If talking and clowning around and mind games were worth any points, Kevin Holland would’ve beaten Derek Brunson in a landslide.
But in the real world that’s not really how MMA works, and Brunson largely had his way with Holland on his way to a unanimous decision win in the UFC Vegas 22 main event. Brunson took Holland down several times and while his ground offense was not nearly as effective or active in the final four rounds compared to the opening frame, Holland’s lack of offense save for a flash knockdown in round two made it clear who the winner would be. Holland’s five-fight winning streak comes to an end, while Brunson has won four in a row and taken apart back-to-back rising prospects in Holland and Edmen Shahbazyan.
One can only assume Dana White won’t be too happy with Holland’s in-cage antics, which included talking with the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov who was sat next to the UFC president at cageside.
Holland started out with a front kick from southpaw. Another kick by Holland messed up his footing and he slipped to his back. Brunson capitalized by getting on top of Holland right away and into his full guard. Derek went for some heavy ground-and-pound, mixing in elbows with punches. Holland clap-boxed Brunson’s ears but otherwise didn’t make all that earnest of an effort to get back to his feet. Kevin talked to Brunson the entire time they were on the ground but talking doesn’t actually win rounds.
In between rounds one and two, Holland talked to Khabib Nurmagomedov. And then he asked Khabib “tell me when the shots coming, brother!” in the middle of the round. He kept trash-talking Brunson and then he knocked him down with a right hand. Brunson grabbed a single leg and Holland got out of it. Derek closed the distance, got his wits about him and secured a takedown into full mount. Brunson tried scrambling to the back and Holland half-heartedly attacked a leg, but then Brunson was able to get an arm-triangle choke. He advanced to side control and Holland kept on talking. Even better for Holland is he got out of the choke and back to his feet. Brunson hit the double leg and got another takedown to see out the rest of the frame.
Holland threw a right hand but his footwork was perfect for Brunson to get another takedown. Holland threatened with a triangle and an armbar but to no avail. Brunson stood back up and Holland didn’t go up with him even with the separation. Unlike in round one, Brunson wasn’t all that busy on top and indeed Holland actually was more active from his guard. Holland stayed on the bottom for the remainder of the round as both men entered round four for the first time in their respective careers.
In round four, two right hands had Brunson backing up but Holland far too often had issues going into a clinch. Brunson landed some uppercuts in the clinch and spun Holland around for a takedown into side control. Holland returned to his feet fairly quickly but with Brunson still draped all over him and tripping him to the mat once more. Again, Brunson didn’t do a lot of damage but he kept control and did enough to avoid being stood up. Holland rolled his way out and to his feet again but with Brunson still able to get hold of him. Meanwhile he kept smiling and periodically talking.
After two minutes of striking, Holland had his big moment.... he became the first man to take Derek Brunson down. Holland exclaimed “Let’s go!” and was no doubt thrilled by this achievement. He tried going for a slam KO but in terms of actually getting a finish, that wasn’t in the cards. When they got back to standing, Brunson got one more takedown for good measure to pick up the W.
Official result: Derek Brunson def. Kevin Holland by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46, 49-46)