Can Kevin Holland Find a Home at 170?
Kevin Holland is a solid striker with slick Jiu-jitsu that thrived at the cusp of the rankings at middleweight. He struggled to reach the elite level of the weight class against fighters who cut larger amounts of weight than he. In his Middleweight bouts, Holland was content to stay safe in guard position. He has shown that he can be bullied on the ground, like in the case of Derek Brunson, who possesses a competent wrestling game, weight, and strength advantage.
|Guard Control %
|Misc. Ground Control %
Holland’s statistics show that slightly more than 70% of the time he spends being controlled on the ground by his opponents is in guard or in flux transitions while on bottom. “To get up or not to get up” is the question I believe Holland asks himself while on the ground. His fights show he is more than content to stay on the ground in control raking up a career total of roughly 54 minutes, which is around the average length of an episode of the Sopranos.
|Ground Controlled Min.
Despite the control his opponent maintains, he can stay relatively safe on the ground by limiting other threatening positions like Mount, Back Control, and Side Control holding them all to less than 13% of his controlled time.
But in MMA this kind of control and attack is seen by the judges as effective grappling as Holland is being controlled and peppered with ground strikes at a rate of 1.5 ground strikes absorbed per minute on the ground, thus losing those seconds/minutes of the respective rounds. His ongoing wrestling training in ‘Hendrickistan’ with UFC veteran Johny Hendricks will show its worth in this match, as I believe Oliveira will look to use wrestling and ground control in hopes that Holland is content with the lack of danger and will be able to run up the Judge’s scores in his favor with ground and pound along with effective control. Oliveira does not possess the reach to contest with the level of striking Holland has, nor the gas tank, but with a cut to Welterweight as opposed to Middleweight it’s possible Oliveira is making a veteran move by targeting Holland's stamina and apparent weakness at middleweight which is likely his path to victory: a semi-boring grimy split decision win.
Taking a look at their takedown defense we can see that Oliveira is able to thwart up to 64% of takedown attempts by opponents while Holland is taken down every other attempt with a 50%:50% ratio likely due to his opponent’s wrestling heavy game.
|Takedowns Defended %
Though when looking at offense, Oliveira proportionally misses as many takedowns as he defends. If Oliveira is expecting to take Holland down, and not only just take him down, but keep him down, he will need to look for takedowns in the middle of the octagon where Holland will likely struggle to get up more than if he is taken down near the cage. Here is the biggest problem with this strategy, if Oliveira misses up to 60% of his takedowns, he will need to find better setups for takedowns in the center of the ring otherwise he might be caught by a well-timed knee off a telegraphed takedown.
|Takedowns Missed %
|Takedowns Landed %
We’ve seen that when Kevin Holland loses, he is on the ground and it’s from long drawn-out ground fights, but on the feet he thrives in his natural combat flow, keeping his opponents at distance and destroying them with kicks. To me Kevin is a bona fide fighter, and with this move to welterweight it is clear he’s trying to put his frame to good use and carve a solid path for his future career in the UFC. For Pete’s sake Kevin made a great account for himself in 6 weeks against Thiago Santos and some of the best middleweight had to offer at the time in Derek Brunson, and Marvin Vettori. Using loose MMA math Holland always had the potential to be a ranked welterweight with a win over Geoff Neal, a ranked welterweight. Though that fight was at middleweight and before both their debuts in the UFC, Holland’s true eye opening moment was being, as in his words, ‘humped’ by the ‘big a** guys at 185’.
If Alex is looking to take Holland down and lay on him, then he is up against a tough test. From a physical aspect, Alex seems to be on the decline despite his age of 34 but given his recent skid of 6 losses of his last 8 and the accumulation of damage over his career of 21 fights in the UFC, any resurgence to the elite level is far gone. Because of this, it’s likely to say that his motivation when entering in the ring is to get his win bonus and to get out as safe as possible, which is completely fair given that this is his full-time professional job. On the other hand, Holland is motivated and confident that his 81 inch reach, 6’3” frame, and ‘Hendrickistan’ training will prove to be a fit for him to solidify his presence (taking Colby Covington’s spot) as Welterweight’s Big Mouth.