Heading into UFC Vegas 22 many fans and pundits were banking on Kevin Holland to put on a breakout performance. The 28-year-old middleweight seemed to have picked up a full head of steam after a some early UFC struggles, putting together five straight victories in 2020 to march his way into the top 10 at 185 lbs. A win over Brunson would almost assuredly see Holland within one fight of a title shot.
Over five smothering rounds, however, Derek Brunson went out and derailed the hype train, putting on a gritty veteran performance behind a controlling top game. For better or worse, however, throughout the bout, Holland never stopped chattering away. Making ovations to Dana White and Khabib Nurmagomedov between rounds, while constantly sending small talk Brunson’s way during the fight.
After the bout, White told reporters he felt like Holland may have had a ‘mental breakdown’ in the cage, resulting in his seeming lack of focus on finding a way to win the fight. But if that’s the UFC boss’ opinion, Brunson isn’t buying it. From his vantage point, in the cage Holland’s mistakes were largely technical ones.
“No, he just couldn’t stop the takedowns,” Brunson told reporters at the post-fight presser (transcript via MMA Fighting). “It’s funny. He kept presenting his hips. He’s a guy who’s very explosive, likes to run in but he’s long so he kind of gets away with it at times. So he kept presenting his hips, and he was there for the taking down.
“Dana White’s one of these guys, he’ll be upset with you, I’ll come out the next fight and knock a guy out and he’ll be happy again. It’s all good. I went [against] [Edmen] Shahbazyan and finished the kid last fight and I didn’t get a bonus for that fight. Main event. Finished him. Nobody was too pleased with that. So it is what it is. I come out here to fight. Every fight can’t be pretty but I’ve been here for a long time. This division was kind of built on my back. Me with these crazy fights so it is what it is.”
The win for Brunson is his fourth in a row and, much like Holland had he taken the victory, it should set the Sanford MMA fighter up for a possible top-contender’s bout sometime in the near future. And as for Holland, he’s made his intentions clear, telling fans over his social media, “Never said I wanted to be the champ, I said I wanted to have a good time, and that I did.”