Kevin Holland hopes to end his two-fight skid on Saturday against Kyle Daukaus at UFC Vegas 38. Holland needs a win to remain a legitimate contender in the middleweight division.
2021 has been a stark contrast from what 2020 was for Holland. In his two bouts in March and April, Holland dropped both fights by unanimous decision to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori. When talking about the former of the two bouts, Holland was exposed on the ground by Brunson.
For Brunson, it was a clinical performance that completely overmatched Holland’s takedown defense. Holland was puzzled in the bottom position against Brunson, and he struggled to get up. He had flashes of success when the fight was kept standing, but those moments were few and far between.
Three weeks later, Holland stepped in to fight Vettori on short notice. He looked much better, but the grappling holes in his game were still present. To be fair, he had five fights worth of tape in 2020 alone that were available to Brunson and Vettori. They clearly studied his fights and worked on grappling against Holland.
Looking ahead at this fight against Daukaus, Holland has to recreate his success from last year. The UFC did not do Holland any favors in this bout because he is going up against someone with a vast grappling background. Daukaus is not the best wrestler, but he is a submission specialist.
Daukaus (10-2 record) has eight submission victories on his record. It is apparent that Daukaus wants this fight to go to the ground to pull off a submission. This may not be as big of a problem for Holland since he is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but he has to be careful of any ground advancements that Daukaus will try to make.
The pressure is on Holland to get back to his winning ways or else he is in danger of a UFC exit. Holland is ultra-talented and could find himself in the championship picture one day, but he needs to figure out how to win immediately.