Right when you think the Kevin Holland hype-train has been derailed, the loudmouth finds a way to interject himself into middle of everything once again. Love him or hate him, one has to admit that his ability make himself relevant is impressive. When Darren Till pulled up lame for his main event contest with Marvin Vettori, the UFC was desperate for a decent name to step in on short notice. Given Kelvin Gastelum had already stepped in to save a different card a week after UFC on ABC 2, Holland was about the only middleweight with name value available to step in. So even though Holland is coming off a disappointing outing against Derek Brunson, he’s right back where he wants to be: the center of attention.
Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland, Middleweight
Even though Vettori is the higher ranked between himself and Holland due to his stronger track record, it feels like the Italian is the B-side to this contest. That’s the brand that Holland has been able to build up for himself by proving himself willing to take a fight at any time, any place, anywhere. After all, this will be his seventh contest within a calendar year, not to mention his second five-round main event in a row, coming just three weeks within one another.
It’s not like Holland shows up, does some jaw jacking, and takes an L. He did win all five of his 2020 appearances after all. At 6’3” with an 81” reach, he’s got a unique frame that he’s gotten a pretty good handle as how to use it. Despite his lankiness, Holland possesses wiry strength that has allowed him to be effective against the cage in the clinch. His wrestling is still a work in progress, but he’s a good scrambler and difficult to catch. Unfortunately, he has so much confidence in his abilities on the ground that he’s too willing to accept the bottom position and look for subs as opposed to getting back to his feet. Plus, his Holland’s striking has rounded into his greatest strength, utilizing his length to create an unorthodox style that’s difficult to prepare for.
Vettori is a far more conventional fighter, but that’s not a bad thing. An underrated athlete who does a lot of the small things fighters tend to overlook – such as getting tactical reads and checking kicks – in addition to a hell of a deep gas tank. He is a bit one-dimensional in his attack – very few low kicks and takedown attempts are rare – but he’s an aggressive puncher who alternates between leading the dance and countering effortlessly, though there’s no doubt he’d rather be the aggressor. Though he’s known as a bit of a hot head, Vettori continually shows a high fight IQ, making minor adjustments and attacking his opposition where they are weak. Given Holland was taken down time and again by Derek Brunson, don’t be surprised to see Vettori’s underrated wrestling in this contest.
Holland has been trying to get into Vettori’s head with his jibber jabber, even getting a hand from the man he replaced, Till. I don’t think it’ll phase Vettori’s performance, even if it does get under Vettori’s skin. Both men are extremely durable with some of the best gas tanks in the division, so there’s a good chance this could be the FOTN. However, Vettori’s consistency is too much to bet against. It would be foolish to call Vettori a defensive savant, but he’s hard to overwhelm in any one area and I don’t see Holland taking him down. I have a hard time seeing Holland pulling this one off. Vettori via decision
Arnold Allen vs. Sodiq Yusuff, Featherweight
It’s been a bit of a slow roll for Allen to get his first opportunity against a ranked opponent. Almost six years in fact, having made his UFC debut in June of 2015. Perhaps that wouldn’t be too big of a surprise given he was only 21 at the time, but Allen hasn’t lost since touching down in the UFC. A lot of that is due to inactivity, which has reared its head for various reasons from legal issues to visa problems. Bottom line: Allen hasn’t received the push deserving of his skillset.
In many ways, Allen is the ideal for a build-a-fighter scenario on the surface for featherweight. He’s built like a brickhouse, but doesn’t suffer any loss in speed or quickness. In fact, he’s quicker than your average 145er. It doesn’t stop with his physical characteristics either. He’s a plus grappler and scrambler, has shown steady development as a boxer, and has shored up what used to be the biggest hole in his arsenal in his takedown defense. It’s hard to identify a major weakness.
Of course, some might argue Allen has been protected to a degree as Yusuff has the highest quality of win between the two by upending Andre Fili. Given Yusuff only joined the UFC in 2019, that’s an impressive statement. Yusuff picked up a lot of hype with several violent KO’s, showcasing his power and speed to create one hell of a finishing burst. There are drawbacks as his aggressive style has seen him get hurt on several occasions, but his chin has held up surprisingly well thus far.
