At UFC Vegas 23, Marvin Vettori took on Kevin Holland in a headlining middleweight clash. Vettori manhandled Holland throughout their five-round bout, scoring eleven takedowns, which is a new middleweight record. Vettori earned the unanimous decision nod for his fifth straight victory (50-44, 50-44, 50-44). Kevin Holland has suffered two straight losses, so the looming question is: Is Kevin Holland elite?
Is Kevin Holland Elite?
The Start of Kevin Holland’s UFC Career
“Trail Blazer” Holland made his UFC debut in 2018 after picking up a victory over Will Santiago Jr. at Dana White’s Contender Series. Through his first five UFC fights, the young Holland went 3-2, picking up victories over John Phillips, Gerald Meerschaert, and Alessio Di Chirico.
The Rise of Kevin Holland
Kevin Holland started his 2020 bid with a bang after earning a TKO victory over a tough Anthony Hernandez. Less than three months later, Holland returned to action and knocked off rising middleweight star, Joaquin Buckley, a feat that earned him a Performance of the Night accolade.
The Kung Fu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt returned to the UFC cage on September 19, where he earned a razor close split decision victory over Darren “The Dentist” Stewart. With momentum on his side, Holland fought yet again on October 31, where he TKO’d Charlie Ontiveros, earning another Performance of the Night.
Kevin Holland: The Superstar
On a four-fight winning streak, Kevin Holland entered the cage for his biggest test to date in that of Jacare Souza at UFC 256. Holland finished Souza in the first round with one of the wildest knockouts of 2020. This victory soared Holland’s stock, making him a star of the UFC cage.
Kevin Holland vs. Derek Brunson
Riding the waves of his success, Kevin Holland jumped into the deep end of the middleweight division when he took on a dangerous Derek Brunson on March 20, 2021. The hype behind this fight was legitimate as Holland, a young rising star, looked to knock off a long-time staple of the 185-lb. division.
The fight itself was far from ‘fan-friendly’, as Holland did little in that of actually fighting and more played to his character of a trash talker. Brunson took advantage of this and earned rounds by outworking Holland on the mat. In the moments Holland did engage Brunson, he did well; however, those moments were too far and between to sway the momentum in his favor.
The middleweight main event went to the judges’ scorecards, where Brunson earned an easy unanimous decision victory.
Holland Returns Against Vettori
Darren Till was set to face Marvin Vettori on April 10, 2021, but “The Gorilla” pulled out of the fight due to an injury. Holland stepped in on short notice to take on Vettori and perhaps get his name into the top of the division.
The bout reflected Brunson vs. Holland, except Holland dropped the trash talking and was more serious in this outing. Unfortunately for Holland, his seriousness could not thwart the constant pressure of Vettori. This pressure ultimately led to a wrestling showcase in which Holland was on the receiving end.
Some fans may not have appreciated Vettori’s fight tactics, but mixed martial arts is just that, tactics. In his bouts against Brunson and Vettori, an exceptionally large hole in Holland’s game was exposed—his wrestling defense.
Holland has come up short in the biggest moments of his career yet. Clearly, he does not quite belong to the elite of the 185-lb. division, but “The Trailblazer” is still young and his talent is unquestionable. The Brunson and Vettori bouts should act as lessons for Holland; ones in which he will learn and grow into an elite middleweight contender. There is no doubt that Kevin Holland will return.