MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Vegas 22, a five-round middleweight bout between Kevin Holland and Derek Brunson. The event takes place on Saturday, March 20 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Kevin Holland (-160)
Holland (21-5) is the No. 10 ranked middleweight in the UFC. The 28-year-old American is 8-2 overall in the UFC with notable wins over Ronaldo Souza, Darren Stewart, Gerald Meerschaert, Joaquin Buckley, and Anthony Hernandez, plus losses to Thiago Santos and Brendan Allen. Holland has been a professional MMA fighter since 2015 and fought for promotions such as Bellator, LFA, and Dana White’s Contender Series before getting a shot in the big show. Since joining the UFC, Holland has turned into a fan favorite for his finishing abilities on the feet and on the ground, not to mention his trash-talking and colorful personality. Holland has KO power as we’ve seen against Souza and Buckley and submissions as we saw against John Phillips. He’s a long middleweight and was blessed with a long reach, he has a good chin, and he has good cardio. The biggest concern with Holland is his takedown defense. He’s easy to take to the ground at times, which has given him some problems in previous fights. He’s managed to overcome those takedowns and win the majority of his fights, but it’s still something to keep in mind when taking on a wrestler just like Brunson. Overall, though, Holland is a very dynamic fighter and he’s the favorite to win this main event.
Derek Brunson (+140)
Brunson (21-7) is the No. 7 ranked middleweight in the UFC. The 37-year-old American is 12-5 overall in the UFC with notable wins over Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch, Elias Theodorou, Lyoto Machida, Uriah Hall, Ed Herman, and Sam Alvey. He also has losses in the UFC to Ronaldo Souza, Robert Whittaker, Israel Adesanya, Yoel Romero, and Anderson Silva. Brunson is an elite wrestler in the middleweight division who has used his grappling to get to the top-10 of the weight class. In addition, he also packs a ton of power in his hands and has scored a number of highlight-reel knockouts in the UFC. Lately, he’s chosen to go back to his roots and wrestle, which has helped him pick up a couple of upset wins, including a TKO over Shahbazyan, handing the prospect his first career loss as Brunson showed off his vicious ground and pound in that fight. Offensively, Brunson is extremely dangerous. The problem is his striking defense, as he gets hit far too often, and he has been KOed five times in his career. Going up against someone like Holland who has KO power, that’s a worry. That being said, he does have a clear path to victory here with his wrestling. The biggest hurdle, though, could be the five rounds, which would be a first for Brunson if he gets there.
Fight Breakdown: This is a pretty tricky fight to predict, but I think the key to predicting it is the five rounds. If this was a three-round fight, I would probably favor Brunson to win a decision. But in a five-round fight, I have more faith that Holland’s cardio will hold up in the last couple of rounds where I think he can possibly get a finish over a tired Brunson. I do expect Brunson to have some success early on with his wrestling and possibly win the first few rounds, but Holland is going to be hard to put away, and eventually, I see him using his cardio as a weapon and scoring a late stoppage. Holland seems like a winner to me and I think he will find a way to win this fight.
Prediction: Kevin Holland