Kevin Holland’s five-fight winning streak ended on Saturday when Derek Brunson outwrestled him for the majority of their 25-minute bout at the top of the UFC Vegas 22 fight card.
Brunson, who has been with the UFC longer than Holland has been a professional fighter, used his wrestling skills to take Holland to the mat six times on 12 attempts and racked up nearly 17 minutes of control time. Brunson also outlanded Holland in total strikes on his way to victory.
With the win, Brunson stopped the rise of another surging up and comer. In August, Brunson put the first blemish on the record of Edmen Shahbazyan with a third-round TKO victory.
Read on for the winners and losers from the UFC Vegas 22 fight card.
Derek Brunson: On Saturday, Derek Brunson taught another upstart there are levels to competing in the middleweight division of the UFC and if wrestling is not on your list of skills, you will not rise higher in the rankings than Brunson.
Kevin Holland thought striking, attitude, swagger and trash talk would be enough for him to get past Brunson, but that was not enough. What Holland really needed was takedown defense and the ability to get to his feet after hitting the mat. He didn’t have those skills and Brunson ground him down and won the fight via decision.
It’s hard to tell what Brunson gets from this win. He might get some respect, but I don’t think the victory will move him up the rankings because those in the know knew coming into this fight he was a very live underdog.
Perhaps the UFC will give him a shot at a fighter ranked higher than he is now that Brunson is on a four-fight winning streak.
Max Griffin: With the Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell fight pulled from the card, Max Griffin vs. Song Kenan got moved to the co-main event and Griffin made the most of that opportunity. Griffin staggered Kenan to the fence with a right and then dropped him with another right to end the fight at the 2:20 mark of the first stanza. With the victory, Griffin scored his first UFC winning streak. After the fight, Griffin called for a matchup opposite No. 11 ranked welterweight Geoff Neal.
Montserrat Conejo: Montserrat Conejo had one goal in her fight opposite Cheyanne Buys. That goal, force her to the cage with a flurry of strikes, take her to the mat and hold her there. Conejo did that in each of the three rounds of this contest. Conejo racked up 9:53 of control time and landed an impressive number of head strikes on the ground on her way to victory.
Adrian Yanez: Adrian Yanez moved to 2-0 in the UFC with a third round knockout win over Gustavo Lopez. Yanez looked awesome. His striking was exceptional. He was calm and poised throughout the fight. Lopez tried to lead, but every time he did, Yanez unloaded fast and powerful counters that stung Lopez. Adrian Yanez should be on your list of bantamweight fighters to watch in 2021.
Tai Tuivasa: Tai Tuivasa was the second biggest favorite on the card and he deserved to be as he faced promotional newcomer Harry Hunsucker. Hunsucker had nothing to offer his heavy-handed opponent and Tuivasa disposed of him in under 50 seconds.
After the fight, Tuivasa said he hoped could get a quick turnaround and with Tuivasa only getting hit twice during this contest, the promotion should do whatever it can to get him his wish.
Macy Chiasson: Macy Chiasson put on a solid performance against Marion Reneau on Saturday. Chiasson looked to use her length to control the fight in the first round, but she struggled with the speed of her opponent. Chiasson was more aggressive than technical in the second round and that’s when she took control of the fight.
Chiasson made an error in early going of the second stanza when she closed distance after she hurt Reneau, but she corrected that error the next time she hurt her opponent.
Chiasson only has eight pro fights and she is still developing, but she has talent and it’ll be interesting to see if she can put everything together.
Grant Dawson: Grant Dawson was on a four-fight winning streak at featherweight when he weighed in at 149.5 against Darrick Minner in early 2020. Dawson won that fight. He also won his next bout, which took place at a catchweight of 150. On Saturday, Dawson moved up to lightweight to face Leonardo Santos. Dawson’s clinch game was strong and his wrestling wasn’t too shabby either. But what made Dawson’s trip back to 155 pounds memorable were the strikes he used to knock out Santos as time expired in the contest.
This win is one Dawson can build on as he looks to establish himself in the UFC lightweight division. Dawson remains perfect in the UFC at 5-0. He is riding an eight-fight winning streak overall.
Trevin Giles vs. Roman Dolidze: The middleweight matchup between Trevin Giles and Roman Dolidze was a fun one. True, the bout showcased little defense or fight IQ, but it was a fan friendly scrap that had both fighters having their moments. For Giles, those moments were more impactful on the scorecards as he marked up his opponent with his striking. As for Dolidze, he did hid his best to lock up submissions on the mat. However, his grappling efforts also left him open to take damage on the mat.
