MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 16, a five-round women’s bantamweight bout between Holly Holm and Irene Aldana. The event takes place on Saturday, October 3 at Fight Island on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Holly Holm (-120)
Holm (13-5) is the No. 2 ranked women’s bantamweight in the UFC. The 38-year-old American is the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, having defeated former champ Holly Holm by head kick back in 2015. She also has notable wins over Raquel Pennington, Megan Anderson, and Bethe Correia. Since the Rousey fight, Holm has managed to hang out near the top of both of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, but she has been very inconsistent in the last few years. After a 10-0 start to her MMA career, Holm is just 3-5 over her last eight fights. To be fair to Holm, she is only fighting elite competition, but she has shown holes in both her striking defense and grappling in her losses. Holm is definitely one of the best women’s fighters to step foot in the Octagon, but at this point in her career, she seems more like a gatekeeper than a true contender. With a win over Aldana, Holm will maintain her spot as a top-three fighter at women’s 135lbs.
Irene Aldana (+100)
Aldana (12-5) is the No. 6 ranked women’s bantamweight in the UFC. The 32-year-old Mexican is 5-3 overall in the UFC with wins over Ketlen Vieira, Vanessa Melo, and Bethe Correia, and losses to Leslie Smith, Raquel Pennington, and Katlyn Chookagian. Aldana was a big-time women’s bantamweight prospect in Invicta FC but she really struggled out of the gate in the Octagon. However, she has really shown marked improvements over her last bunch of fights. Aldana has shown more KO power as of late as we saw in the Vieira fight as well as just more effective striking and grappling overall. Aldana is a very good fighter who is lacking that big name on her resume. If she can go out there and beat Holm in this fight, Aldana will immediately jump into title contention.
Fight Breakdown: I’m expecting a very close and competitive fight between two evenly-matched fighters that likely goes the five-round distance. Both Holm and Aldana come from striking backgrounds, but they are both mixed martial artists and I expect plenty of grappling in this fight as well. I think the striking will be competitive but I believe Holm will be the slightly more effective grappler in this fight and that should help her edge out a decision. Aldana has excellent takedown defense so it won’t be easy to get her to the mat, but I expect Holm to do a lot of pushing of Aldana up against the fence and mix in a few timely takedowns here and there to steal rounds. This is a super close fight and I think the near Pick ’em odds are bang on. My slight lean is Holm by decision.
Prediction: Holly Holm wins via decision