Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight strikers Thiago Santos and Kevin Holland dueled last night (Aug. 4, 2018) at UFC 227 inside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
A brutally powerful kicker, Santos nearly broke into the top 10 before coming up short in April opposite David Branch. Now looking to get back into the win column, Santos accepted a short-notice bout against a lower level opponent — historically a recipe for some poor middleweight to get his guts kicked in.
Hoping to avoid that unpleasant fate was Holland, a veteran of Bellator and “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series”. A talented prospect with legitimate knockout power, Holland was a threat to the Brazilian even if he entered as an unknown.
As expected, the two powerful middleweights ran around and traded heavy kicks to start. Bucking said expectations, Santos next landed something of a knee pick, landing him in the guard of Holland. Santos was nearly armbarred immediately, but he let loose a stream of heavy shots once he freed himself.
At first, Holland defended himself reasonably well, but Santos’ aggression was over the top and effective. Holland wasn’t able to return to his fight until the final 30 seconds, at which point the fight devolved into a wild brawl.
Santos spent a lot of energy, but he also dropped a ton of damage on “Trailblazer.”
The two men traded wild kicks to start the second round once more, and for a second time Santos was able to surprise his opponent with a takedown. This time, however, Holland managed to stand quickly. It resulted in little success for the newcomer, who was promptly kicked in the gut and taken down once more.
Holland managed to work back up again. This time, he managed to stun the charging Brazilian, forcing a sloppy takedown and countering into top position with a kimura. Holland was tired, but he still dominated from top position, landing some hard elbows before the bell.
It was a rather even round given the shift in momentum.
For the third time, Santos began the round with a series of brutal kicks then scored a takedown. Santos advanced into mount and attempted an arm triangle, but Holland kicked off the fence and scrambled up to his feet.
Back on the feet, Santos flurried with hard crosses and left kicks, rocking his opponent along the fence. Holland shot a double leg out of desperation, winding up on his back in the process. Santos very nearly landed the arm triangle this time around but still finished the round landing hard ground strikes.
Holland had his moments, but it was dominant work from the Brazilian.
Santos is a physical monster. He’s never really utilized takedowns before in the Octagon, and while the technique was a little iffy, his strength and persistence nevertheless enabled him to gain top position. Whether on the feet or on the mat, Santos was an offensive ball of muscle, desperately trying to destroy his opponent.
I may paint Santos as a man who simply tries to kick and smash, but he showed some neat tricks to his stand up. Feinting the left kick, Santos would shift stance and attack from his gained angle, taking advantage of his opponent’s changed position to block the kick.
Santos’ aggression is unreal. It makes him incredibly entertaining, but it also means a title run is unlikely from the Brazilian.
For a short-notice debut against a top 15 opponent, Holland impressed. He competed well at range with a destructive kickboxer, and his grappling remained dangerous late in the fight. Holland was eventually overwhelmed by pure offense, but he never quit and worked to counter the Brazilian’s rush all night.
Give him a couple years and a full camp, and Holland might just be a contender.
At UFC 227, Thiago Santos dispatched his short-notice foe in a fun fight. Who should Santos face next?
For complete UFC 227: “Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!