The Severe Spotlight: Kayla Harrison

“Do you mind if I pray with you, real quick?”

A beautifully chilling but fitting adage to the duality of Kayla Harrison. A 6:47 min destruction of ex-UFC champion, followed by a soft, caring extension of love and faith.

UFC 300 is a unique place to make a promotional debut for any fighter. Aside from the obvious pressures, Harrison underwent an astronomical weight cut, underwent media obligation bombardment, all as a marquee part of a monumental card. This is a signal of intent from the UFC as to their wishes for the USA Judo legend.

After being declared the victor of the fight, she embraced her opponent, sharing an honest moment with her. Gracefully asking if they may share a prayer, led by Harrison during the embrace. Holm obliged as she was softly held by Harrison who led the prayer. Ironic given that less than 5 minutes earlier, Holm was being held by Harrison, but with violent, vicious intentions.

The fight began with Harrison taking centre cage. Holm, from the off made an immediate adjustment to her usual style of late. Instead of allowing for considerable distance between herself and her opponent, she opted to stay in a closer kickboxing range. The reason for this being that if she opted for her original style of skirting around the outside tramline, landing her patented straight side kick and follow up shots, she was far closer to the cage wall, meaning far closer to the clinch exchanges and the deep judo repertoire of her opponent.

Harrison showed her speed and agility as she closed the distance early to land solid jabs. Even in those first exchanges Holm had to adjust, those adjustments led to the first clinch exchange as Harrison exploded into the pocket. Harrison pops her hips to the near hip and launches Holm with an Uchi Mata. Holm, ready for the throw does a fantastic job of riding the momentum and for a moment, ends in top position.

Whilst this was the only element of adversity Harrison faced in the fight, its important to highlight how quickly Harrison gained her hips back underneath her and worked her way back up to her feet. She did not choose to reset, collect herself and go again, instead she immediately moved herself back into the clinch and lands a beautiful inside trip.

From here Harrison served up a domination. Her ferocious ground and pound began from top half guard, she oscillated between hammering home kitchen sinks into the side of Holm’s head and lining her opponent back up with elbows. She decimated the frames of Holm with forearm blocks that lead to strikes, and opted to post on the left shoulder with her right hand to flatten Holm as she laid waste with crushing left sided elbows.

The technical elements of control that shone for Harrison were her movements between wrist rides to collapse the base of Holm, the cross-shoulder posts, and the weight through her hips, anchoring herself to her opponent as she relentlessly generated power through her core as she lashed shots down to her opponent.

The round ands with Holm having recovered herself to a closed guard, and Harrison doing a fantastic job of creating space and landing a culture of venomous elbows. Harrison walks back to her corner, barely a bead of sweat on her brow, and not a skip in her breath. Holm trudges dishevelled back to her corner.

The second round begins much like the first, with the space being contested centrally. Harrison hunting in her southpaw stance. Harrison finds Holm with a 1-2 as Holm entered in for a body jab, on her exit from the pocket Harrison chases with a head kick, immediately dropping into a double leg as Holms back hit the cage wall.

Holm does excellently to post on the mat, stopping the takedown, but Harrison transitions to the front headlock, and a tight guillotine attempt. Holm controls the hips of Harrison well and escapes the choke attempt, however she chooses to continue to press on the hips of Harrison, desperate to not allow hip-to-hip connection. This reaction gives Harrison an ability to find a far lat grip and launch Holm with an outside trip, dropping her to three quarter mount.

The ground and pound continues, forcing Holm to give her back. Harrison finds her second hook and is looking to break Holm down to belly down back mount. Holm in a last gasp effort builds to her feet, looking to strip a hook, in doing so her chin rises, and Harrison duly slides an arm under her neck, driving her hips to the ground and breaking Holm down to the mat. Face down, Harrison applies the rear naked strangle, and forces the tap.

A near flawless debut against a long-standing legend of women’s MMA sets Kayla Harrison up for a blockbuster outing in her next fight.

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