Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Michael Chiesa and Kevin Holland will throw down this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2023) at UFC 291 inside Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
It’s been the better part of two years since Michael Chiesa came up short in Nov. 2021 opposite Sean Brady. After a hot start to his Welterweight career, the grappling ace has now lost two in a row and spent substantial time on the bench. Safe to say, a win here is important in getting the ball rolling once more. Holland, conversely, is one of the most active men on the roster. Even when his hand is damaged from his last crazy brawl, he’ll show up to fight. Still, this is an important bout for Holland, a chance to demonstrate his grappling improvements and also break into the Welterweight rankings for the first time.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 166), Neil Magny (UFC Fight Island 8), Carlos Condit (UFC 232), Beneil Dariush (UFC on FOX 19), Al Iaquinta (TUF 15 Finale)
Key Losses: Sean Brady (UFC Vegas 43), Vicente Luque (UFC 265), Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 112), Anthony Pettis (UFC 223), Jorge Masvidal (UFC on FOX 8)
Keys to Victory: Chiesa has never been unclear about his intentions. Though he may be able to surprise opponents occasionally with the speed and power of his awkward blitzes, Chiesa’s wheelhouse remains dragging foes to the floor, wrapping up their back, and locking in the choke.
He’s finished 11 foes via submission.
Seeing as Holland’s historical weakness is takedown defense, I’d say Chiesa’s go-to style matches up pretty well here! Really, the big goal should be to get Holland to the fence. He just doesn’t defend double leg takedowns very well from that position, as he often allows both of his hips to be squared up along the fence, making the shot an easy finish.
Chiesa knows how to grind for takedowns and transition continually for shots. Going up and down the body between clinch takedowns and lower body shots is one of Chiesa’s best attributes, which should work well here. Lastly, if Chiesa does get Holland down, he’s shown the immense top pressure needed to pin him to the floor.
Record: 24-9 (1)
Key Wins: Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC 287), Tim Means (UFC Austin), Alex Oliveira (UFC 272), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 256), Joaquin Buckley (UFC Vegas 6)
Key Losses: Stephen Thompson (UFC Orlando), 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 an offense-first fight. His ability to fire forward with rangy, powerful, and fast strikes consistently catches opponents off-guard, and it helps that he’s willing to get creative with his setups. He’s stopped 20 opponents, mostly via knockout.
Chiesa may have a clear advantage on the canvas, but Holland’s edges in fluidity and power on the feet are equally large. He’s going to be able to land and hurt Chiesa, provided he can keep this one on the feet.
Admittedly, there have been some promising signs in that regard. Generally, Holland’s takedown defense has looked better since the Vettori and Brunson losses, though this will be a big test in that regard. If he can keep his distance, establish his straight punches, and continually move, Chiesa may have a harder time than he expects corralling Holland and getting his wrestling going.
Really, Holland doesn’t need many opportunities to do fight-changing damage.
Two well-known and well-liked Welterweights will compete over Chiesa’s No. 12 spot.
Due to his current two-fight losing streak, Chiesa is now fairly removed from the title picture. The first step to changing that is to turn away an unranked challenger to his position, and it’s certainly not a bad thing that he gets to do so against a popular opponent on a big card. If Chiesa returns to action in good form to pick up the victory, someone up the ladder next isn’t impossible.
As for Holland, he’s fought pretty well at Welterweight, and his sole loss in this division (Stephen Thompson) had nothing to do with his previous wrestling woes. His ceiling remains uncertain in this division, and how he handles Chiesa will say a lot about his chance to climb the ranks in the historically wrestler-filled 170-pound division.
At UFC 291, Michael Chiesa and Kevin Holland will open the main card. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 291 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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