance with the one that brought him? – Andrew M.

I think what would impress people the most is if Jon Jones would fight like he was actually trying to show us how good he is. Against Thiago Santos, it was like he was only concerned with minimizing risk and doing just barely enough to win. That’s risky, even for a great fighter like Jones. One different score in one round on one scorecard, and he would have gone home without his title after UFC 239.

If that was him trying to prove a point, I’m not sure he proved it. It’s not like anyone would have been mad if he’d taken down Santos and elbowed a hole in his head. He tried to take down Santos early and couldn’t get it done, so I don’t totally buy that explanation anyway.

There is something impressive about beating someone at his own game, at least when it works (consider his win over Chael Sonnen, for instance). But if you spend all night playing in the other person’s world and there’s a debate about who actually won, maybe that’s an indication that Georges St-Pierre was smart to attack weaknesses rather than strengths. When you have the advantage of being able to do it all, why not use it?

After a humiliating knockout loss, how do you see Funky Ben bouncing back from this one? Did this loss expose him as a middling competitor in the UFC? Do you think he will march on forward with his same bravado or will he sink away from his schtick? – Joshua B.

Whoa, there. Let’s resist the urge to read too much into a five-second fight. What this told us was that Jorge Masvidal did his homework, came up with a brilliant opening, and then had the guts to go for it.

The whole thing was genius, really. The way he took a step to the side at first, giving Askren time to come to the center of the cage? That way Masvidal could get enough of a running start to deliver major force behind the jumping knee, but he wouldn’t have to run all the way across the cage and give Askren time to think about it. Askren would have to react on instinct, and Masvidal knew his wrestler’s instinct would be to duck into the takedown.


That’s how Askren got got, and in a bad way. But I don’t think it exposed anything about him that we didn’t already know. This guy is going to look to wrestle first, always. Masvidal knew that and exploited it perfectly. The hard part for Askren will be bouncing back with the same confidence.

He built for himself a reputation such that people would inevitably delight in his downfall. Now he has to find a way to come back without being crippled by the fear that it could happen again. That’s not an easy thing to do. But then, he’s been a competitor all his life. I don’t see him shrinking from the task.

Jorge Masvidal has adopted Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s preflight “cage lean”. You’ve described Karolina’s look as if she is waiting for an Uber, how would you describe Jorge’s version of this? – Devin S.

Like he’s waiting in front of your apartment for your Uber to pull up so he can beat the hell out of you.

MMA Mailbag: Was Holly Holm overrated? Why is Amanda Nunes the GOAT? Why watch PFL? (1)

Jorge Masvidal set a record for the fastest knockout in UFC history moments after this images was taken. (Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Sports)

Will Masvidal get the title shot? Or will the UFC wait and see how the Colby – Lawler fight plays out? – Chandan D.

From a promotional perspective, there are almost no bad options here. Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington have a beef you could sell. If Robbie Lawler beats Covington, he’s the man who beat the interim champ (plus he’s Robbie freakin’ Lawler). And if you decide to parlay Masvidal’s success into a title shot right away, who’s going to complain about that? He just showed us what he can do to a really good wrestler, and he made the most of it afterward.

If we were limiting ourselves strictly to what made sense, Covington would have already gotten the shot. Since we’re not, I vote for Masvidal. The man is having himself a moment. Let’s see if he can ride it all the way to a title.

I don’t recall feeling one way or the other about Paul Felder prior to him joining the broadcast booth. But now that I know his personality a little bit, I’m definitely a fan of him as a fighter. Is there another fighter you think could benefit similarly? Maybe for all the wrong reasons, like… Mike Perry. – Kevin S.

Agreed on the topic of Paul Felder. He comes across as thoroughly reasonable and intelligent, not to mention sounding like a natural as a broadcaster. But it doesn’t always go that direction. For some fighters, the worst thing to happen to their public image is us getting to know them better. There are a few “Ultimate Fighter” coaches who found that out the hard way.

What are your thoughts on Edmen Shahbazyan and Song Yadong? Are either future contenders? – Richard Lee

Both had good showings at UFC 239, but it’s Song Yadong who impressed me more. That was some vicious power he showed off to starch Alejandro Perez, and you know the UFC would like to have a Chinese fighter on a winning streak to help its expansion efforts. He’s somebody to keep an eye on at bantamweight, where things are starting to get very interesting.


Luke Rockhold has seen better days. After some brutal knockouts and struggling with injuries, do you think he is done? Should he call it a career? How likely is it do you think he’ll walk away considering he has opportunities for him outside of fighting?

Same question can be asked of Gilbert Melendez: Do you think he should say good bye to his martial times? – Eric Z.

Whenever I see a fighter with a string of knockout losses and a viable career path doing something else, a part of me always wants to see him do the something else. That’s especially true when that other career is as dependent on youth and looks as modeling is. Breaking your jaw can’t be a good career move in that field. It’s not particularly helpful in this one, either.

Luke Rockhold is 34 and just got brutally knocked out by a mid-level light heavyweight. I’m not saying he has to take that as a sign that this move up in weight isn’t going to be the fix he needed, but he at least needs to recognize that it’s not going to be a quick path to the top now.

As for Gilbert Melendez, he looked ancient standing there next to the fresh-faced youngster Arnold Allen. The toughness is still there, but the speed isn’t. If he wanted to stick around long enough to say goodbye with a fight back home in the Bay Area, I’d understand. But the line is going to trend downward from here for him, and the UFC clearly isn’t giving him any easy ones.

Does Diego Sanchez’s UFC 239 fight week and subsequent performance rank among the all-time weirdest/saddest weeks for a fighter in MMA history? – Billy N.

If we were to make a list of weirdest MMA moments, I feel confident that Diego Sanchez would show up a few times. That’s just who he is. He’s always done things his own way. At times it’s worked well for him. But now he’s making decisions that seem baffling from the outside, and no one can tell him it’s a bad idea because he’s so convinced that he’s operating on a plane the rest of us just don’t understand.

It’s hard for me to imagine the scenario where Sanchez retires gracefully and stays there. His stubborn determination was one of the things that brought him this far, but it also makes it almost impossible to imagine him quitting and being content with it. My sense is that this is just going to continue. And it’s probably going to get worse.

Ben – What can you tell me about the PFL? I have tickets to go see the Light Hvy’s and Heavies in AC and was wondering if any of them are any good beyond the ones I know with UFC experience ( Magalhães, Markes, Rosholt) – Michael H.

There’s a lady by name of Kayla Harrison on Thurday’s fight card who might be worth paying attention to. Also there’s Sarah Kaufman, entering the next phase of her Ultimate Party Pooping Plan. Beyond that, I’d be most excited about seeing “The Action Man” Chris Curtis, who hasn’t lost in three years, go up against 2018 PFL champion Magomed Magomedkerimov. That’s a fella with two Magomeds in his name. He is not to be trifled with.

(Top photo: Josh Hedges / Zuffa)

MMA Mailbag: Was Holly Holm overrated? Why is Amanda Nunes the GOAT? Why watch PFL? (2024)
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