Having tied the record for most UFC victories in a calendar year in 2020, Kevin Holland will look to keep on climbing the middleweight ladder when he stares down Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22 on Saturday.
The man fondly referred to as “Big Mouth” has talked his way into another upgrade fight against Brunson following his first-round knockout win over Jacare Souza in December. Following this week’s news that Paulo Costa has withdrawn from his April 17 bout against former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, fans can rest easy knowing Holland has all the motivation necessary to collect his sixth successive win.
The 28-year-old is one of the fastest-moving stars currently in the UFC and, going up against a 37-year-old war horse like Brunson, it’s honestly surprising his odds are as high as -170 with William Hill NJ. Holland would have looked worthy of invest even at around -220, giving even more reason to jump on the favorite ahead of Brunson, who’s a +145 underdog:
Fight night is slowly approaching. @SkilledViolence @hayabusacombat @travislutter pic.twitter.com/k7slng7Zg3— Kevin Holland (@Trailblaze2top) March 14, 2021
That’s not to suggest Brunson should be counted out, especially considering he’s riding a three-win streak, his longest unbeaten run since 2015-16. The veteran stubbed out the hype surrounding Edmen Shahbazyan when they met last August, but Holland is a different beast altogether:
UFC Vegas 22 Info
Date: Saturday, March 20
Venue: UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada
Viewing Info: ESPN, ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass
Prelims: 6 p.m. ET (11 p.m. GMT)
Main Card: 9 p.m. ET (2 a.m. GMT)
UFC Vegas 22 Prediction: Holland via KO/TKO
Unlike Shahbazyan, Big Mouth is a nasty prospect in all areas with few weak points of note, bringing a work-rate that few opponents to date have been able to match.
Despite the fact he ended up beating “The Golden Boy” via TKO, it’s these kind of matchups where Brunson tends to rely on his wrestling as a means to wear out his opponent. It’s hard to envision that becoming the case against a tireless, flexible foe like Holland, who’s a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and proved with his grounded KO of Jacare that he’s more than happy to mix it on the floor.
MMA By The Numbers broke down the stats for this fight, which show Holland lands almost twice a much as Brunson while absorbing roughly the same amount of strikes per minute:
Fight week! Here's a look at how the advanced stats stack up for this week's main event:— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) March 15, 2021
Derek Brunson vs Kevin Holland#UFCVegas22 pic.twitter.com/a2DMrd3a0C
Speaking less technically of how this fight is likely to go, there’s simply too much to like about Holland facing an older (and likely less hungry) opponent who tends to get hit as much as Brunson. Three of the latter’s last four losses have come via KO or TKO, and two of those were first-round knockouts in main-event circumstances.
Whittaker, Jacare and incumbent middleweight champion Israel Adesanya each showed their more technical prowess with first-round stoppages of Brunson in recent years. While Holland may not finish the work that quickly, there are few realistic avenues where he doesn’t end his first main event before the full 25 minutes are up.
Brunson vs. Holland Moneyline Odds
- Derek Brunson: +145
- Kevin Holland: -170
Odds via William Hill NJ