DUBAI: Holly Holm was the big winner of the first Fight Night of UFC Fight Island 2, the 38-year-old American rolling back the years as she overcame Irene Aldana in their headlining clash at Yas Forum in Abu Dhabi.
The world number 2-ranked Bantamweight had racked up an inconsistent series of performances dating back to 2017 as she landed in the UAE capital but did not disappoint her fans with a unanimous decision win over her Mexican opponent.
Fight Night 1, the second of the five-event series that will conclude with UFC 254 on Oct. 24, followed last weekend’s UFC 253, which saw Middleweight Israel Adesanya beat Paulo Costa in their headline bout.
Holm shot to fame four years ago when she stopped Ronda Rousey in a now legendary fight. She lost her next three fights, though, and her record since stood at three wins and five losses as she entered the octagon to face Aldana. On Sunday morning, however, she delivered a masterclass in control.
“I knew it would go that way if I followed the game plan and didn’t rush into anything stupid,” the winner said. “I was just trying to stay controlled, listen to my team and stick to the game plan. That’s what it comes down to…I wanted to get in there and make it worth something.
“I didn’t want to go home with a loss and have all that work be for nothing,” Holm added. “That was my motivation tonight…It’s an honor to be a part of something that’s historic. Every little thing just gives extra motivation. The fact that we were the first females to headline [a card on UFC Fight Island], I carry that with a lot of pride. I’m very honored to be in that position. I thank Dana White and the UFC for believing in us to carry a card like that. I’m still working to improve and keep going forward. We’ll see what happens in the future.”
In a highly anticipated Heavyweight bout, Carlos Felipe of Brazil beat the American Yorgan De Castro via a unanimous decision in the co-main event of the night.
“This means a lot,” Felipe said. “A lot of people know my history. About two years ago, I signed with the UFC, but I was cut…In the same month, I lost my grandmother. It was a hard time for me. I thought about stopping fighting, stopping everything. My coaches and friends didn’t allow this. So, this victory is for her and a friend because he committed suicide last year.”
UFC’s No. 1 Bantamweight fighter Germaine De Randamie of the Netherlands defeated fourth-ranked Julianna Pena of the US with technical submission in their Bantamweight bout ahead of the two headlining fights.
“I said before this fight to my coaches, either I’ll get this guillotine — because if you give me your neck, I’m going to put you to sleep — or I’m going to knock her out,” De Randamie said. “I felt really sloppy. I didn’t feel loosened up, but she gave me her neck and I put her to sleep. That’s how it goes. When my arms sank in, I told the referee she was out. I felt her go out. I surprised myself.”
She immediately turned her attention to the winner of the main event.
“I’ll fight whoever. I just want to fight entertaining fights against people who come to fight. That’s all I want,” she said. “I’m still the number one. It doesn’t matter what happens tonight, that winner has to face me before they face Amanda Nunes.”
Bantamweight Kyler Phillips of the US overcame Englishman Cameron Else, who was making his UFC bow in Abu Dhabi, after 44 seconds of the second round via a TKO. He expressed his joy at winning on Fight island.
“I love my job, man, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing,” Phillips said. “I love this place. 2020, whatever circumstances I’m given, I’m going to make the best out of it. That’s why I’m the best. That’s why they call me The Matrix. Let’s do it again. Of course, there are levels to this, but it was expected. I was expecting to finish him. That guy came to fight. That guy came to knock me out. He’s got a heavy right hand. I’m glad I was able to overcome it.”
In the first fight of the main card, Serbian Dusko Todorovic had stopped Dequan Townsend of the US with TKO after 3.15 of the second round in their Middleweight bout.
“I knew that Dequan could endure a lot of punishment,” he said. “Rarely in his career has he gotten knocked out or had losses by stoppage. I knew he was going to be tough to knock out on the feet. Even though I had success, I didn’t want to go into his rhythm and risk exhausting myself. So, my coaches told me to wrestle and take him down.
“That’s my stronger side, the Jiu-Jitsu,” Todorovic added. “I finished the fight there. I think I’ve shown I’m versatile. Lots of people say I’m too small for middleweight. Dequan is 6’4” and an ex-light heavyweight. I think I’ve shown everyone that my body is well fit for middleweight and that I belong here.”
In the prelims, Carlos Condit edged Court McGee in their Welterweight fight via a unanimous decision; the bout between Charles Jourdain and Joshua Culibao at Featherweight was called a draw by referee Jason Herzog; Nassourdine Imavov beat Jordan Williams via another unanimous decision in their Middleweight clash.
In the women’s Strawweight bout, Loma Lookboonmee beat Jinh Yu Frey with unanimous decision, while Bantamweight Casey Kenney also overcame Heili Alateng via a unanimous decision.
The night had kicked off with Luigi Vendramini defeating Jessin Ayari with a first-round TKO in their Lightweight bout.
Fight Island 2 now moves on to Fight Nights 2 and 3 on Oct. 11 and 18 respectively and will wrap up a week later with UFC 254, which will see Russian Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov take on American Justin Gaethje in the main event.