Fans tuning in Saturday to ABC were not watching a UFC replay, though they might as well have been.
Kevin Holland fought for the second time in the past three weeks — and the result was almost exactly the same. Marvin Vettori took Holland down over and over en route to a comprehensive, unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-44) win Saturday in Las Vegas.
Holland took this bout on nine days notice when Vettori’s original opponent, Darren Till, broke his collarbone and was forced to withdraw. Holland just fought Derek Brunson in a unanimous decision loss March 20.
By taking the fight with Vettori, Holland tied the record for the quickest turnaround in between UFC main event appearances in promotion history (21 days).
While Holland got another main-event slot, it was clear he had not made the correct adjustments from the last time out. Last month, Brunson took Holland down for a career-high five takedowns. On Saturday, Vettori landed 11 takedowns — a UFC middleweight record. Coming in, Vettori had just 11 takedowns in his entire nine-fight UFC career.
“I wanted to finish this guy and I wasn’t able to,” Vettori said. “But it was a dominant win. … I’m not the happiest right now, but I keep winning. I keep progressing.”
Vettori took Holland down in every single round and kept him there for huge chunks of time. In the second round, Vettori landed some hard ground-and-pound and an elbow landed to Holland’s left eye, causing swelling. Before the third round, the ringside physician came in to check on Holland’s eye, but Holland said he could see and the fight continued.
It was more of the same after that. Outside of a Holland flurry at the end of the third round that wobbled Vettori and a hard Holland one-two combination at the start of the fifth, it was all Vettori. He landed hard left hands on the feet and easily got his arms around Holland over and over for takedowns.
All three judges gave every round to Vettori with all of them having a 10-8 for Vettori in the second.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Holland on Saturday and in March was his lack of trash talking. Against Brunson, he talked throughout the bout and even had a full-on conversation in between rounds with UFC all-time great Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was sitting cageside with UFC president Dana White.
Saturday’s card was held with no crowd and COVID-19 protocols in place at the UFC Apex, a facility across the street from the promotion’s corporate campus.
Vettori (17-4-1) has won five straight coming in with his only loss in the past five years coming against UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. The Italy native is 7-2-1 in the UFC.
Vettori, 27, was ranked No. 8 in the world at middleweight by ESPN coming in and further solidified his spot as a top 185-pound fighter. In his postfight interview, Vettori said he wanted a title shot against Adesanya next. His five straight wins makes for the second-longest win streak in the division behind Adesanya (nine).
“I think I deserve it,” Vettori said. “… I want this title, man.”
Holland (21-7) won five straight prior to his loss to Brunson last month. The Texas native set a record in 2020 for the most UFC middleweight wins in a calendar year (five), a number that also tied the overall UFC record for most wins in a calendar year with Neil Magny and Roger Huerta.
Holland, 28, has an 8-4 UFC record, but clearly has major holes in his game, beginning with takedown defense.