UFC middleweight Kevin Holland broke out in 2020 and has the chance to break out again in 2021 – if that’s even possible.
Holland (21-5) will host his first UFC event on Saturday when he competes Derek Brunson (21-7) at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. The main card will air on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET, with the preliminary rounds on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. All fights are too available on ESPN +.
For anyone who somehow missed the outbreak of Holland, it won’t be long to catch up on the roll call. The 28 year old is similar to Khamzat Chimaev, another highlight from 2020 that he really wants to fight every weekend. Last year, Holland became the only middleweight division in UFC history to win 5-0 in a calendar year.
His style is a form of chaos that often borders on recklessness. His nickname is “Trailblazer”, but he is commonly known as “Big Mouth” – a nickname given to him by UFC President Dana White, who initially refused to sign it because he spoke also a lot of.
Holland is an example of how quickly things can happen in the sport if you are willing to fight often and talk a little rubbish on your way up. A year ago, few would have thought that Holland would headline a UFC event against a top 10 opponent in 2021.
And the $ 1 million question asked on Saturday is familiar to any fast-growing prospect: is he ready for this?
If not, it will show against 37-year-old Brunson. As a 10-year veteran of the sport, Brunson seeks to rise above the gatekeeper status that the UFC has clearly assigned him lately. None of his last three opponents were rated, and the last – 23 years old Edmen Shahbazyan – was seen as a potential phenomenon until Brunson posted it in the third round via TKO in August.
This weekend will either spawn an eye-catching potential star for the UFC in Holland who could next take on a top 5 opponent, or a reimagined veteran who could finally step into the cover picture on his 18th UFC appearance. Every possible outcome is worth considering.
By the numbers
3: UFC fighters who went 5-0 or better undefeated in one place. Georges St-Pierre was 7-0 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Matt Hughes was 6-0 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and Chuck Liddell was 5-0 at Mandalay Bay. A Holland win would put him 5-0 at UFC Apex and allow him to enter the UFC Hall of Famers. All of these facilities are located in Las Vegas.
0.93: Percentage of total UFC fight time Brunson spent in the lowest position on screen. That is the lowest of the active middleweights and the second lowest of all time in the division behind Riki Fukuda0.22%.
12: Middleweight victories in the UFC from Brunson. A win on Saturday would bind him Brad Tavares for most among active 185 pounders.
5: Successive wins for Holland as a UFC middleweight. A win this weekend would make him the seventh fighter in division history to win six straight. During the winning streak, he has three finishes in the first round.
60.5: Percentage of Holland’s significant strike attempts that land, giving it the best accuracy in UFC middleweight history and the sixth best in total UFC history (at least five fights and 350 tries).
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five against five
Derek Brunson’s recent results
Victory: Edmen Shahbazyan (TKO3, August 1, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Ian Heinisch (UD, August 17, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Elias Theodorou (UD, May 4, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Israel Adesanya (TKO1, November 3, 2018)
Loss: Jacare Souza (TKO1, January 27, 2018)
Kevin Holland’s recent results
Victory: Jacare Souza (KO1, December 12, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Charlie Ontiveros (TKO1, October 31, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Darren Stewart (SD, September 19, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Joaquin Buckley (TKO3, August 8, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Anthony Hernandez (TKO1, May 16, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
And the winner is …
“Brunson has shown that he can face adversity and come back and win,” said Marc Montoya, head coach at Factory X in Colorado. “He’s also shown that sometimes it’s not that great for him to face this fast stroke style. Holland is pretty confident and why shouldn’t he be? He has shown that he can be on the ground and on his feet feels pretty comfortable. I think Holland is a tough matchup for Brunson stylistically. You have a long, quick and precise striker in Holland and you have Brunson, a vet who was around. “Look at you, like Montoya and other experts break down the main event.
How to watch the fights
Don’t have ESPN or ESPN2? Get instant access.
Watch the fighting on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, Get it here.
There are also FightCenter, Here you can find live updates for every UFC card.
Saturday’s battle card
ESPN / ESPN Deportes / ESPN +, 10 p.m. ET
Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland | medium weight
Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell | Light
Cheyanne is buying vs. Montserrat Ruiz | Straw weight
Adrian Yanez vs. Gustavo Lopez | Men bantamweight
Song kenan vs. Max Griffin | Welterweight
Tai Tuivasa vs. Harry Hunsucker | Heavyweight
ESPN2 / ESPN +, 7:30 p.m. ET
Marion Reneau vs. Macy Chiasson | Women bantamweight
Leonardo Santos vs. Grant Dawson | Light
Trevin Giles vs. Roman Dolidze | medium weight
Montel Jackson vs. Jesse Strader | Men bantamweight
JP is buying vs. Bruno Silva | Flyweight of the men
Five More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. JP and Cheyanne is buying are the newest UFC couple. Both appeared on Dana White’s Contender series and will make their UFC debut on Saturday. After that, they will be the second pair to fight on the same map Mark and Montana de la Rosa Mark lost and Montana won, allowing JP and Cheyanne to be the first pair to both win on the same card.
2. Gregor Gillespie poses a clear wrestling threat Brad Riddell in their co-main event. Gillespie has the third highest cutout average in UFC history (7.02 per 15 minutes), the highest percentage of control time in lightweight history (75.8%) and both the highest percentage of time in the top position (53.9%) ) as well as the shortest amount of the lower position position time (8 seconds) in the division history.
3. Trevin Giles was slated to fight the headliner of this map, Kevin Holland, in August, but Giles passed out backstage and the fight was stopped. Giles, who competes undefeated Roman Dolidze has the third highest hit accuracy among the active middleweights (54%) and the second lowest hit absorption rate (1.98 per minute) on the undercard.
4th Montel Jacksonwho takes over Jesse Strader in a bantamweight prelim has the highest punch accuracy in division history (59.6%) and the best punch absorption rate (1.28 per minute). Jackson also landed 18 out of 24 shutdown attempts, the highest success rate ever for a UFC 135 pounder.
5. Leonardo Santos will be looking for his seventh straight lightweight win when battling the underdog Grant Dawson on the preliminary rounds. Santos’ six straight wins represent the third longest active streak at £ 155. Dawson has since defeated each of his four UFC opponents at least once and has a UFC cut-off ratio of 13 to 1.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.