Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back at it again to stage another action-packed night of fights. UFC Vegas 22 will go down later tonight (Sat., March 20, 2021) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the event will be a Middleweight bout between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland. In the co-headlining act, Gregor Gillespie takes on Brad Riddell in Lightweight action.
Kevin Holland’s rise in the Middleweight ranks has been nothing short of impressive. After running into a roadblock named Thiago Santos in his UFC debut — a fight Holland took on short notice — “Trail Blazer” has gone on to rack up an 8-1 mark in his next nine, including winning his last five in a row. To make it even more impressive, those last five wins came in the span of eight months, four of them via knockout/technical knockout (TKO). While he’s been accused of having a “big mouth,” Holland has done his part to back it up, embracing the moniker given to him by none other that UFC president, Dana White.
In Brunson, Holland will face one of his stiffest tests to date. Brunson is as experienced as they come, fighting for UFC for over eight years now. During that time, he has taken on and defeated some of the best including Lyoto Machida, Uriah Hall and derailed the hype train that was Edmen Shahbazyan. While he has put on some good streaks during his UFC stint, he’s never been able to get over the hump and into serious title consideration. It seems right when he’s on the cusp, he comes up short, as was the case when he lost to Robert Whittaker.
Stylistically, both men like to stand and bang, but what worries me about Brunson is that he can sometimes get a little reckless. He has somewhat of an orthodox striking style once he gets going, and when he puts his foot on the gas he leaves himself open to counters at times. With Holland’s reach that could be bad news for Derek if he isn’t careful. But Brunson has petty much seen it all. He’s taken on former and current world champions, rising contenders and seasoned veterans, so there isn’t much that Holland can throw at him that will catch him off guard. If he can put a stop to “Trail Blazer’s” momentum, it could be his ticket to finally getting to the big dance. For Holland, a win over Brunson also gets him closer to a potential showdown against current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
The card is okay, not great, but we’ve come to accept that over the last year. These “Fight Night” events are a must to accommodate all of the fighters on the roster and their three promised fights in a year, so there will be some that are lacking, name wise. At the end of the day, that’s okay because they have to fight somewhere and UFC has to keep filling up cards week after week to fulfill its ESPN contract.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A Light Heavyweight fight between Paul Craig and Jamahal Hill was set to go down on this card but was postponed after Hill tested positive for COVID-19. Kay Hansen was forced to withdraw from her scheduled bout against Cheyanne Buys for undisclosed reasons. As a result, Buys will now face Montserrat Ruiz. After visa issues forced Johnny Eduardo out of his fight against Anthony Birchak, the fight was postponed for a later date. Don’Tale Mayes was deemed medically unfit to compete, so he was forced out of his fight against Tai Tuivasa. Stepping up to take his place is UFC newcomer, Harry Hunsucker.
Julija Stoliarenko was forced out of her fight against Julia Avila after she collapsed not once, but twice while stepping on the scale to make weight. While she did hit her mark (after the first time she collapsed) NSAC officials and doctors obviously weren’t going to let her fight in that condition.
Montserrat Ruiz got the call up to make her UFC debut on short notice after Kay Hansen was forced out of her fight against Cheyanne Buys. Coming in from Invicta FC, Ruiz is currently 9-1 in her pro MMA career. Buys is also a newcomer who earned her shot via the “Contender Series,” defeating Hilaire Rose in Aug. 2020 to improve her record to 5-1.
Harry Hunsucker also got a late call up to fill a hole on the card after Don’Tale Mayes was forced out of his 265-pound showdown against Tai Tuivasa. Hunsucker is 6-1 in his last seven fights with all of his wins coming via stoppage. Taking on someone like Tuivasa in your first UFC fight and on short notice isn’t ideal, but when UFC calls and you’re trying to get in, you answer. Tuivasa, meanwhile, recently got back on track after knocking out Stefan Struve in Oct. 2020. Prior to that big win, Tuivasa had dropped three straight, putting him on the brink of getting cut.
