Three weeks ago the Kevin Holland express came to a quick and sharp halt and his main event status imploded as he let the lights get to him.
He stepped into the octagon at UFC Vegas 22 to take on Derek Brunson after a record equalling 5-0 run in 2020, with all eyes on him. A win would’ve seen him elevated into the top five discussion with a potential title fight looming with another big win, but instead he let his ‘big mouth’ gimmick run amok and he was easily beaten.
Now, on just ten days notice, he gets a chance to run it back after stepping in on short-notice to take on Marvin Vettori in his second main event of the year.
The first was supposed to see him prove whether or not he was a legit threat to the division but he never really did. The first round against Brunson saw him slip almost immediately and then get beaten up on the ground, while in the second he managed to hurt his opponent and then failed to put him away.
The rest of the fight saw Holland looking more for viral moments via talking to Brunson and even Khabib outside the cage. He let the biggest opportunity of his career pass him by to keep up an image that he had created to garner attention on his come up.
But he’s now been given a second chance to make that impression, something that the UFC wouldn’t usually give up so easily.
With Darren Till’s broken collarbone injury opening up a spot in the main event of a middleweight bout in the top of the division, it couldn’t have gone any better for ‘Trailblazer’. Now he must take it.
No more of letting the nerves get to him and acting weirdly in the middle of a fight, no more giving himself excuses for if he is beaten. He has serious skills too as he’s shown in the past, with great hand speed and knockout power as well as a jiu-jitsu black belt.
Against Brunson, his footwork let him down and he let takedowns happen far too easily. Against Vettori he has a chance to correct that and quickly, because the Italian will undoubtedly look to close distance and secure takedowns also in order to use his smothering top game.
It’s a chance to show Dana White and fans across the world that he is serious about his craft and making it to the top of the 185lbs weight class.
A win will allow him to put the past behind him and prove that it was just the lights and the occasion that got to him last time out. Another defeat though will only solidify claims from many that he’s not serious enough to be at the top end despite his talents, especially if it comes in a similar manner.
He claimed after the fight that he never said anything about becoming champion and just wants to enjoy himself. That’s not enough to warrant a place in main event positions in the UFC, especially if that enjoyment gets in the way of victory or even putting up a valiant effort.
Losing at the top end of the division is never a bad thing in the UFC because the quality level is that high. But if you never even give it your all then why should anyone including fans, media, match-makers or even fighters take you seriously?
This main event is make or break for the man with the big right hand and the even bigger mouth. He needs to make this one count, but he’s got a trojan in front of him who won’t make it easy.