- Date & Location: Saturday, March 20 @ UFC Apex in Las Vegas
- Odds: Derek Brunson (+145) vs. Kevin Holland (-175) via Bovada
- Prediction: Holland by KO/TKO
Kevin Holland was 3-2 in the UFC heading into 2020. In his final fight of 2019, Brendan Allen submitted Holland. Seven months after that loss, Holland picked up a first-round TKO win over Anthony Hernandez. By the end of the year, Holland tied the record for most wins in a calendar year with five. In his last fight of 2020, Holland knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza with strikes from his back. Entering UFC Vegas 22, Holland is the No. 10 ranked fighter in the official UFC middleweight rankings.
Brunson, who has been with the UFC since 2012, which is three years before Holland turned pro, is on a three-fight winning streak. In his most recent outing, Brunson faced another fighter with a lot of hype behind him, Edmen Shabazyan. That contest ended with Brunson winning via third-round TKO. Brunson’s most recent loss was a 2018 decision setback to current UFC middleweight champ, Israel Adesanya. Brunson is the No. 7 ranked fighter in the UFC’s 185-pound division.
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BRUNSON vs. HOLLAND PREDICTION & PICK
This fight is the test Kevin Holland has been waiting for. Yes, he looked spectacular during his run in 2020 and he deserved all the accolades he received for those performances, but this is the fight where we will find out if Holland will be in the running for a title in the near future.
Here are the fighters who Brunson has lost to during his UFC career. Yoel Romero (two-time title challenger), Robert Whittaker (middleweight champion), Anderson Silva (middleweight champion), Souza, and Israel Adesanya (middleweight champion). In short, if a fighter gets past Brunson, that fighter is really, really good.
Kevin Holland is really, really good and I think he will get past Derek Brunson.
Prediction: Kevin Holland -185 via BetOnline
BETTING VALUE WITH HOLLAND
I am picking Holland, but that doesn’t mean the pick is without risk. Yes, Holland is the favorite and yes, Holland is a talented fighter who has looked like a future champion, but Brunson is not a fighter to take lightly. True, he is nine-year-older than Holland and has more miles on him, but fighters who look past Brunson usually end up on the wrong side of the win-loss column. He is a top-level gatekeeper. A fighter who hands Brunson a loss is someone who could one day become a champion.
I think Holland will score a knockout here, but as I noted above, that’s a high-risk proposition. A bet to win is a little less risky, but will likely cause at least a bit of a sweat, especially since this is Holland’s first main event bout.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Holland is the younger, taller, and longer fighter. He also lands more strikes per minute and absorbs few strikes per minute. However, he has not fought a competitor as strong as Brunson. Brunson has fought the best there is at middleweight and he has proven to be a tough out. Brunson might not have the biggest name in the UFC middleweight division, but a win over him carries weight.
What worries me a bit about Holland is this is his first UFC main event and if his confidence is verging on overconfidence. If he gets a lead in this fight, he cannot take his foot off the gas or let his defense slip. Brunson is a veteran fighter who can capitalize on one error or one moment of distraction. Holland doesn’t need to fight a “perfect” fight here, but he can’t showboat or take his eye off the prize.
Brunson is the better wrestler, but Holland won’t be afraid to throw out some submission attempts if he ends up on the mat.
Another concern is the pace of this fight. I think Holland will start out faster than Brunson and if this fight goes long, that could give Brunson an advantage, but if Holland is far ahead by the time that happens, it could be too late for Brunson to take over.
BRUNSON vs. HOLLAND FIGHT STATS
|Derek Brunson||Category||Kevin Holland|
|3.77||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.74|
|2.95||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||2.77|
|3.02||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.19|
|0.40||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.8|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Kevin Holland was “Fighter of the Year” in 2020 for many pundits. This is the bout that will determine if he continues an upward trajectory or if he stalls and possibly turns into a fighter who had one brief run. I don’t think Holland will be satisfied with that, especially since UFC president Dana White did not give him a contract after his appearance on the Contender Series. Holland has a chip on his shoulder and he wants to prove to the man who called him “big mouth” that he is a talented fighter.
Brunson is a top-level gatekeeper. He might not get a title shot of his own, but he can keep others from breaking into the top half of the middleweight rankings. This contest will determine if he still has what it takes to hold on to his spot in the rankings.
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