Jesse Strader will jump over from Combate Americas to face off against Montel Jackson in a Bantamweight affair on the undercard. Strader is currently riding a two fight win streak and the lone loss on his record came against Marcelo Rojo, another Combate Americas alum who came up short in his UFC debut last week at UFC Vegas 21. Jackson is looking at a bounce back victory after having his three fight win streak snapped by Brett Johns in July 2020.
Winner of five in a row, J.P. Buys comes in from an impressive showing on the “Contender Series” to face Bruno Silva, loser of two straight. Other than one disqualification win, Buys’ victories have all come via submission or knockout.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Marion Reneau, 43, is the oldest female fighter on the UFC roster. She has seen better days, though, because she is currently on a three-fight losing streak, and has only fought once a year since 2018. She needs a big win over Macy Chiasson (6-1) to avoid the dreaded pink slip.
A Lightweight fight between Grant Dawson and Leonardo Santos could steal the show once the dust settles. Dawson (16-1) is on a seven-fight win streak and has yet to taste defeat under the UFC banner. Santos, meanwhile, is doing just a bit better, winning 12 of his last 13 with the other result being a draw against Norman Parke in 2014.
Santos has been putting in work for UFC for nearly eight years now, earning a 7-0-1 mark since. He is looking for a bit more respect on his name and a win over Dawson helps him achieve that. It’s easy to get lost in the UFC mix with such a big roster, so an impressive showing by either man could be what they need to get some more spotlight.
Another potential bang fest is one between Trevin Giles and Roman Dolidze. Giles has turned it around after two straight losses to win two in a row. Dolidze, meanwhile, doesn’t know the meaning of defeat, going 8-0 so far which includes two wins inside the Octagon. They have 18 stoppage victories between them, so don’t count on this one going to the scorecards.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Bruno Silva is on the chopping block. In his UFC debut he came up short against Khalid Taha, though the loss was overturned to a no contest (NC) after Taha tested positive for diuretics. Silva then went on to drop his next two, which means if he loses his third in a row this Saturday against newcomer J.P. Buys, it could be the end of the UFC line for him.
Interest Level: 5/10
Adrian Yanez will put his five straight wins on the line against Gustavo Lopez in another fight that could lead to some post-fight bonus cash. Both of these men come to bang and have energy for days. Fighting in the Bantamweight division, they have a chance to make some waves because it’s not exactly the most stacked division UFC has.
After snapping his two fight skid in his previous bout, Max Griffin is in search of his first win streak in five years. Consistently inconsistent seems to be the pattern Griffin has been on. His opponent, Kenan Song, has been doing great as of late, winning four of five inside the Octagon. Still, he has to do a lot more if he wants to crack the Top 15 because the 155-pound weight class is loaded. A win over Griffin helps his cause.
But the big fight everyone is waiting for is Brunson vs. Holland. It’s put up or shut up time for both men. Brunson desperately wants to prove that he is deserving of a title shot while Holland wants to keep his momentum going to show he’s worthy of all the praise he’s getting...or perhaps make a case that he should be getting more of it than this man.
UFC Vegas 22 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 22 Main Event on ESPN / ESPN+:
185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland
UFC Vegas 22 Main Card on ESPN / ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad RiddellCANCELED
170 lbs.: Max Griffin vs. Song Kenan
115 lbs.: Cheyanne Buys vs. Montserrat Ruiz
135 lbs.: Gustavo Lopez vs. Adrian Yanez
265 lbs.: Tai Tuivasa vs. Harry Hunsucker
UFC Vegas 22 “Prelims” Card on ESPN2 / ESPN+ (7:30 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Marion Reneau
155 lbs.: Grant Dawson vs. Leonardo Santos
185 lbs.: Roman Dolidze vs. Trevin Giles
135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. Jesse Strader
125 lbs.: J.P. Buys vs. Bruno Silva
135 lbs.: Julia Avila vs. Julija Stoliarenko— CANCELED (details here)
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 22 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN2 / ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN / ESPN+ main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.