The UFC returns to ABC today after a week off and is headlined by two top ten middleweights. Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland (21-6), returns on short notice for his second main event in three weeks. Holland is looking to erase the bad taste in his mouth after his latest fight which resulted in a unanimous decision loss to Derek Brunson. Across the octagon will be Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori (16-3-1). Vettori, is looking for his fifth straight win and a rematch with the last man to beat him, current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
So, let’s take a look at what is at stake for each fighter as they make their walk today.
Holland has become known for accepting fights on short notice. He won 5 fights in 2020, with his last 4 fights occurring from August-December. According to ESPN, Holland stepped in on 12 days notice to fight Jacare Souza, and on just four days notice in his knockout win over Joaquin Buckley. So, it can be argued that short notice is not of any added stress for Holland. However, this lead up to this fight has been very different from those in the past.
Much of the criticism Holland took in his last fight was that he was more of a sportsman than a fighter. Many believed that he accepted the positions that Brunson put him in and did little to attempt to get off of his back when taken down. UFC President Dana White was not quiet about his opinion on Holland’s performance, essentially telling the media he believed Holland had a mental breakdown inside the octagon.
This fight week has been different. According to Holland, “Bigmouth” is gone and “Trailblazer” is back. There was no high-fives at the weigh in and no photo op together. Holland didn’t even utter a word to Vettori in their faceoff. How will that effect Holland inside the fight? Will he still talk inside the octagon? If not, will that hinder or help his performance?
Typically, if a fighter takes the fight on ten days notice and loses, their star doesn’t dim too much. However, for Holland, a loss to Vettori especially if it is a lopsided one, could spell disaster.
After racking up five straight wins in 2020 he would be staring at two straight losses to top 10 opponents to start 2021.
But, with a win today Holland can erase his loss to Brunson, break into the top 5, and set himself up for a fight with a top five opponent, if not the champ himself.
For Vettori he is fighting a completely different fighter than he had trained for in Darren Till. Holland is a long, devastating counter puncher who has been able to put people away from various angles over his last 5 wins, all of which came by finish. There is a lot of pressure on Vettori’s back as he makes the walk today.
Vettori is the betting favorite coming in as a (-340) favorite according to mybookie.ag and considering how lopsided Brunson’s win was over Holland, many believe Vettori should be able to put Holland away.
Currently ranked number 6 in the UFC middleweight division, a win today could possibly set him up for a rematch with current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya – his last loss.
As much credit as Holland has gotten for taking this fight, the same should go to Vettori. He needs to win today if he hopes to continue his quest to becoming the first ever Italian UFC champion. A highlight finish of Holland can certainly give him the push he needs, but a loss today could drop him out of title contention going forward.