Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight combatants Kevin Holland and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will duel this weekend (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020) at UFC 256 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Times have been tough for “Jacare,” who seems likely to go down in history as one of the best to never hold a UFC title. The 40-year-old Brazilian has lost three of his last four bouts, and though those defeats all came to top-notch opposition, it still appears the end may be near for Souza’s time as a top contender. Holland, meanwhile, has really made a name for himself in 2020, fighting as often as possible and winning four-straight fights. If he can score yet another win and advance into the rankings as a result, “TrailBlazer” has a real case for himself as a “Fighter of the Year” candidate.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 26-7 (1)
Key Wins: Chris Weidman (UFC 230), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 50), Derek Brunson (UFC on FOX 27), Yushin Okami (UFC Fight Night 28), Tim Boetsch (UFC 208)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC on FOX 24), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 224). Yoel Romero (UFC 194), Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov), Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 150)
Keys to Victory: Souza is a grappling master, but he’s one who implements his jiu-jitsu with a ton of strength and athleticism. As a result, his wrestling and kickboxing have remained meat-and-potatoes, yet all elements of his game are very dangerous.
Souza has to get this fight to the mat. Souza is a ferocious puncher, but he’s also a fairly simple one who likes to load up on left hooks and right hands as he crashes forward. Holland has a significant reach advantage and the straight shot counters to brutally punish that style — it’s just a bad striking match up.
Fortunately, Holland’s takedown defense is historically iffy. It’s not bad per se, but committed wrestlers tend to get him down. If Souza commits early to the wrestling, he will eventually put Holland on his back, at which point Holland’s own jiu-jitsu strength turns into something of a negative against “Jacare.”
There’s no reason for Souza to do anything else but wrestle on Saturday night.
Key Wins: Darren Stewart (UFC Vegas 11), Joaquin Buckley (UFC Vegas 6), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC on ESPN 2), Anthony Hernandez (UFC on ESPN 8)
Key Losses: Brendan Allen (UFC on ESPN 6), Thiago Santos (UFC 227)
Keys to Victory: Holland is full of tricks. At distance, he’s a rangy sniper with legitimate power in his one-two combination, but he’s also proven pretty deadly in the clinch. Oh, and in addition to his jiu-jitsu black belt, Holland is a second-degree black belt in Kung Fu.
Holland has to establish something to keep Souza off him early. If Souza feels confident in walking forward, chucking power shots, and driving for takedowns, Holland is going to have a rough time.
Fortunately, Holland has the tools. He has a sharp jab, cross and can snap kicks up the center. “TrailBlazer” has to use those strikes — as well as clinch knees and elbows if Souza does close the distance — to convince Souza that walking forward is too painful an idea to pursue.
Foot work will help too. Souza’s wrestling game is not that complicated, but his power double works well against opponents trapped on the fence.
The more Holland moves his feet and fires strikes up the middle, the better his chances.
Like the PPV main card opener, this is another crossroads fight between a long-time contender and hot prospect.
Souza may not be a former champion like Junior dos Santos, but he’s one of the most established elite Middleweights of the 2010s. If he loses a third-consecutive fight, it leaves him in something of a No Man’s Land, as he’s a dangerous fight without being a title threat in any division.
As for Holland, this is an absolutely gigantic opportunity. As mentioned, Souza is proven as the real deal. If Holland can cap off an excellent 2020 by defeating “Jacare,” he enters next year with a ton of momentum behind him, and he’ll likely find himself in a main event or facing a top-ranked foe sooner than later.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 256 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 256: “Figueiredo vs. Moreno” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC 256, Ronaldo Souza and Kevin Holland will throw down. Which man will have his hand raised?