Former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm will make her return to the Octagon for a five-round showdown opposite No. 6-ranked title contender Irene Aldana in the upcoming UFC Fight Island 4 main event, locked and loaded for this Sat. night (Oct. 3, 20120) on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Before that battle of old school vs. new gets underway, fellow 135-pound contenders Germaine De Randamie and Julianna Pena will hook ‘em up to separate contender from pretender. The main card will air LIVE on ESPN with “Prelims” on both ESPN and ESPN+.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Fight Island 4 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Holm vs. Aldana” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work …

135 lbs.: Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana

Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm

Record: 13-5 | Age: 38 | Betting line: -120
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 69” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.75 | Striking accuracy: 35%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.80 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 0.50 (27% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 76%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: Decision win over Raquel Pennington

Irene “Robles” Aldana

Record: 12-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +100
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 68” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.16 | Striking accuracy: 38%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.92 | Striking Defense: 63%
Takedown Average: 0.28 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 93%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Knockout win over Ketlen Vieira

Holly Holm went from America’s Sweetheart to Enemy of the State in just a few fights, which is not surprising when you consider how fickle the MMA fan base can be with its fallen heroes. I’m not sure why folks get so angry every time Holm scores another title shot because if we’re being honest, it’s not like she’s stealing it from a more deserving contender. Women’s MMA is still struggling to keep its divisions populated and it will take several more years before the industry catches up. In the interim, this is what we have to work with and we could do a lot worse than Holm. She doesn’t talk trash, never failed a drug test, and takes whatever fight they give her. Maybe that’s the problem? Or perhaps it’s simply impossible to meet the standard she set with her knockout of Ronda Rousey back in late 2015. I do know that her ho-hum decision wins (and losses) in the years that followed have not helped her cause and Holm remains a one-trick pony. When that one trick no longer works, things start to get ugly fairly quickly.

That opens the door for a combatant like Irene Aldana, who was poached from Invicta FC not long after Holm became queen of the bantamweights. Her record for the Shannon Knapp-led female fighting organization would serve as a blueprint for her UFC run. Aldana excels against the mid-to-lower tier of competition but struggles against rough-and-tumble veterans who know how to grind out a victory. To her credit, the Mexican-born fighter rebounded from an 0-2 start inside the Octagon to go 5-1, or 6-0 depending on how you scored her split-decision loss to Raquel Pennington. Her ability to hang tough in that bout may have demonstrated her rise above the Aldana of old, who could not overcome fighters like Tonya Evinger and Leslie Smith. Of particular note is last December’s savage knockout of Ketlen Vieira, which to date stands as the only loss of “Fenomeno’s” career. Aldana has the power and now she has the experience, two things that have the potential to give Holm serious problems.

There isn’t much to say about Holm in terms of breaking down her approach to this fight, because it’s the same approach she’s had in every fight that preceded it. Her offensive wrestling is adequate but she can’t stop a decent takedown and jiu-jitsu is almost nonexistent. You simply can’t reinvent the wheel after so many years in boxing and no matter what she trains in camp, the fight-or-flight reflexes typically force athletes back into their comfort zone. For Holm, it’s striking but she turns 39 next month and age will continue to dilute her most potent weapons like speed and agility. Aldana is no spring chicken at 32 and will have to figure out how to deal with Holm’s footwork. In addition, she can’t fall into the wall-and-stall trap that stymied fighters like Pennington and Megan Anderson. The most troubling pre-fight stat for me is Strikes Absorbed Per Minute, which stands at 5.92 for Aldana. If Holm can find a home (har har) for her jab this is going to be a shooting gallery. I have to imagine the Aldana camp knows this and plans to put the turtle on her back, so to speak. A first-round finish would not surprise me.

Prediction: Aldana def. Holm by submission

135 lbs.: Germaine De Randamie vs. Julianna Pena

Germaine “Iron Lady” De Randamie

Record: 9-4 | Age: 36 | Betting line: -135
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.72 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.15 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 0 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 71%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Decision loss to Amanda Nunes

Julianna “Venezuelan Vixen” Pena

Record: 9-3 | Age: 31 | Betting line: +115
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 69” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.96 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.51 | Striking Defense: 47%
Takedown Average: 2.60 (52% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 28%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Decision win over Nicco Montano

Germaine De Randamie started with Strikeforce back in early 2011 and migrated over to UFC in summer 2013. In the 11 fights she’s racked up between both promotion’s over the last nine years, the “Iron lady” has attempted a whopping two takedowns. Like we mentioned with Holm above, De Randamie did not transition to MMA because she was a mixed martial artist, but rather to keep her career moving forward in the absence of big fights (and big money) in her native discipline. Regardless of her impeccable career in kickboxing in which she registered a staggering 30 knockouts, M-1 Challenge and RINGS (as well as local sponsors) aren’t going to be shelling out this kind of coin for victories in the Netherlands. You can make the argument that Da Randamie ducked Cris Cyborg at featherweight but that doesn’t change the fact that Amanda Nunes is the only fighter in UFC to rust the “Iron Lady.”

Speaking of rust, it’s hard to know what version of Julianna Pena we’ll see on fight night. The “Venezuelan Vixen” returned from the sidelines — and the role of mom — to push around Nicco Montano last summer, though it’s worth mentioning that Montano is a natural flyweight who sucks at cutting weight. Granted, Valentina Shevchenko is also a flyweight and managed to submit Pena, but at the time very few of us understood that “Bullet” was competing on a level not often seen in women’s MMA. Outside of that misstep, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 champ remains perfect in five trips to the Octagon and holds a dominant win over former title contender Cat Zingano, back when “Alpha” was still considered the cream of the crop. Pena is a ferocious attacker with an unrelenting pace and dogged perseverance.

That said, Pena does not have the power (or precision) of someone like Nunes which puts her in mortal danger every minute this fight remains on the feet. Most wrestlers or ground fighters like to set up the shot with a few flicks of the jab or a couple of inside leg kicks to upset their opponent’s balance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pena just cut out the middleman and go right for Da Randamie’s legs. And why not? Nunes scored eight of 11 takedowns in their UFC 245 title fight to neutralize any and all offense, so it’s a proven formula. I know that Pena is going to be tagged at some point over the course of their 15-minute affair and that is certainly cause for alarm, but the “Venezuelan Vixen” has an iron chin and doesn’t hit the panic button every time the storm blows in. Assuming her gas tank holds up, Da Randamie is going to be in for a very long (and tedious) night.

Prediction: Pena def. Da Randamie by decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Fight Island 4 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 4 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10:30 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 4 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC Fight Island 4 fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.



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