Saturday night’s UFC main event in Las Vegas features an intriguing matchup between the No. 7 middleweight contender, Derek Brunson (+145 at BetMGM), and No. 10 Kevin Holland (-175).
Holland arrives with an impressive body of work and brimming with confidence. After making a mistake and getting submitted against Brendan Allen in 2019 Holland has gone on to win five straight bouts. Decorated with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a second-degree black belt in kung fu. Holland is a devastating striker who has finished four of those last five opponents via KO or TKO, which is not to overlook his sound grappling ability.
Holland is a couple of inches taller than Brunson, he’s nine years younger and he’ll own a four-inch reach advantage in this fight. Surely it is Hollands’s plan to keep this confrontation standing and use his arm and leg strikes to batter Brunson.
Brunson, 37, comes in as the undervalued combatant. He has faced a far superior level of competition than has Holland but he’ll need to deal with Holland’s speed, skill and willingness to take risks. Brunson’s himself decorated with a brown belt in Brazlian jiu-jitsu, which supplements his Division II NCAA wrestling pedigree.
Since setbacks to Jacare Souza and current champion Israel Adesanya in 2019, Brunson has won three straight bouts against Ian Heinisch, Elias Theodorou and Edmund Shabazyan. The Shabazyan win was an epic display a young, game fighter with momentum waltzing into an absolute whuppin’. Will Brunson yet again award another young hyped athlete his Ph.D in MMA?
I see Holland using speed, quickness, and legwork to keep Brunson on the outside and away from him. Fluid movement is mandatory in allowing Holland to blister the incoming Brunson with precision striking, and Holland has the ability to finish in one shot or from a barrage.
Brunson must persevere and pressure through the opening rounds when Holland’s flash and fluidity are keenest. He must work to eliminate the dancer’s space and maul Holland into the fence then onto the floor in an attempt to make this fight ugly, dirty and most importantly lengthy.
Holland’s movement, striking and strength are muted on the mat while Brunson’s ground and pound may dominate while simultaneously usurping the energy from the grounded athlete. This tactic does come at some risk for Brunson, but I do see it as logical for he has no business standing with Mr. Holland.
Brunson’s change of fight camps to Sanford MMA some three fights back has reinvigorated the fighter with a renewed focus, and for this reason, I believe he is a solid choice in an underdog position.
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