LAS VEGAS • It seemed nobody was pleased with the manner in which Holly Holm held off Raquel Pennington on Saturday night.
Least of all, Pennington, whose shot at vengeance against the former champ was strangled away as she was pinned standing against the cage for much of the fight.
“A lot of people don’t realize when someone is using all they have to hold you there it’s tough to get off the cage,” Pennington said in comments exclusive to The Gazette. “I’m pissed and frustrated. This is a fight I’ve been waiting for for five years and this girl stalled and hugged me the whole time. She didn’t even want to fight me.”
The crowd at T-Mobile Arena shouted boos during what was rendered a mostly action-less fight. Holm even talked in apologetic tones afterward. UFC president Dana White let loose with a tirade on the referee who allowed Holm to use the prolonged stalling technique while winning rounds.
“The ref let them clinch for 4 minutes for three (expletive) rounds,” White said. “They fought for a minute.
“If you are not doing damage or advancing your position, you split the fighters up and make them actually fight. … I literally almost got up and walked out of that fight, I was so frustrated.”
Pennington, a Harrison graduate and lifelong Colorado Springs resident, shared White’s sentiments.
“He should have broke us up multiple times, not just in the third round,” Pennington said. “I don’t know what fight he was watching, but she clearly wasn’t doing anything.”
Holm defended her strategy, noting that it wasn’t her plan but when it worked she opted to stick with it. She said Pennington’s track record indicates she can win fights with varied disciplines and approaches, so when she found she could effectively control her by holding her she adjusted her strategy.
She did, however, hear the crowd’s displeasure with a fight that almost entirely lacked in action.
“I did hear a couple, but usually the people booing aren’t the ones that actually do this for a job, so it doesn’t bother me,” said Holm, who also beat Pennington in a disputed split decision in 2015. “I don’t understand everything everybody does with their job, so I’m not going to criticize it.
“Obviously I always look back and I wish I could have done this or that.”
White said he had hoped a large Las Vegas crowd and a pay-per-view ESPN+ crowd — “killed it,” he said, describing the success of the broadcast — would see a more exciting display.
“Raquel’s tough. Raquel punches hard,” White said. “I mean, look at the fight between her and Amanda Nunes — it was a war between two tough girls. With Raquel, and I’ve said this to her a million times, she will not let her hands go. She’s got hands. She doesn’t let them go.”
Holm wouldn’t let them go, either.