Somebody had to win the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight title, even if the fans at Barclays Center weren’t happy with the fight.
That somebody was Germaine de Randamie, who beat former bantamweight champion Holly Holm via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) at UFC 208 last night.
De Randamie, a former world kickboxing champion, moved to 7-3 in her career and earned her first MMA title. Holm is 10-3 and is on a three-fight losing streak since beating Ronda Rousey in November 2015.
“It was a close fight,’’ de Randamie said. “She caught me in the third round. It was a good kick, but you won’t knock me out that way, and I kept coming. She didn’t want to fight me, but I am a warrior and I came here to fight.’’
Said Holm, “The fight could’ve gone either way. I felt like I had three rounds, but I also had her rocked twice and didn’t capitalize on it, and that’s my fault.”
Early in the fight, Holm was willing to stay to the outside of the cage, occasionally rushing in to strike but quickly retreating. As the round continued, de Randamie’s counter shots began to land with power, forcing Holm to work her grappling.
In the second, Holm tried to keep de Randamie at distance with her kicking game, but de Randamie kept walking through each shot. Midway through the round, Holm returned to grappling, pressing de Randamie to the cage. De Randamie was able to defend the takedown and landed some knees in the striking exchanges, but neither could establish dominance.
At the end of the round, de Randamie threw a right hand that landed after the bell and stunned Holm, who staggered back to her corner amid boos from the crowd.
“It was an accident to hit her after the bell. It was never intentional,’’ de Randamie said. “It was just the heat of the moment. I am not that kind of fighter. Holly is a tremendous champion and I truly respect her, but I am a brawler and I love to fight.’’
Holm continued to rush de Randamie from the outside in the third round, but de Randamie began to time her counter shots and leg kicks. When Holm again attempted to initiate the grappling, de Randamie was able to control the clinch game.
With time running out, Holm landed a head kick that briefly staggered de Randamie, but as time expired, de Randamie landed her own strikes that again appeared late.
Holm said of the late shots in the second and third rounds: “Those were some of her best shots of the night after the bell and I don’t know how the judges saw that.”
Holm attempted to grind out de Randamie early in the championship rounds, pushing de Randamie to the cage before a break by the official. The pair exchanged on the feet with Holm landing a few strong punches, but de Randamie always had an answer. Holm again went for the takedown, but de Randamie wouldn’t let it happen.
The final round started slowly as the crowd grew increasingly restless, but a big left hand by Holm caught de Randamie and sent her into the cage. Holm again tried to score a takedown, but de Randamie proved impossible to bring to the canvas.
Another break by the official led to another clinch by Holm and another failed takedown attempt. Both women threw some knees in the clinch, but neither did significant damage. The clinch finally broke with 15 seconds left in the fight, but neither fighter could get anything done, sending it to the judges.
“I want to fight everybody and I will fight anybody, so we will see who is next,’’ de Randamie said. “I want to thank my team and the fans in Brooklyn, who have been amazing to me. Thank you very much.”
Said Holm, “I think it warrants a rematch. When you have more than half the people saying the fight should have gone the other way, usually that warrants a rematch. So that would be awesome.”