What appears to be a bigger question with Yusuff is his gas tank. He hasn’t completely gassed when he has gone to a decision, but the third round becomes more about survival than looking for the kill, a stark contrast from how he spends the first two rounds. For that reason, I favor Allen to pull this out. I’m still not sure if Allen can be an elite featherweight – there’s an intangible that appears to be missing from the equation — but he tends to do a good job of avoiding the firepower coming at him from his opposition. That doesn’t mean Yusuff doesn’t have a solid chance of landing a killshot – if there is a finish to this contest, it’s most likely coming from Yusuff – but Allen’s ability to stick and move in the pocket have me leaning towards him. Regardless, not only is this some fantastic matchmaking, it’s a very difficult contest to pick. Allen via decision
Nina Ansaroff vs. Mackenzie Dern, Women’s Strawweight
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Ansaroff, long enough it seems most people have forgotten just how good she is. Of course, it doesn’t help her reputation when most people recognize her as the other half of the women’s GOAT, Amanda Nunes. Unless she can come anywhere close to rivaling Nunes’ awesomeness, that’s how she’s going to be seen by those who only casually follow the sport… if they know her at all.
However, the reason for the long layoff is due to a leave of maternity. It’s hard to know how she’s going to come back from that. Sure, there are several women who have come back from maternity leaves with little issue – including Ansaroff’s opponent, Dern – but given Ansaroff seemed anxious to take her leave, it’s fair to question her motivation to advance her fighting career. If she’s in the right headspace, Ansaroff is very difficult to take down and an increasingly technical striker. She does a fantastic job mixing up her strikes to the point her opponents have a difficult time predicting where her next attack is coming from. However, the key for her in this contest will be keeping the fight standing.
That’s because Dern is one of the best grapplers in the division, perhaps even the best. The BJJ prodigy has secured submissions in the first round in three of her five UFC wins, overwhelming her opposition quickly as soon as the fight hits the mat. Well… so long as their ground games aren’t considered a strength. Ansaroff’s game isn’t anything special offensively, but she has proven very difficult to control on the mat, much less submit. Given she has been in the cage with the likes of Claudia Gadelha and Tatiana Suarez, she’s been tested.
However, what is perhaps a bigger issue is whether Dern will be able to get the contest to the mat. Her wrestling is still poor, relying on her freakish physical attributes to take the fight to wrest her opponents down. It’s unlikely that will work against Ansaroff. Dern’s striking has been improving, but is it at the level of Ansaroff’s? Hardly. A flash KO would more likely come from Dern as opposed to Ansaroff’s volume racking piles of punishment, but Ansaroff is exceptionally durable. Ansaroff keeps the fight upright and takes a decision. Ansaroff via decision
- After five contests without a win at light heavyweight, Sam Alvey is returning to middleweight. Given Alvey wasn’t even fast for 205 and rarely uses his wrestling beyond stuffing takedowns – he has secured just one takedown in 20 UFC contests — it’s a bit of a curious move. Then again, maybe he’ll be more comfortable against someone like Julian Marquez who isn’t afraid to step into the pocket and throwdown. In fact, that’s Marquez’s preferred method. Owner of a ridiculously durable chin and a surprisingly deep bag of submission chokes, the UFC knew damn well what they were doing when they pit Marquez with Alvey. Alvey has long been his own worst enemy, proving too patient for his own good as he looks to land his powerful left hand, often giving away fights due to his own inactivity. Though he has been making measurable progress in that endeavor, there’s no doubt Marquez will be willing to give Alvey the types of looks he typically waits – and waits – for. While Alvey’s chin has typically been tough to crack, he’s also creeping up on 50 professional fights and it’s showing signs of wear. It isn’t crazy to think he’d be the first to crack Marquez, but I’ll trust a younger and less tested chin in this case. Even if neither crack, Marquez is typically the busier fighter. Marquez via TKO of RD2
- Love him or hate him – and all indications are most people hate him – fans need to understand Mike Perry isn’t going anywhere any time soon. He’s not an elite fighter and it’s hard to see him ever becoming one. Despite that, his incredible durability, toughness, and willingness to mix things up consistently make him an entertaining watch most of the time. Plus, even if fans hate him, they care whether he wins or loses. Over the years, Perry has added a few wrinkles – improving his wrestling technique, becoming a bit more patient – but he’s still largely the same brawler that he was upon his UFC entry. Thus, his opponents have figured out all they need to do is stay on the outside and pick him apart and he’s eminently beatable. The question is whether Daniel Rodriguez is capable of executing such a strategy. Based on what we’ve seen from him thus far, I’d guess no. That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to lose as his preferred fight is the type of fight Perry prefers too. Rodriguez has never been finished in his career, but he also hasn’t been facing a much lower level of competition than Perry has. Thus, while Rodriguez’s durability has proven to be exceptional, it isn’t as proven as Perry’s. Nevertheless, Perry hasn’t secured a finish since 2017 and Rodriguez tends to throw at a higher rate. Regardless of the outcome, this bout should be a lot of help. Rodriguez via decision
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