Half of UFC Vegas 22 main event Kevin Holland will swiftly return to action against rising warlock Marvin Vettori this Saturday (April 10, 2021) at UFC Vegas 23 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Well … this is one way to guarantee two paychecks!
Just three weeks after his disappointing loss to Derek Brunson, “Big Mouth” will return, and it’s interesting to see what (if anything) changes in his performance. Will Holland continue to howl after the backlash? More importantly, can you make the necessary technical adjustments to avoid the takedown? Brunson spent a full 25 minutes showing how to call off Holland’s game, and now it’s up to “Trailblazer” to prevent a repeat.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
A second degree black belt in Kung Fu, Holland is a very slim middleweight with real power in his hands.
When it comes to lanky kickboxers, there is a general assumption that they would rather shoot combinations of one to two from the outside. Holland is certainly good at hitting his foe with a long jab-cross (.GIF) combination, but he’s generally much more willing to step up and commit to power shots than most. Holland will take a step toward big shots, throwing hooks and flies, sacrificing defense from distance for a chance to hurt his opponent.
Holland’s willingness to get into the pocket is also likely due to his skill at the clinch. On several occasions in the Octagon, the Netherlands have done extensive damage to their knees and elbows. Against Anthony Hernandez, for example, Holland did a great job of hitting his foe with an elbow, taking an angle, and then throwing a knee to end the fight in the midsection (GIF).
Holland’s preference for really stepping up his punches really cost him against Brunson. At various points in the first half of the fight, Holland managed to land with clean right hands, blows that stunned the fighter. As he kept going, Holland crashed forward, stifling his own offense. Brunson would get hooked, and that’s a strong man! Even if the takedown didn’t come immediately, Brunson used the clinch to stop his enemy’s momentum.
It happened repeatedly. If Holland had stayed behind and chosen his shots better, he could have scored the end.
Close-up comfort aside, Holland likes to fight from range, and he has a number of tricks there. His performance in front of Joaquin Buckley was probably the most dedicated surprising rank performance in Holland. In that fight, Holland made great use of his 81-inch reach against the much shorter man, doubling the jab and sending plenty of one-two combinations down the middle. Buckley is actually pretty good at closing the distance with combinations (he’s used to that height / reach disadvantage), but Holland still timed him repeatedly with hit counters, leaning back to make his enemy miss before throwing his right hand. .
Holland did some weird stuff too, like jumping right karate-style.
“Trailblazer” definitely has some interesting wrinkles in its kicking game, too. His most effective kicks are the basic round kick, and his most common target is the lead leg. Once Holland lands his low kick, he will begin to feint with his hips, helping him prepare for the rest of his offense.
Holland will also mix it up with front kicks, another effective weapon against his mostly shorter opponents (.GIF). More uniquely, Holland likes to attack with the side kick to the knee. Generally, you will throw this from the opposite position of your opponent, moving more sideways before trying to get your foot into the ring and hyperextend the knee.
Holland likes to use the threat of the kick to gain distance with his punches. He usually steps forward with his lead leg, giving the initial appearance of a snap or low kick. Instead, Holland is using the move to close the gap a bit and take a step toward the punches, usually the jab-cross or hook-cross.
Every now and then Holland will do the same with his back knee, lifting it up to show a kick and then entering Southpaw. This serves a similar purpose with the added benefit of a somewhat hidden stance shift, allowing Holland to fire a few punches or a left kick from his new stance.
Defensively, Holland occasionally cracks by taking a step deeper than necessary on his punches. Also, you may be overconfident when slipping and defending with your back to the fence. His comfort there has allowed him to score with some deft uppercut counterattacks, but he has also made some real shots from that position.
Holland isn’t a terrible fighter, but we can’t say his takedown defense is particularly good either.
Offensively, Holland hasn’t struggled as much in his recent winning streak, and I’d rather focus on those fights, because modern-day Holland is so much better than the man who allowed six knockdowns against Gerald Meerschaert. Facing short-term replacement Charlie Ontiveros, Holland showed his strength in the clinch. Since the body block, Holland struck his enemy against the mat twice, and the second knockdown wounded his enemy to the point where he was unable to continue.
Defensively, Holland’s aggressive punching and build mean he’s there to play on two legs out in the open. Fortunately, Holland is 1.) dangerous from the back and 2.) quick to slide his butt towards the fence. Once he’s close to the cage, Holland is generally good at walking up the wall to stand up.
Unfortunately, this is where Holland’s fight with Brunson really fell apart. Brunson repeatedly landed his double leg outdoors, and Holland was too willing to play guard. He spent many minutes holding on, while before that game, Holland was quick to slide into the cage.
On the bright side, the Netherlands are pretty good at defending throughout the cage overall. Darren Stewart is not an extremely technical fighter, but he is a very strong middleweight who knows how to hit a double throughout the cage. In their fight, the Netherlands denied many of their attempts despite good starting position and posture.
In some cases, Holland was able to pull the hooks to move the fight into the clinch. Other times, Holland worked to break the posture by hitting his head against the mat. In one exchange, Holland reached over his enemy’s back and grabbed onto his ankle, twisting his opponent’s knee and making it difficult for Stewart to advance or lift.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
A jiu-jitsu black belt with Travis Lutter, Holland’s grip is similarly focused toward aggression as the rest of his game.
First of all, we have to talk about the Ronaldo Souza tie. When you first read the result of Holland stopping “Jacare” from his back, one would assume it was just a strange fluke from “Trailblazer”. However, when rewatching the fight, it becomes very clear that Holland intended to attack from behind. From the first early takedown, Holland was striking out, using a triangle choke to mark elbows and threatening guillotines.
Aggressively trying to fight an alligator tends not to pay off, but it did for “Trailblazer.” When Souza completed a second takedown, he tried to pause for a moment and rest after all the chaos. Holland didn’t let go, swinging his leg in a pendulum motion from his back to finish with a big punch. He caught Souza off guard, shook him off, and the rest is history (GIF).
As for some more fundamental jiu-jitsu techniques, the Netherlands is very fond of kimura. He’s used it to reverse takedowns and score sweeps from his back. The triangle is likely to be the other destination for the Netherlands, as it will immediately open the guard and seek to reach a hand in the middle.
Of course, there is a reason why other fighters are less aggressive from the back than Holland. Facing Brendan Allen, “Trailblazer” ran into a fellow black belt who didn’t bother with all his wild offense in last position. Allen stood his ground on the defensive and passed the guard, and suddenly Holland was no longer in a position to do much more than defend. Over time, Holland’s preference for submission over position cost him, as Allen took his back and strangled him during a fight.
The Netherlands have many dangerous tools, but much of their recent winning streak could be attributed to their confidence. If that was affected in his loss to Brunson, that’s a major issue for his style. On the contrary, if the Netherlands have learned to manage their distance and avoid the last position, then perhaps that defeat can be a learning experience and a step in the right direction.
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Andrew Richardson, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is a professional wrestler who trains for Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talents, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.