Montel Jackson: Montel Jackson was the biggest favorite on Saturday’s fight card and he handled his opponent, Jesse Strader, with ease. The fight, which was booked shortly before the event, seemed as if the matchmakers put it together to add another bout to the card. Jackson was miles ahead of Strader in the striking department. He scored two knockdowns on 15 landed significant strikes on his way to a stoppage at 1:58 of the first round.
Bruno Gustavo da Silva: Bruno Gustavo da Silva, who was the underdog in his matchup opposite JP Buys, looked excellent on his way to a second-round TKO win. Silva was clearly more talented than Buys and had more tools. Silva’s striking was especially impressive in the second stanza. It was those powerful and precise strikes that brought the contest to a close.
Silva trains with former two-division champ Henry Cejudo, which could help him in a big way. I know this was Silva’s first win in three tries, but if you’re only as good as your most recent fight, well, Silva looked pretty good.
Kevin Holland: Kevin Holland got a minor victory during his fight with Derek Brunson. That win was a takedown in the fifth round. With that, Holland became the first fighter in the UFC to earn a takedown on Brunson.
Other than that, Holland lost soundly.
Holland is going to get a lot of guff from fans and I understand that. He built his whole personae off his non-stop trash talking and inflated ego. The one-sided loss he suffered opposite Brunson opens him up to all kinds of abuse. Me? I’m going to hold off on burying Holland because I want to see what he learns from this loss and how he responds.
Song Kenan: Song Kenan had a 4-1 UFC record with three knockout wins heading into his matchup against Max Griffin. Griffin added a second loss to Kenan’s UFC run on Saturday, when he knocked Kenan out cold at the 2:20 mark of the first stanza.
Cheyanne Buys: Cheyanne Buys did her best to deal with the pressure and strength of her opponent, Montserrat Conejo, but she had very little success in either department.
Gustavo Lopez: Gustavo Lopez found out early in his fight opposite Adrian Yanez that it was not a wise idea to strike with Yanez. It seemed as if every time Lopez would throw something, Yanez would come back with a devastating counter. Those counters resulted in Lopez attempting just 19 significant strikes in the second stanza. It was a bit of a surprise that Lopez stayed with his striking and did not attempt to get the fight to the mat more than once.
Harry Hunsucker: Harry Hunsucker stepped in on short notice to face Tai Tuivasa and things did not go well. Tuivasa softened him up with some low kicks and then closed the show with punches. There have to be easier and less painful ways to earn $12,000.
Marion Reneau: Marion Reneau is likely done in the UFC. Reneau dropped her fourth fight in a row with a loss to Macy Chiasson on Saturday. Reneau was a game opponent, but once Chiasson hurt her and able to keep her at range, Reneau had little more than toughness to offer in this matchup. Reneau’s most recent win was an early 2018 submission victory over Sara McMann.
Leonardo Santos: Leonardo Santos’ unbeaten streak of nearly 12 years ended on Saturday when Grant Dawson used his clinch game and wrestling to prevent Santos from doing any significant damage throughout the contest. As time ticked down, Santos went for a leg attack on the mat, which allowed Dawson to posture up and score a late knockout.
The way Santos’ unbeaten run ended was disappointing as he has stoppage wins over Kevin Lee, Anthony Rocco Martin and Stevie Ray on his record.
Jesse Strader: Jesse Strader had nothing to offer Montel Jackson. Frankly, Strader should not have been in the octagon against someone like Jordan. That matchmakers did Strader no favors putting him against Jackson.
JP Buys: JP Buys never got things going in his fight against Bruno Gustavo da Silva. He was slower, showed a suspect chin, lacked the fight IQ to cut off the octagon and left himself open to counters. Most of those decencies, save the suspect chin, are correctable, so I wouldn’t write off Buys, but he has a lot of work to do.
Paul Felder: I don’t know if it was on his “hit these talking points” memo from UFC brass, but Felder began the broadcast by saying the Khabib Nurmagomedov — who retired in the cage in October after his win over Justin Gaethje — finally decided to officially retire this week. We all know that Nurmagomedov retired in 2020, the only one who didn’t accept it until this week was Felder’s boss, UFC president Dana White.
The UFC: As I mention above, Felder took an “L” for saying Khabib Nurmagomedov “finally” decided to officially retire this week. However, as the UFC Vegas 22 broadcast continued, that point was mentioned more than once. After the first mention, it became obvious the UFC was trying to control the narrative on Nurmagomedov’s retirement. That can’t happen. Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Nurmagomedov retired after he defeated Justin Gaethje in October. Just because one egomaniac didn’t accept that until this week doesn’t make it so.