Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight finishers Thiago Santos and Kevin Holland will square off this Saturday (Aug. 4, 2018) at UFC 227 inside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Santos is a rare breed of exciting fighter: He either goes out and destroys his opponent (usually with a brutal kick) or fails to do so in dramatic fashion. Either way, it’s massively entertaining. Prior to his last loss, Santos was climbing close to the Top 10, but now he’s forced to begin a new win streak. Holland fought a reasonably tough opponent just a few weeks ago on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” Though he won, fans and White himself agreed that Holland spent a bit too much time showboating to earn a contract without finishing his foe. Nevertheless, injuries create opportunity, and Holland will now find his way to the official Octagon on the main card of a pay-per-view (PPV).
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 119), Anthony Smith (UFC Fight Night 125), Elias Theodorou (UFC Fight Night 80)
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (UFC 200), David Branch (UFC Fight Night 128), Uriah Hall (UFC 175)
Keys to Victory: Santos is not a perfect fighter, but he might kick harder than anyone else on the roster. The man has finished a remarkable four opponents with body kicks, which landed in addition to a pair of high kicks.
All but one of his nine UFC victories landed via knockout.
What does Santos struggle with? Thanks to much development, the answer in recent years only really been extremely technical fighters who smartly herd him into punches or dominate on the mat. Holland doesn’t really fit into that mold — he’s a tricky kickboxer with a dangerous ground game, sure, but it’s all held together by athleticism more than anything else. In short, Santos can let his kicks fly against this foe. Athleticism is great for offense and transitions, but it does very little to shutdown a brutal kicking game, and Santos only needs to land one to end the fight.
Key Wins: Will Santiago (DWTNCS 2018), Grady Hurley (LFA 21)
Key Losses: Curtis Millender (LFA 13), Rafael Lovato Jr (Legacy FC 46)
Keys to Victory: An athletic power puncher with sneaky setups, most of “Trail Blazer’s” victories came via knockout. He does a lot of work at range, holding his foe at bay with kicks before closing the distance suddenly with power shots.
Holland faces a dangerous match up here, but it’s not unwinnable. Santos’ defense is hardly perfect, and Holland hits damn hard. Plus, Holland is a very physical athlete himself, which should help nullify Santos’ usual physicality advantage.
Holland also has a very nice sidekick that should be valuable here. Not only can the strike push Santos into the fence where he’s vulnerable, but it should also be a useful weapon in interrupting Santos’ kicks. Kicking with such power like the Brazilian often requires a charge or at least step forward, and getting blasted in the belly mid-step completely disrupts the strike.
If Santos cannot get off his power kicks, he’s lost his biggest weapon.
Bottom Line: It’s a scrap.
There actually is quite a bit on the line for Santos here. His last loss was a big setback, but it’s one that he can recover from. To do so, however, Santos has to return to his usual work, which is using his legs to create gigantic impacts on anyone who dares to step into the cage with him. If Santos destroys a replacement foe with a single kick and some follow up punches, it will see him back in the cage with a well-regarded opponent next.
If he is upset, Santos will have to go on another win streak to regain his status as a ranked Middleweight.
As for Holland, his recent victory was a solid win but didn’t exactly impress every viewer. This is a massive step up in competition and a chance to make a better impression. More importantly, it’s a quick introduction to the Middleweight Top 15 and a test of where Holland stands. Given the way Holland usually wins impressively, he could move from prospect to quick contender with a strong showing.
At UFC 227, Thiago Santos and Kevin Holland will battle in what’s likely to be a high-action bout. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?