Anyone waiting for former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm to show up old inside the Octagon will need to find a more suitable hobby.
Holm (14-5), just three weeks shy of her 39th birthday, looked as if she very much still belongs among the elite fighters at 135 pounds after outclassing red-hot Irene Aldana (12-6) over five rounds on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Two judges scored it 50-45 for Holm while the third had it 50-44.
Improving to 4-5 since her 2015 upset title win over Ronda Rousey via head-kick knockout, with all five defeats coming to former or current UFC champions, Holm took a major step closer to the idea of fighting for a chance at regaining her crown.
"There are some things that I need to work on, obviously. But I always say that I like to learn from my wins and my losses so that I'm always learning," Holm said. "[Aldana] is a mover, just like me, so I had to think of what I would have to do if I was fighting myself in there. Tonight, we were able to put the game plan together and I was victorious."
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Despite the 32-year-old Aldana's reputation as a power puncher, which included a savage one-punch finish of Ketlen Vieira in her last outing, Holm never gave the native of Mexico a clean opening to prove it.
By circling away from Aldana's power shots and stinging her with accurate counter shots, Holm controlled distance with relative ease. But the key difference in the fight, especially the rare times Aldana began to put short power punches together, was Holm's ability to control the action on the ground.
Aldana entered the fight with the best takedown percentage among UFC female fighters. Holm, meanwhile, has never been known for her ground game. Yet, the former champion scored a total of five takedowns in all and proved dominant in her striking, including a flurry of punches from full mount in Round 3.
After the fight, Holm wouldn't commit to talking about whether a title shot should be next or whom she would need to defeat to get one. Although Holm's violent 2019 loss to current champion Amanda Nunes doesn't help her chances of a rematch this quickly, the division is lacking from the standpoint of depth.
"I need to just keep working hard," Holm said. "When I first came to MMA, they always said, 'Watch out for her boxing.' Then, when I started throwing kicks they said, 'Watch out for her kicks.' Now it's, 'Watch out for her clinch or wrestling.' I came to the cage to be a full mixed martial artist and it takes time. I didn't wrestle for the first time until four weeks before my first MMA fight. I'm still very green and learning, I just want to put it all together.
"I like to just let the future hold out. I have a great team around me that worries about that and I just train."
Aldana bloodied Holm's nose with punches early in Round 5 but was unable to mount any level of sustained success.
In addition to her recent loss to Nunes, Holm has fought unsuccessfully for the UFC featherweight title on two occasions in recent years, losing competitive decisions to former champions Germaine de Randamie and Cris Cyborg. De Randamie, now back at bantamweight, defeated Julianna Pena via third-round submission on Saturday's card and could be in line for a rematch against Holm while Nunes, a two-division champion, defends her 145-pound title in December.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights from the UFC Fight Night card.
UFC Fight Night card and results
- Holly Holm def. Irene Aldana via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-44)
- Carlos Felipe def. Yorgan de Castro via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Germaine de Randamie def. Julianna Peña via third-round submission (guillotine choke)
- Kyler Phillips def. Cameron Else via second-round TKO (punches)
- Dusko Todorovic def. Daquan Townsend via second-round TKO (punches)
- Carlos Condit def. Court McGee via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Charles Jourdain vs. Josh Culibao fight to split draw (30-27, 28-29, 28-28)
- Nassourdine Imavov def. Jordan Williams via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)