UFC middleweight contender Marvin Vettori believes he beat Israel Adesanya when they battled to a split decision at UFC on FOX 29 back in early 2018. But the only way to prove it is by earning a middleweight title shot and running it back, because “The Last Stylebender” remains king of the 185-pound division.
Serving as a ladder on that journey, or perhaps a chute that slides him back to square one, is middleweight motormouth Kevin Holland, who may be a legitimate contender at 185 pounds — or simply a smooth talker who knows that sometimes the fastest way to the promised land is to strike while the iron is hot.
We’ll find out in the UFC Vegas 23 headliner, which takes place tomorrow afternoon (Sat., April 10, 2021) inside APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, airing on ESPN+, ESPN, and ABC, which is why the event has 14 different names depending on what combat sports media outlet you frequent on any given day.
In the UFC Vegas 23 co-main event, streaking 145-pound standout Arnold Allen will look to win his tenth straight fight and seventh under the UFC banner when he collides with once-beaten featherweight bruiser Sodiq Yusuff, who like “Almighty,” has racked up enough wins to blast his way into the division title chase.
Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the UFC Vegas 23 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Vettori vs. Holland” odds and betting lines click here.
Let’s get to work ...
185 lbs.: Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland
Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori
Record: 16-4-1 | Age: 27 | Betting line: -345
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 9 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.78 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.19 | Striking Defense: 66%
Takedown Average: 1.33 (45% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 78%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Jack Hermansson
Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland
Record: 21-6 | Age: 28 | Betting line: +285
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 81” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.14 | Striking accuracy: 56%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.58 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 1.08 (45% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 51%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Derek Brunson
Marvin Vettori is the winner of four straight, including last December’s victory over Jack Hermansson, who was ranked No. 4 at the time of their collision. And yet “The Italian Dream” is somehow seated below Darren Till, despite the fact that “The Gorilla” lost three of his last four and has just one victory at middleweight, a split-decision nod over the struggling Kelvin Gastelum. Till posting funny memes on Twitter seems to be enough to charm the media members charged with voting. I'm not one of them, mind you, because saying stuff like this got me kicked off the panel, but that’s a story for another post. For today’s drivel, I’ll be focusing on the merits of Vettori and whether or not he’s got the chops to upend Kevin Holland.
To quote the Magic 8 Ball: All signs point to YES.
Holland has been with the promotion for less than three years but has already racked up a Cerrone-esque 11 fights, not including his victory on Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in June 2018. That’s the kind of output you can expect from hungry young fighters with no belts and no status to lose. Along the way, “Trailblazer” has demonstrated some impressive kickboxing and a chatty shtick that has entertained some and infuriated others. I know that as a fighter you do whatever you gotta do to stay in the zone, but one thing I’ve learned over the 15 years I’ve been covering this sport is that any time spent talking and clowning around is time spent not concentrating on the fight.
Something Derek Brunson was able to capitalize on a few weeks back.
What’s interesting about this pairing is that Holland can use some of those antics to his advantage. Vettori, a talented ground fighter with improved standup, was already a combustible hothead to begin with and I’m sure “Trailblazer” will be able to get under his skin within a matter of minutes. That said, I don’t know if “fighting angry” is enough of a detriment for me to pick against “The Italian Dream.” Sure, he’s had his share of close decision victories over the last three years, but he’s also managed to do something that Holland hasn’t.
Beat someone in the Top 5.
Prediction: Vettori def. Holland by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Arnold Allen vs. Sodiq Yusuff
“Almighty” Arnold Allen
Record: 16-1 | Age: 27 | Betting line: +125
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.19 | Striking accuracy: 41%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.00 | Striking Defense: 67%
Takedown Average: 1.36 (52% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 76%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Nik Lentz
“Super” Sodiq Yusuff
Record: 11-1 | Age: 27 | Betting line: -145
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.10 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.06 | Striking Defense: 58%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 72%
Current Ranking: No. 11 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Andre Fili
This co-main event battle between up-and-coming featherweight prospects may not have the household name value some fans were hoping for, but it’s a very important fight for the 145-pound weight class and will likely determine who belongs in the upper echelon of the division. I don’t think anyone would contest the fact that we’re in need of some fresh names in the Top 10. In addition, “Korean Zombie” and Dan Ige have been booked to throw down, Yair Rodriguez got milk box’d by USADA, and Max Holloway is stuck in a holding pattern while Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega play coach on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). The sooner we can get things moving, the better, and now Arnold Allen and Sodiq Yusuff have a chance to capitalize on that opportunity.
Since making his Octagon debut back in June 2015 at the tender age of 22, Allen has looked nothing short of fantastic, racking up seven straight wins over some very tough competition. Detractors have complained about “Almighty” going to the scorecards in three straight fights, but that’s because the Tristar product has been fighting tactically, establishing a winning gameplan and sticking to it. Yusuff, meanwhile, has only been around for half the time, putting his best foot forward on Dana White’s “Contender Series” then following that up with four straight wins, two of them by way of technical knockout. I guess the knock against “Super” is that he takes a ton of abuse, which is why his Strikes Absorbed Per Minute is nearly double that of Allen.
It’s hard to criticize a fighter who keeps winning and Yusuff has no reason to doubt what he’s been able to do thus far in his career. The counter to that is Allen’s superiority on the feet, at least from a technical perspective, because if “Almighty” has the footwork to keep himself out of the red zone, I’m not sure Yusuff has a Plan B. I can’t help but think of the kind of shots both Andre Fili and Sheymon Moraes were able to land on Yusuff and I have Allen ranked above both of them in terms of skill. A “Super” bumrush is always possible and Allen will have to be weary of the incoming fire, I just think Yusuff will grow more and more frustrated as the fight goes on, which will only increase the sloppiness of his attack. Unless something dramatic happens, I’m expecting “Almighty” to coast to a decision fairly easily.
Prediction: Allen def. Yusuff by unanimous decision
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 23 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 23 fight card tomorrow afternoon, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 12 p.m. ET, followed by the ABC/ESPN+ main card start time at 3 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 23 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete “Vettori vs. Holland” fight card and ABC/ESPN+ lineup click here.
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