Kevin Holland is out to prove his worth in the middleweight division later today (Sat., Apr. 10, 2021) at UFC Vegas 23 when he takes on rising contender Marvin Vettori in the main event.
This is a massive opportunity for Holland after coming off a lackluster performance opposite Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22 last month (highlights HERE). Holland talked a big game leading up to the fight and during the five-round main event, but ended up producing a complete dud. The talented middleweight received considerable backlash for his performance against Brunson and needs a big win this weekend to reclaim his divisional footing.
“It’s funny that everybody wanted to see ‘Big Mouth’ until ‘Big Mouth’ didn’t do his job and they got all upset and mad,” Holland told Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole. “Then, all of a sudden, they wanted ‘Trailblazer.’ So what is it? Do you want a dull, boring experience where everything is the same or do you want something fun, something different? Remember this: The same people who got upset were the same ones who loved ‘Big Mouth’ so much.”
Holland was riding a five-fight win streak entering his bout with Brunson so the lack of offense and mid-fight adjustments was a little surprising. “Big Mouth” just didn’t seem to have the same focus that he usually brings inside of the cage. Holland’s head coach, former UFC fighter Travis Lutter, believes that’s due to a combination of Brunson’s game plan and his own lack of ability to refocus Holland in the corner.
“Brunson didn’t give Kevin the space he needed to do the things he did to Jacare,” Lutter said. “Derek’s a lot more in your face and was playing a lot tighter. He wasn’t interested in passing, where Jacare would have passed and tried to end the fight. And I think [Holland] got frustrated and I feel I made a mistake as a coach in the corner. I couldn’t get him out of it. He was over there talking to Khabib and I really think it was because he was embarrassed.
“He operates on being embarrassed more than almost anything, and he was embarrassed. So I think now his attitude is, ‘OK, f—k you all, I’ll show you I can be as good as you thought.’ He went the 25 minutes and he knows now it isn’t as bad as he thought. But during the fight when I went to the corner, I couldn’t get him snapped out of it. I think if I’d have sent one of the other coaches in to talk to him, he’d have recognized something was wrong and maybe changed.”
Luckily, Holland has all the tools needed to make the right adjustments and come back with a bang this weekend at UFC Vegas 23. In fact, Lutter believes Holland is the most gifted fighters he’s ever worked with. All it takes are a few tweaks and “Big Mouth” can fight his way back into the title mix at 185 pounds.
“As far as raw talent is concerned, Kevin’s the greatest I’ve ever been around,” Lutter said. “I haven’t been around Jon Jones, but I’ve heard the rumors of him and I’ve watched him fight and I put Kevin up there like that. I trained with GSP [Georges St-Pierre], I trained with Randy Couture, Guy Mezger. All these different guys I’ve trained with and honestly, Kevin is the most talented guy. He’s incredibly gifted.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 23 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the early ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 11:30 a.m ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” at 12 noon, before the ABC/ESPN+ kickoff at 3 p.m. ET.