The UFC will crown its first female featherweight champion Saturday at UFC 208 in Brooklyn, New York. That much is certain.
How the division will fare beyond this weekend is less clear. The 145-pound female weight class barely exists. Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie are natural bantamweights -- and both have already stated they intend to return to 135 pounds eventually.
The truth is, the UFC created a featherweight title with one woman in mind: Cris "Cyborg" Justino. The problem is, the UFC also created the title with a date in mind of Feb. 11, which Justino said she couldn't be ready for.
So, here we are with Holm versus de Randamie.
Holly Holm (10-2) vs. Germaine de Randamie (6-3), UFC women's featherweight championship
Odds as of Feb. 9: Holm -125; De Randamie +105
A new division that "has to start somewhere"
Holm is a former world boxing champion. De Randamie is a former kickboxing champion. Their combined MMA record is 16-5. So, there is plenty of merit between the two.
But in regards to this one fight -- this specific opportunity -- it mainly came down to one thing: They were both potential candidates to fight Justino.
Holm is the UFC's former bantamweight champion, but is currently riding the first losing streak of her entire combat sports career. She is big for the bantamweight division and has fought as high as 154 pounds in boxing. Prior to accepting the title fight, she was in negotiations to face Justino in a potential catchweight bout.
"I had meetings with Dana White before the 145-pound division was announced," Holm said. "I said, 'I'm open [to a 140-pound fight against Justino]. Obviously, we'll negotiate.' And she said she wasn't ready and didn't want to fight at that weight."
De Randamie, who fought as high as 145 pounds in kickboxing, had also discussed a potential Justino fight, dating back to early 2016.
"Those talks started before [my last fight in May]," de Randamie said. "They initially wanted me to fight Cris in Brazil [in May], but I wanted to fight on a card that was scheduled in my home country. But the UFC knew I'd fight Cris because I will fight anybody. As long as I am healthy, I'm ready to go."
In other words, the UFC doesn't really have a 145-pound division. It has two bantamweights who were willing to discuss a fight against Justino. Once Justino was out of the picture on Feb. 11, the promotion opted to turn the leftover pieces into a title fight main event.
Whether or not that changes, simply due to the presence of a 145-pound title for women to gun for, now becomes the question. And it's further complicated by Justino's current situation, as it was revealed she tested positive for a banned substance in December. Justino, who has claimed innocence, is facing a one-year suspension.
The UFC has made no recent announcements regarding 145-pound signings, which keeps an open floodgate of questions on the longevity of the division. For now, the most convincing statement we have to lean on actually came from Holm.
"Each division has to start somewhere," Holm said. "When they first started 135, it was a title fight with Ronda [Rousey] coming over and it was built from there. I know that right now we just started the division, but there's so many girls who want this opportunity. I guarantee you they can build this division in no time, they just have to make some phone calls. There are a lot of girls out there who are very tough and everybody's goal is to be in the UFC."
For Holm, a great chance to build a legacy not tied to Rousey
Since her stunning knockout victory over Rousey in November 2015, Holm has repeated some form of the same phrase, literally, hundreds of times.
"I don't want my career to be defined by one fight," she said.
Holm skyrocketed to fame after that victory in Melbourne, Australia, and returned to a parade of thousands of well-wishers on the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the year since, however, she has suffered back-to-back defeats to Miesha Tate and Valentina Shevchenko.
At the moment, Holm sits between two legacies. Her historical win over Rousey can never be taken from her, but the perception of it can be greatly altered.
Immediately after the Rousey win, Holm was in consideration as the greatest female combat sports athlete of all time. A win at UFC 208 would go a long way in terms of cementing that. Regardless of why this title fight was put together, it's a title fight nonetheless, and Holm has a rare chance to become a two-weight UFC champion.
A loss, on the other hand, would drop Holm's overall UFC record to 3-3.
Again, her achievements can never be taken from her and despite the recent skid, she's one of the most popular fighters in the UFC. But if her goal is to carve out a legacy that goes well beyond the Rousey knockout, UFC 208 is arguably a must-win scenario.
Holm: 10-2 record (3-2 UFC)
Holm lost past two fights after winning UFC bantamweight title from Rousey in November 2015
Holm: seven wins by knockout
De Randamie: 6-3 record (3-1 UFC)
De Randamie: two-fight win streak
De Randamie: three wins by knockout
De Randamie: Seeking to become second Dutch champion in UFC history (Bas Rutten)
The only time Holm has looked exceptional in the UFC was against Rousey, who relentlessly attacked her in a straight line with no head movement.
Other than that, it has been a struggle -- even in victory. That doesn't mean Holm is overrated necessarily, it just means she does a few, very specific things well. And when an opponent refuses to bend to perfectly fit into those strengths, what we see is a mixed martial artist who is still in the process of figuring things out.
In her most recent fight, Holm was unable to get any long-range offense going against a seasoned striker in Shevchenko -- despite a healthy size advantage. Eventually, that led to Holm blitzing forward to land strikes, which played directly into the hands of the counter-striking Shevchenko.
Even though Holm faces another Muay Thai specialist this weekend, de Randamie's approach is quite different from Shevchenko's. De Randamie's offensive is built around her right hand and knees from the clinch. She has a full arsenal of other weapons, but it's the right hand that carries the most weight. The knees serve as a game changer.
This is not an easy fight to call, regardless of where it goes. At a distance, Holm is ridiculously active. She's doesn't land at as high a clip as does de Randamie, but might outscore her based on volume alone. The clinch definitely favors de Randamie's knees and elbows, but Holm is physically strong and doesn't have to fear a takedown.
As is the often the case when Holm fights, don't expect non-stop fireworks. As active a fighter as she is, it doesn't always translate to a lot of back and forth. Expect Holm to stick and move, with volume, and focus on winning rounds. Expect de Randamie to sit down on the right hand and press the action more, frequently inviting a clinch.
Prediction: Holm via decision.