The Ultimate Fighting Championship is hosting a new massive Fight Night event in San Antonio, Texas. UFC on ESPN 43: Vera vs Sandhagen could potentially decide the next contender for the Bantamweight title. But before that, we will see a massive co-main event – Holly Holm vs Yana Santos. Here are our predictions.
UFC on ESPN 43: Holm vs Santos Predictions
Holly Holm Preview
Holly is a 41-year-old athlete from the USA. She entered MMA in 2011 as an accomplished athlete. Before mixed martial arts, Holly had a colorful career in boxing. In this discipline, she won titles in 3 weight categories and had 18 successful belt defenses.
Before moving to the UFC, Holly competed in a string of second-rate promotions, where she amassed a perfect 7-0 record and became the champion in the LFA promotion. Holly showed impressive performances and got 4 out of 7 victories by knockouts. A bright athlete was noticed by UFC matchmakers and invited to the promotion.
Holm's debut in the organization of Dana White took place in February 2015 in a duel against Raquel Pennington, whom Holly defeated by a split decision. Holm consolidated her success in July of the same year, defeating Marion Renault on points.
At that time, the dominant female champion Ronda Rousey was in the women's bantamweight division. The matchmakers decided to match the undefeated title holder with Holly, who also had a perfect record. Holly approached the title fight as a serious underdog with odds close to 8.00. On November 14, 2015, Holm gave it her all and not only didn’t give her opponent a chance to win but also effectively finished the fight in the second round, charging her opponent with a high kick in the head. This finish was voted the best knockout of 2015.
But on the very first defense, Holly lost the title. In March 2016, she was strangled in the 5th round by Misha Tate. Hill failed to close the defeat from Tate quickly. In July of that year, she lost by unanimous decision to Valentina Shevchenko.
In 2017, Holly again decided to win the belt. To do this, she moved up to the women's featherweight category for a title shot against Germaine De Randamie. Holm was inferior to her opponent in size and physical strength and eventually lost the fight for the vacant belt. As a result, Germain became the champion of the division, which was disbanded after her fight with Holm.
In June of the same year, Holly finally got the long-awaited victory by knocking out Beth Correia in the 3rd round. This victory again brought the athlete to the status of a contender.
At the New Year's Eve tournament in 2017, Holly's championship fight took place against the title holder Cris Cyborg. The first two rounds were dictated by Holm. She clinched the larger and more physically powerful Cyborg well, but Chris began to interrupt Holly from the third round, and the judges gave the victory to the champion.
Holm closed this loss by defeating Megan Anderson by unanimous decision and again became the main contender for the title. Once again, Holly's attempt to get the belt back was unsuccessful. She was knocked out by Amanda Nunes at the end of the 1st round.
After losing to Nunes, Holly went on a streak of 2 wins in a row. In January 2020, she defeated Raquel Pennington on points, and in September of the same year she won a unanimous decision against Irene Aldana. Holm last fought against Ketlen Vieira in May 2022 and lost with a Split Decision.
Holly Holm: Skills & Style
Holly Holm is a truly professional fighter. In her fights, calculation, and practicality prevail, which is why the spectacularity of the duel suffers. As a former boxing champion, Holm has excellent punching technique with fast hands, good footwork, and head movement. Holly successfully dodged the attacks of Ronda Rousey, because of this, the opponent was tired and Holm effectively turned her off.
The athlete also shows herself well in the clinch, confidently controlling her rivals. She successfully managed to press the overall, powerful, and heavier Cris Cyborg to the net for two rounds.
With endurance, the athlete is in full order, she has vast experience in five-round fights, most of which have reached the decision. In the fight against Irene Aldana in the final five minutes, Holm looked like she had just entered the octagon and discharged long series into her opponent.
At the tournament in Singapore, half of the card had problems with acclimatization. But this did not affect Holly and in the fight with Beth Corey she was in excellent physical shape.
The only thing that causes concern is the age of the athlete. Holly Holm is 40 years old! For a professional fighter, this is a serious age.
This also explains Holm's excessive pragmatism – she counts on strength for the entire fight, not allowing herself to be pulled out in the first rounds. Age can also serve as an additional motivation. I'm sure she plans to go to the championship fight again, probably the last in her career.
Yana Santos Preview
Yana is a 33-year-old athlete from Russia. She started her professional career in 2009. Before moving to the UFC, she was noted for her performances at Invicta FC, where she became the champion in 2017, defeating Raquel Canuto by unanimous decision in a fight for the vacant title.
Yana's debut in the UFC took place in March 2018. In her first fight, she fought for the championship belt against Cris Cyborg and was expectedly destroyed in the 1st round. After the defeat in the debut, Kunitskaya held 5 more fights in the UFC: 4 won, and 1 lost. The level of opposition she had was weak. The only serious opponent Yana has fought since Cyborg is Aspen Ladd. Santos lost to her by TKO in the 3rd round.
The Russian woman had her last two fights in 2021. Her opponents were Ketlen Vieira, whom she beat with a decision, and then Irene Aldana who she lost to with a TKO in Round 1. Santos has not fought since July 2021, which will be a huge problem for her.
Yana Santos: Skills & Style
Yana has solid boxing skills. The set footwork, worked-out combinations, creativity in the attack, moderate aggressiveness, biting kicks, and dangerous knees in the clinch – that's what the Russian gets victories.
The athlete develops and improves her skills on the ground. In the last fight, she participated on equal terms in grappling exchanges with the basic wrestlers.
Santos has poor defense on the ground and in the standing position. She misses a lot of extra punches, which is why she quickly breaks down if her opponents hit hard. Having run into a powerful rebuff, Yana quickly gets lost and makes stupid mistakes, which only aggravate the situation in the octagon.
I note the lack of knockout power in the fists of the Russian fighter. Santos's blows do not pose a threat. Yes, they can be nasty, but she does no damage. Because of this, Yana will not be able to finish the fight with one well-aimed solid hit if she is losing on points.
Holm vs Santos Prediction
We can endlessly list all of Holly's boxing regalia until we take a look at her last fight with Vieira. Holm not only looked weak in the stance, but she also could not hit her opponent at all, over and over again throwing protracted aggressive combinations that did not reach the goal.
I don't understand how the bookies could have made Holly the favorite for this fight. For me, this is an extremely equal disposition, where I definitely would not want to choose between P1 and P2. Yana can be let down by her punching power and dimensions, while Holm can be let down by her lack of ideas, weak footwork, and dips in the stance.
This time I would bet that the fight will either reach a decision or end closer to the 2nd half of the 3rd round. Holly won't be able to outbox Yana earlier due to the speed of her shots and passivity, and Santos simply doesn't have enough pressure to finish quickly.