The only sound louder than the sound of Holly Holm’s left shin cracking the jaw of Bethe Correia tonight (June 17) in Singapore was the sound of the sigh of relief that followed.

For Holm, 35, a third round head-kick knockout of Correia, 33, wasn’t just a win and a move step closer to some kind of title shot. It was, instead, the jolt of life her flagging career needed. It was the moment she halted a three-fight losing skid and, in doing so, showed she was back to something like her stylish and technical best.

The tentative nature of the fight owed everything to this nervous energy. It wasn’t only Holm feeling it, either. Correia, too, had won only one of her past four fights and was aware of the importance of getting back in the win column. It made her, normally an aggressive type who fights with abandonment, every bit as cautious as Holm in the early going.

In round one, New Mexico’s Holm explored openings with feints and set-ups, claimed the centre of the Octagon and had Correia circling around her, looking to avoid the former UFC champion’s kicks. The roles were reversed in many ways, as we’d grown accustomed to seeing Holm, the natural counter striker, wait for her opponent on the outside, ready for a mistake, and associate Correia with forward motion. Here, though, Correia was the one trying to make Holm fight out of character – to lead off. She was the one resisting her natural urges in order to flummox her experienced opponent.

The Singapore crowd didn’t exactly warm to this approach. Nor did referee Marc Goddard, who warned both bantamweights for a lack of action. But it was hard to place too much blame on the shoulders of two women in desperate need of a win; two win who dare not a make a mistake.

Slow hand claps and jeers soiled round two, as both women moved a lot but produced little in the way of eye-catching work. Correia teased an explosion – both fists by her face, her head bobbing side-to-side – but never came close to delivering it, while Holm, the more loose and relaxed in style, seemed hellbent on setting up a left kick, either to the head or body. She, however, like Correia, was in no rush. “I respect the game plan, but we have to make something happen,” Goddard pleaded.

It was all single shot stuff at this point. Pokes and prods from Holm, usually with her feet, were answered by solitary, and often wayward, right hands from Correia. They’d take turns. They’d feel the other out. Nothing decisive, though. Fight on simmer, both were content to wait for their moment.

Holm’s moment arrived in round three. Correia called her on, perhaps reacting to the jeers of the crowd, and Holm didn’t wait long to deliver what she had planned for two rounds. A left head kick, launched right up the middle, connected on Correia as she momentarily dipped her head, and down the Brazilian went. The fight, in that moment, was as good as over, but Holm, eager to finalise her first UFC win since November 2015, didn’t waste any time adding the finishing touches to the result in the form of a follow-up left hand punch.

“Amazing,” is how Holm, 11-3, described the feeling of getting back to winning ways. “There’s so many things I want to say, but this fight, I know she could make messy, and I heard a lot of boos from the first round. But what I wanted to do was make it look as clean as I could.

“It’s been a year-and-a-half since I’ve been able to do a backflip in here, and I was glad to do it in Singapore.”


UFC Fight Night 111 Results

Holly Holm defeated Bethe Correia via knockout (head kick) at Round 3, 1:09

Marcin Tybura defeated Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision (29-28, 28-27, 29-27)

Colby Covington defeated Dong Hyun Kim via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-27)

Rafael Anjos defeated Tarec Saffiedine via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Jon Tuck defeated Takanori Gomi via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 1:12

Walt Harris defeated Cyril Asker via TKO (elbows), Round 1, 1:44

Alex Caceres defeated Rolando Dy via TKO (doctor stoppage), Round 2, 5:00

Ulka Sasaki defeated Justin Scoggins via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2, 3:19

Li Jingliang defeated Frank Camacho via unanimous decision (29-27, 28-27, 29-27)

Russell Doane defeated Kwan Ho Kwak via TKO (punches) at Round 1, 4:09

Naoki Inoue defeated Carls John de Tomas via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)

Lucie Pudilova defeated Ji Yeon Kim via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)