Holly Holm became an overnight sensation in the MMA world when she dismantled the original Bantamweight queen, Ronda Rousey, via lateral movement, sharp pivots, and intercepting check hooks. The tables had turned on Saturday when Valentina Shevchenko used a tighter, more technically sound variant of that game to pick Holm apart over five rounds. Many questioned the matchmaking behind this fight, citing stylistic tendencies between the fighters that pointed to a slow-paced leg kick fest. Indeed it did seem a potentially dull affair - not because it's the matchup of two counter strikers that many thought, but because Shevchenko does the vast majority of her work on the counter and Holm likes to spend the vast majority of her time far outside her opponent's striking range. Holm was always going to expose herself to Shevchenko's counters with her shifting punch combinations, but it was a question of how often she'd feel the need to engage. Unfortunately for Holm, Shevchenko's skill on the counter all but negated her volume and forced her to lead more often than she wanted, which only served to further expose her to the counters. It was apparent from the beginning of the fight that Holm was having great difficulty finding her range. Holm has had much success with her liner kicks, but she's always been more of a willing kicker than a technically sound one. She has a habit of telegraphing her teeps, side kicks, and oblique kicks, but she's never fought someone that possess a masterful control of distance and the ability to make her pay for them like Shevchenko Spoiler Shevchenko camped out just outside Holm's kicking range and baited the linear kicks. When Holm leaped in, signalling the side kick, or swung her arms, giving away the teep, Shevchenko would slide back just far enough to make it miss and counter with a kick of her own. Quickly Holm's distance-maintaining kicks became distance-closing kicks when she found herself unable to trouble Shevchenko on the outside, which lead her right into the check hooks. Holm's rather square stance presents a problem for her sidekick. In order to throw it properly, the heel of the planting leg must be turned toward the opponent. For someone like Steven Thompson who fights out of a bladed stance, that's easy to achieve with a barely-noticeable pivot, but Holm's stance requires a larger adjustment. She sets her side kick up by hopping the rear leg up and turning it as she lifts her lead leg to kick. This is usually fine, as she typically hides it behind her punches and uses it to emphasize the distance she's already created with her hands. Against Valentina, however, Holm was unable to push her back with the combinations and had to rely on the sidekick to close distance, where her setup is noticeably slow and labored. Spoiler Shevchenko deflects the first side kick while sliding out of range. Holm sets the next one up with a cross-step and Shevchenko has already lifted her leg to check before Holm's kicking leg lifts off the mat. Shevchenko finishes the exchange with a leg kick from a dominant angle. Spoiler Holm steps forward to setup an oblique kick and Shevchenko times her forward step, stepping in at an angle toward the kick to jam it and open a clear path to Holm's head. Spoiler This is a gorgeous counter, and exactly what you want to see from a fighter going up against an opponent known for their linear kicks. Holm tries to time Shevchenko's forward step with an oblique kick, but the kick travels in a straight line and Shevchenko's diagonal step bypasses that line. Shevchenko gives it a nudge with her hand to further deflect the leg and pivots to a dominant angle with a leg kick. Future opponents of Jon Jones would be wise to take note of this example that shows lateral movement can be used just as effectively on the front foot as on the back foot. Spoiler This sequence sums up the dynamic of the kicking battle. Holm enters with a relatively slow switch kick that Shevchenko easily reads and avoids. They both step back into range, Holm continuing to step at a consistent rhythm, while Shevchenko steps forward and changes up her rhythm, hopping into a kick on a half-beat. Holm is a solid kicker, but she has a lot of holes in that part of her game and Shevchenko's proficiency in setting up, landing, and dealing with kicks is on another level.