MELBOURNE • Ronda Rousey is invincible no more.
In arguably the biggest upset in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) 22-year history, Holly Holm tamed the world's most feared female prizefighter with a knockout victory for the bantamweight title yesterday.
Holm, a 20-1 underdog, made a blistering start to the title fight before a record 56,000-strong crowd at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium, becoming the first fighter to win a round against her fellow American, a former judo champion.
Rousey's past three fights had lasted just 64 seconds in total, but Holm delivered a head kick 59 seconds into the second round to send Rousey crashing to the canvas.
PERFECTLY EXECUTED PLAN
There was lots of blood, sweat and tears. I didn't want to kick her in the body and have her trap my leg... I went high.
HOLLY HOLM on the winning strategy
Holm clearly took points in the first round as her overhand lefts landed flush on Rousey's face. She had Rousey staggering in the second round with some crunching left hooks, before finishing her off with a left-footed kick that landed flush under the champion's jaw.
It appeared Rousey was close to being unconscious as she dropped. Holm followed up with a few strikes before the referee stopped the fight, with Rousey looking considerably the worse for wear.
It was Rousey's first defeat in 13 bouts and left Holm unconquered in the mixed martial arts sport with a 10-0 record.
"I had so much love and support - I thought how could I not do this," the 34-year-old said in the ring. "There was lots of blood, sweat and tears, but it sure was worth it.
"I'm trying to take this in, but this is crazy."
Holm, who had claimed eight of her previous MMA victories by knockout and had gone the distance in her two UFC fights, said head kicks were the plan.
"I didn't want to kick her in the body and have her trap my leg... I went high and got it," said the former boxing world champion, who landed 29 of 38 significant strikes to the head.
"Everything that we worked on presented itself in the fight.
"Every kind of grab that she tried to get... I have not spent this much time in the gym before any fight in my life... Everything we worked on happened tonight."
Rousey was unable to utilise her trademark armbar when she went for it two minutes into the fight.
She took Holm to the canvas but she fought out of the predicament, quickly rising to her feet.
Rousey did not speak to reporters after the fight. Instead, she was taken to hospital suffering from concussion and a cut lip, confirmed UFC president Dana White.
He also revealed that he had discussed the significance of the result with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, and they agreed that it was the biggest upset in UFC history.
"Yeah, obviously if you look at how Ronda is revered and is the baddest woman on the planet and... yeah, without a doubt," White told MMAfighting.com, when asked if the outcome was more stunning than Matt Serra's victory over Georges St-Pierre in 2007.
Rousey went into the bout with a series of dynamic knockout victories that earned her comparisons with Mike Tyson's rise in heavyweight boxing during the 1980s. And CBS Sports' Lyle Fitzsimmons drew a parallel between their maiden feats.
"If you're a boxing fan, you remember where you were when Mike Tyson lost," he wrote yesterday.
"And now, if you're a UFC fan, you'll remember the early hours of Sunday morning.
"That's when the freight train that is Ronda Rousey burst from her locker room, charged down the aisle to the strains of Joan Jett's 'Bad Reputation,' stepped into the cage... and got her aura kicked."