When opportunity presents itself, depending on the circumstances — it may prove difficult to balk at. And for Kevin Holland to turn down a short-notice main event slot against Marvin Vettori this weekend at UFC Vegas 23 would simply be a non-runner.
Vettori presents a leap up the rankings in the scenario Holland claims a victory, and despite the obvious improvements needed to round out his overall game off the back of his one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Derek Brunson just three weeks ago, turning down this opportunity would be incredibly difficult. On this occasion, the rewards to be gained with a win likely outweigh the risk.
I’m not a fan of quick turnarounds like this, but it’s a decision Holland has made in this situation, and with the circumstances in hand, it could prove to be quite the shrewd draft-in.
Replacing former welterweight title challenger, Darren Till who is sidelined with a broken collarbone, Holland avoided massive punishment at the hands of Brunson at UFC Vegas 22 — suffering six successful takedown attempts from the North Carolina native most notably.
The 28-year-old has massive success last year remaining active. Scoring a record-setting annum, Holland became the sole middleweight in promotional history to score five consecutive victories in a calendar year. Dispatching Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Darren Stewart, and Charlie Ontiveros, Holland eventually matched with former Strikeforce middleweight best, Jacare Souza on short notice before Christmas.
Lodging arguably one of the most innovative stoppages in the history of the UFC, Holland, from his back on less — scored a first-round knockout win over Jacare, which earned him last month’s main event showdown against the ever-present 185-pound contender, Brunson.
Often going by the moniker of ‘Trailblazer’ and ‘Big Mouth’ — the latter of which was bestowed on him by promotional president, Dana White, Holland has hinted as his usual verbal chatter come Saturday night, however, a more focused and zoned-in approach is at the forefront of his mind as well. And one thing’s for certain, against somebody of Vettori’s ilk — that’ll prove paramount.
Really emerging last year as well in tandem with Holland to a certain extent, Vettori, who is somewhat overlooked at middleweight, tackled former Cage Warriors gold holder, Jack Hermansson on short notice last December in his standout performance of the year.
Hermansson is as tricky a track to traverse as you approach the top-tier of middleweights under contract with the UFC. He had suffered a UFC Fight Night Copenhagen main event loss to Jared Cannonier snapped a four-fight skid, however, returned in spectacular fashion against former interim title challenger, Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Island 2 in July — wrapping the Kings MMA mainstay up in a nasty heel hook in just over a minute.
Sporting a new shaven look, Vettori replaced a COVID-19 stricken, Holland against Hermansson, and looked poised, collected, and extremely punishing over the course of five rounds to take a unanimous decision victory.
Landing at a clip of 49% — which included 143 total head strikes, Vettori dropped Hermansson on his way to his fourth consecutive win.
The Trento native, a former Venator FC welterweight champion has heavy-hands most certainly, but in the past, has displayed some really impressive offensive wrestling — scoring eleven successful takedowns throughout his nine-fight Octagon stint.
His most recent loss came in the form of a close split decision defeat to current division champion, Israel Adesanya back at UFC Fight Night Glendale in April of 2018 — landing an impressive two successful takedowns against the City Kickboxing standout nevertheless.
Whilst electing against utilizing his offensive wrestling against Hermansson in his last outing, he’s got good reason to shy away from that sort of engagement. The Swedish-born grappler has one of the best guillotine chokes off his back at middleweight today, notching six successful submissions.
The short-notice nature of this main event is likely to play a determining factor in my opinion. And not in regards to fitness levels or nerves, but more so the improvements — or lack thereof Holland can make in just a twenty-one-day turnaround.
And while Brunson is unlikely to attack a submission attempt, preferring to hold top control and position, Vetorri most certainly will attack offensively with choke attempts — evident with his nine successful submission victories, a whopping four coming via rear-naked choke, and a further three via guillotine. Keep watchful eye on the choke variant of the Italian come Saturday if he elects to smother Holland from top-position.
Whilst Vettori is going to find himself on the advantageous side of the power equation between these two, just naturally, again as with his matchup against Brunson, Holland is the more technical and creative striker when pitted with Vettori. I predicted Holland would eventually put enough pressure and a pace on Brunson, forcing him to wilt, however, given the knowledge now acquired off the back of his lackluster ability to return to his feet for prolonged periods, that’s not ideal against someone of Vettori’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prowess.
The intensity that Vettori brings with him not just during fight week and at the weigh-ins, but actually on fight night is something Holland may be able to capitalize on in a bid to catch him coming forward, and particularly if he shoots for a takedown in the open.
Prediction: Marvin Vettori def. Kevin Holland via decision
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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