This Saturday marks the UFC’s return to ABC, with a cracking headliner- with Marvin “The Italian Dream” facing off against everybody’s favourite big mouth- Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland.
Vettori was supposed to be fighting Darren Till, with the unofficial expectation that the winner would get the next shot at Israel Adesanya. However, with the Englishman suffering a broken collarbone in training, the always-game Holland threw his name in for a short notice clash with Vettori.
Holland lived up to his ‘Trailblazer’ moniker in 2020, going 5-0 in just 9 months, capped off with a stunning KO of the legendary Jacare Souza. However, with his recent dismantling at the hands of Derek Brunson, many have started to question the surging contender.
Vettori is carrying a lot of momentum himself, currently riding a 4 fight win streak. In his latest win against top contender Jack Hermansson, Vettori looked like a different fighter compared to his last loss- a frustrating decision to the now champion Israel Adesanya- who maintains a perfect middleweight record.
But how do I think these two match up? Let’s break it down:
In terms of the stand-up, I’m expecting Kevin Holland to have the advantage. To oversimplify this fight into a ‘striker vs grappler’ would be a disservice to both Vettori’s striking and Holland’s BJJ, but I would imagine this is where Holland wants to keep the fight. Sporting a 7 inch reach advantage over Vettori will play to the strengths of Holland, who is known for his flashy spinning attacks- he is announced as a “Kung Fu fighter” in the octagon after all.
Holland has drawn comparisons to the champion Israel Adesanya in terms of their physical frame and their striking ability- both are long, lanky strikers who are strong at utilising their reach. When Vettori came up short against The Last Stylebender, it became clear that Vettori was thrown off by the fakes and feints, something which frustrated the Italian into throwing wild looping hooks. That being said, Vettori’s striking has definitely evolved since then- his defensive movement and the thunder he possesses in his left hand were both on full display against Hermansson in December.
Something else that should be noted is Marvin’s tendency to lose his cool. Many fans will remember the footage of Vettori screaming at Karl Roberson after their bout was scrapped following weight cut issues. He’s clearly a passionate person, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but when you’re dealing with a man like Kevin Holland, a war of words is not a good idea. If Holland can get into his head, Vettori could end up charging in with the same reckless abandon as in the Adesanya fight. On the other hand, Vettori has a granite chin and I believe close quarters is where he needs to take this fight.
Despite Holland being a BJJ black belt, Derek Brunson exposed that one thing his ground game lacks is escapes from his back. Holland is usually happy to engage off his back- we certainly saw what he did to Jacare- and he’s shown creative attacks from his back in fights against Thiago Santos, throwing sharp elbows and upkicks.
Although, if held down with significant pressure, Holland lacks the strength to wrestle his way to his feet. This is where I believe Vettori’s key to victory lays- crushing top pressure and brutal ground-and-pound. Vettori has a large frame and is looking shredded ahead of this fight- I highly doubt he still weighs 185 when he walks to the cage. Holland weighed just 183 pounds in his last fight, and recently spoke on the Joe Rogan Experience about how he could probably compete at welterweight if he had the discipline.
If I’m Marvin Vettori, I’d look to clinch up as early as possible, don’t allow Kevin to get comfortable in the striking realm, and utilise inside trips to get the fight to the ground ASAP. He has a brown belt in BJJ, and with 9 submissions on his record he can pull them off when it counts.
So, to summarize: For Kevin Holland, he needs to utilise his eccentric striking style to throw Vettori off his rhythm and use his reach advantage to create space and keep Vettori on the end of his punches. Vettori on the other hand, needs to shut down Holland’s momentum as early as possible and get the fight to the ground. If he can get there, top pressure and ground-and-pound will force Holland to move, which could open the door to Vettori’s 10th career submission.
My official pick? Vettori by decision.
I think his grappling will prove too much for Holland to handle, and when he looks like this one week out from the fight, it doesn’t look like his previous cardio issues will become a factor.
How do you guys see this fight going? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow @mma.island on Instagram for more!