Kevin Holland – Could a move back to welterweight be next?

The UFC world was first introduced to Kevin Holland in 2018 on Dana Whites Tuesday Night Contender – Series 9, where although winning his fight against Will Santiago via Unanimous Decision he was not offered a contract, he was ultimately offered a fight against future 205lb title contender Thiago Santos at middleweight.

Holland would go on to lose the fight after being dominated towards a unanimous decision loss across the judges’ scorecard. Looking back, there is no shame in losing to Thiago Santos, who pushed the widely considered GOAT in Jon Jones to a split decision.

Since then, Holland has amassed an 8-3 record at middleweight. Out of these eight winds, five of them occurred in the most turbulent year that the UFC and the world have had to endure. Capitalising on the short notice style of fights that UFC was putting together in light of the global situation, from May – December, Kevin Holland had an extremely impressive five-fight win streak which consisted of four stoppages and one split decision.

The most impressive of these being the final win of this streak which saw Holland knock out a tough, durable veteran in Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza with an unbelievable series of strikes from his back as Jacare was in his guard. We have only seen impressive knockouts from Niko Price who has provided us with hammerfist and upkick finishes from the bottom.

After finishing 2020 in such fine form, the future was bright for Kevin Holland. With current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya stepping up to 205lb to face Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz in an attempt to become the next champ-champ, the middleweight division was starting to open up. Talks of a title eliminator, an interim title and even a full title shot were attached to Holland’s name after such a stellar 2020 and riding a five-fight win streak.

Holland was matched up with perennial contender Derek Brunson in a five-round main event in March of 2020. He would lose the fight by unanimous decision. Only three weeks later he would step up at short notice to face Marvin Vettori in another 5 round main event. After setting a record for the shortest time between main events, Holland would yet again be dominated on his way to a 5 round decision loss. Those aspirations of a title shot now seem further away than ever.

With an apparent blueprint in how to beat Holland having formed, his chances against the top 5, even top 10 now seem to be in doubt. For the bout with Vettori, Holland took to the scales and weighed in at 183.5lbs. No weight cut seems to have been needed as he easily weighed in under the 186 limit. His opponents of late, Brunson and Vettori, easily walk around over 200lbs. They cut down and make it look easy, but they will blow up by fight night and look massive compared to Holland. These guys can just easily dominate with their sheer strength and size, and they’re smart enough to not stand up with Kevin Holland.

Looking at the top 10 of middleweight rankings, I struggle to see where Holland is successful. There are some exciting matchups in there. A battle with Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, even Edman Shahbazyan would be exciting. However, again he has size and strength issues against all of those guys.

Having started his career at Welterweight, a drop back down could be a fun move for Holland and us fans. Yes, the top three of the division are wrestling and grappling heavy, but with a look further down the top 15 at individuals such as Stephen Thomson, Vincente Luque, Geoff Neal and Li Jingliang, a potential matchup with any of these guys could be immense, and with Holland recently upping his wrestling training(a wish that he got after asking for advice mid-fight with Brunson) he may round off his game, and who better to teach him than the former UFC heavyweight and Olympian, Daniel Cormier.

If Holland can get his wrestling to a higher level, whilst constantly improving his striking game, and with a bit of favourable matchmaking, Holland, with his 2020 mindset and mentality could work his way up the welterweight rankings in quick time.

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