Brunson suffocates Holland, gets unanimous victory at UFC Vegas 22 – so what’s next?
Although Derek Brunson dominated the large majority of this UFC Vegas 22 main event, the most entertaining aspect was probably the constant – as expected – talking from his opponent, Kevin Holland.
However, all credit must be given to Brunson, who quickly realised what his best route to victory was and easily put that plan into action.
Brunson’s wrestling too much for Holland
As we witnessed from early on in this UFC middleweight bout, Brunson looked way more comfortable on the ground with Holland than he did standing with the 2nd degree black belt Kung Fu artist.
An early slip by Holland in the first round was smartly taken advantage of by Brunson, who manhandled him onto his back.
Brunson maintained this control throughout the rest of the first round and through most of the fight, amassing a total control time of 16 minutes and 55 seconds by the final horn.
Although Brunson wasn’t really landing any significant strikes whilst in control, punches and elbows kept Holland where he wanted him as well as score well on the judges’ scorecards.
Holland had clear advantage in stand-up game
In the rare moments we would see these two UFC fighters stand and exchange punches, it was evident that Holland had the superior striking.
Notably, early in the second round (after comically asking the present Khabib Nurmagomedov for wrestling advice during the break) Holland tagged Brunson with some big shots that rocked the 37-year-old, reducing him to a knee.
However, whenever Holland would land a combination of punches, he would get too excited with the prospect of finishing the fight and rush in for the knockout.
Something that you can’t do with an experienced wrestler such as Brunson, who would simply grab hold of Holland when this happened and eventually take him back down to the mat.
UFC commentator and former UFC middleweight champion, Michael Bisping, even said during the fight that Holland “needs footwork”.
In other words, whenever Holland would land good strikes, he needed to back up and not allow Brunson to initiate the clinch, as Brunson was clearly too strong for Holland in these situations.
This also happened in the final round. Holland tagged Brunson with some nice shots, but as soon as Holland would smell blood, Brunson would straight away go for the clinch and/or takedown when Holland rushed in.
“I wanted to knock him out”
In his post-fight interview with Paul Felder, Brunson admitted that the events that occurred in the UFC octagon wasn’t necessarily how he intended things to go.
“I wanted to knock him out” Brunson said when asked if this ground-dominant display was his game plan, before adding “but everyone can’t be pretty”.
And Brunson’s right, although it may not be the most entertaining fight to watch, when you realise you have such an advantage in one particularly area in a fight – you have to make the most of it. Something that Brunson did near perfectly against Holland.
So, what’s next for these UFC middleweights?
Despite Brunson mentioning that he “wasn’t too excited” about this match-up with Holland in his post-fight interview, it was a great way to establish himself further and really get his foot into the top-5 door.
Showing that he’s capable of dominating an incredibly dangerous fighter such as Holland surely must grant him an opportunity to break into that top 5 in the UFC middleweight division.
Brunson called out Paulo Costa after the fight, previously saying “gimme a top 5 and let’s see what happens”.
With Costa currently sitting as the number 2 ranked UFC middleweight whilst also coming off the back of an embarrassing loss to Israel Adesanya, this seems like the perfect opportunity for either Costa to redeem himself, or Brunson to make a name for himself.
For Holland, this fight is a slap back into reality for the 28-year-old.
After building his own hype-train during 2020 with 5 wins – the most UFC wins in a calendar year – as well as his hilarious talking during his fights, this shows the Texas native still has things to improve on if he is to reach that next level in his UFC career.
Whilst his striking is already fantastic, he does have to work on being patient and not getting carried away with the idea of having to get the finish there and then when he rocks someone – similar to what UFC Lightweight Justin Gaethje had to work on.
A good test for Holland to prove that his incredible 2020 run wasn’t a fluke would be to either fight a well-known experienced fighter, or someone who is also on the rise.
In terms of fighting someone experienced, a fight against the number 11 ranked Chris Weidman – just one rank below Holland – would be entertaining and a good way to show Holland is here to stay.
On the other hand, a fight against the number 12 ranked UFC middleweight, Edmen Shahbazyan would be a good battle.
Not only because they have now both lost to Brunson recently, but as Shahbazyan is still only 23, this bout would be a good way to showcase what the future of the UFC middleweight division has to offer as well as be a great way for both fighters to get back on track.
Reactions from this UFC Vegas 22 main event
"Never gonna stop talking. If you guys don't f—ing like it, deuces."
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 21, 2021
"I felt like he was just doing a little too much… You can't forget what we're out here to do. He's out here to fight, and at some point, you have to hit that switch."@SugaRashadEvans was "frustrated" watching Kevin Holland's performance at #UFCVegas22 pic.twitter.com/GvGWr3x7mI
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 21, 2021
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) March 21, 2021
Strong performance from Brunson tn. The man just gets better and better, at 37!
Holland , IMO, is just happy to be making money. Doing what he’s doing, is a win in life for him. He’s happy to be there with a chance provide and change his life. No shame in that! #UFCVegas22
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 21, 2021
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— UFC News (@UFCNews) March 21, 2021