Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Kevin Holland and Alex Oliveira will square off this weekend (Sat., March 5, 2022) at UFC 272 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Five wins in 2020 made Holland a “Fighter of the Year” contender and propelled him into the Middleweight Top 10, but last year was abysmal for “Big Mouth.” Consecutive main event slots saw Holland held down for what felt like 50 continuous minutes, and then his attempt to rebound versus Kyle Daukaus resulted in a painful “No Contest.” Now, Holland heads to Welterweight, and he’ll face a long-time veteran in his first dance at 170 pounds. The Brazilian “Cowboy” has been struggling too, losing his last three bouts to some tough opposition.
Long story short, both men really need to win here. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 21-7 (1)
Key Wins: Ronaldo Souza (UFC 256), Darren Stewart (UFC Vegas 11), Joaquin Buckley (UFC Vegas 6), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC on ESPN 2), Anthony Hernandez (UFC on ESPN 8)
Key Losses: Derek Brunson (UFC Vegas 22), Marvin Vettori (UFC Vegas 23), Brendan Allen (UFC on ESPN 6), Thiago Santos (UFC 227)
Keys to Victory: Holland is a majorly explosive offensive talent. Even at Middleweight, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt had major power in his hands and a pretty ridiculous reach. If he can make Welterweight without issue, that range and pop is going to be a serious issue for the other 170 pounders.
This is an excellent test for Holland’s potential at Welterweight, because it’s a fight that he should win. On the feet, Holland is sharper and more durable. Oliveira is a capable wrestler, but he’s not as technical nor as strong as Brunson or Vettori, and defensive wrestling is an area where Holland has shown improvement recently. As such, stopping shots and slamming one-two combinations down the middle should be a simple enough task for Holland ... if his cardio is still up to par, and he’s able to adjust to the quickness of smaller opponents.
There’s only one way to find out ...
Record: 22-11-1 (2)
Key Wins: Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 29), Max Griffin (UFC 248), Ryan LaFlare (UFC on FOX 25), Tim Means (UFC Fight Night 106), Will Brooks (UFC Fight Night 96)
Key Losses: Shavkat Rakhmonov (UFC 254), Randy Brown (UFC 261), Gunnar Nelson (UFC 231), Mike Perry (UFC Fight Night 150), Nicolas Dalby (UFC Fight Night 160)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is a majorly powerful man at 170 pounds. He has big power in his hands and kicks, and when able to wrap up his opponent’s waist, Oliveira is happy to slam his foe to the canvas and go to work with elbows.
Oliveira typically likes to strike from range, lunging forward with right hands in between heavy round kicks. Against a sharper boxer with an even longer reach and nasty pull counter, that sounds like a bad idea. Instead, Oliveira has to press Holland and make sure he’s in range before pulling the trigger on his haymakers.
Wrestling Holland isn’t as easy as Brunson made it look or some fight fans seem to believe, but it’s still Oliveira’s primary path to victory. The weight cut remains a major question mark for Holland; there’s a fair chance that cutting an additional 15 pounds saps some of his strength in the wrestling exchanges. Either way, Oliveira should be looking for the double along the fence, his best takedown and one that Holland has struggled with previously.
If Oliveira gets on top, he has a fair shot at jumping on the neck.
Both men enter in must-win territory.
Do I think Holland would be released with another loss? Not really. He’s only officially lost two in a row, and he’s a (reasonably) big name who’s willing to fill in on short-notice. However, defeat would be devastating for his Welterweight career. Likely, it would send him back to Middleweight, where he’s only recently lost to Top 10-ranked opponents.
Conversely, is Oliveira likely to be released with a loss? Probably. The 34-year-old hit his ceiling several years ago inside the Octagon, and though his fights are always funny, the veteran isn’t winning them all that often. Unfortunately for Oliveira, that often means release in 2022, so it’s fair to say his back is against the wall here.
At UFC 272, Kevin Holland and Alex Oliveira will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 272 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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