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Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland full fight preview | UFC Orlando

UFC 279: Chimaev v Holland Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight strikers Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland will go to war TONIGHT (Sat., Dec. 3, 2022) at UFC Orlando inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

Thompson has his back to the wall a bit here. The 39-year-old veteran has lost two in a row, a skid which has kicked him out of the Top Five at 170 pounds. Against the unranked “Trailblazer,” Thompson now has to avoid being dropped significantly further down the rankings. Meanwhile, it’s good to see Holland still getting a big opportunity after UFC 279. Khamzat mayhem aside, Holland remains unbeaten at Welterweight, and he’s picked up two performance bonus in the process.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

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Stephen Thompson

Record: 16-6-1
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald (UFC Fight Night 89), Jorge Masvidal (UFC 217), Robert Whittaker (UFC 178), Vicente Luque (UFC 244), Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 82), Geoff Neal (UFC Vegas 17)
Key Losses: Belal Muhammad (UFC Vegas 45), Gilbert Burns (UFC 264), Tyron Woodley (UFC 211), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 148)
Keys to Victory: Thompson is a unique and slick striker. Time and time again, we’ve seen his Karate style frustrate dangerous opponents, leaving them chasing air while getting touched up in the process.

On paper, I don’t see huge problems for Thompson in this match up. Holland can crack, but his stand up isn’t that complicated. He fires hard 1-2s down the middle and has some tricky kicks, but his range work isn’t nearly as layered as “Wonderboy.” Holland has yet to show the footwork necessary to track down Thompson, nor does he really have the option to change levels and wrestle.

Still, Holland’s combination of speed and reach are dangerous. Thompson will have to be careful, especially when trying to time his counter straights. That might mean some slower early rounds, but that’s a small price to pay in a 25-minute contest.


Kevin Holland

Record: 23-8 (1)
Key Wins: Tim Means (UFC Austin), Alex Oliveira (UFC 272), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 256), Darren Stewart (UFC Vegas 11), Joaquin Buckley (UFC Vegas 6)
Key Losses: Derek Brunson (UFC Vegas 22), Marvin Vettori (UFC Vegas 23), Khamzat Chimaev (UFC 279), Brendan Allen (UFC on ESPN 6)
Keys to Victory: Holland is a really special offensive fighter. He’s got a massive reach and knows how to fire long, powerful punches, but he’s also a potent finisher in less common positions, like inside the clinch or on his back.

Holland wins this fight via damage. He doesn’t necessarily have to stop “Wonderboy,” which is a historically difficult strategy, but he does have to hurt him. Luckily, Thompson is a touch slower than he used to be, whereas Holland is as quick and rangy as ever.

The best analogue here is perhaps the Darren Till fight. Holland doesn’t have to be quite so low-volume, but Till did manage to snag a close decision by having a couple big moments. If Holland is patient and doesn’t charge forward recklessly, Thompson’s signature counters will not land as often. That shifts the dynamic, forcing Thompson to linger in the pocket a bit longer in hopes of landing, which creates opportunity for Holland.

Playing it patient is the proven strategy against “Wonderboy,” and Holland has the power to make his shots count.


Bottom Line

This is a crossroads fight for either man.

Thompson still has his eye on the title. As it stands, that seems rather unlikely given his recent losses, but a big main event win could turn his momentum around. After all, he’s still ranked highly at No. 6, so perhaps there’s still hope? That hope is surely extinguished with a loss to an unranked opponent, and three defeats in a row could really bring up retirement talks.

As for Holland, he has a chance to break into the Welterweight Top 10. Again, the short-notice and catchweight loss to Khamzat Chimaev really shouldn’t be held against him. If he takes out “Wonderboy,” he’s won three in a row and passed his biggest test yet. That should be enough for another high-profile match up, perhaps against a Top Five opponent.

At UFC Orlando, Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland will square off in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Orlando fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

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