Originally published at UFC Fight Night Report: Derek Brunson defeats Kevin Holland by decision
UFC Fight Night Report: Derek Brunson defeats Kevin Holland by unanimous decision
By: Eric Marcotte
On Saturday night the UFC continued their current string of events at the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. This particular Fight Night event was headlined by a middleweight bout between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland. This bout marked Holland’s first fight of the year following a fantastic 2020, where he went 5-0. A win over Derek Brunson would likely elevate Holland to contendership status in the middleweight division. Brunson has been a consistent threat in the middleweight division since his debut in the promotion, and his current three-fight win streak had reinvigorated his hopes for ascending to the top of the division. Gregor Gillespie was set to face Brad Riddell in the co-main event for this card, but the bout was canceled hours before the event due to COVID safety protocols. The fight is currently expected to be rescheduled for a future date.
Brendan Fitzgerald provided commentary for this card alongside Paul Felder and Michael Bisping. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Max Griffin, Adrian Yanez, Grant Dawson, and Bruno Silva.
*Bruno Silva def. J.P. Buys by TKO at 2:56 of Round 2
*Montel Jackson def. Jesse Strader by TKO at 1:58 of Round 1
*Trevin Giles def. Roman Dolidze by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Grant Dawson def. Leonardo Santos by KO at 4:59 of Round 3
*Macy Chiasson def. Marion Reneau by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Tai Tuivasa def. Harry Hunsucker by TKO at 0:49 of Round 1
*Adrian Yanez def. Gustavo Lopez by KO at 0:27 of Round 3
*Montserrat Conejo def. Cheyanne Buys by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
*Max Griffin def. Kenan Song by KO at 2:20 of Round 1
*Derek Brunson def. Kevin Holland by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46, 49-46)
J.P. BUYS (9-2, 126) VS BRUNO SILVA (10-5-2, 1 NC, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Silva kicked Buys low to begin the night. Once the action resumed, Silva caught Buys in the eye with a thumb, and the fight was halted yet again. Silva was given a hard warning, but no point was deducted. Buys went for a jumping switch kick and Silva capitalized by bringing him to the ground. Buys picked himself up against the cage and pressed Silva against it as he tried to record a takedown of his own. He was unsuccessful, and Silva landed an uppercut and a left hook after they separated. Silva ended the round with a strong spinning forearm that hurt Buys, and Silva took this round on my scorecard.
Buys seemed to slip moments into the second round, and Silva immediately assumed top positon. Buys escaped and began to press forward. Silva tagged Buys with a right hand that dropped him, and Buys tried to roll to safety, but was dropped moments after returning to his feet yet again. Silva jumped on him, swarming him with follow-up strikes, looking to finish the fight, but Buys somehow made it back to his feet yet again. Unfortunately for Buys, Silva dropped him one more time with a right hand, and referee Mark Smith stepped in to stop the fight.
WINNER: Bruno Silva by TKO at 2:56 of Round 2
Every time Silva landed that right hand, it hurt Buys, and after the third knockout in less than a minute, Mark Smith really had no choice but to stop the fight. This was far and away Silva’s best performance in the UFC, and it was one that he was desperately in need of after a rough start to his run in the UFC. Silva asked Dana White and Sean Shelby to renew his UFC contract in his post-fight interview.
MONTEL JACKSON (9-2, 136) VS JESSE STRADER (5-1, 137.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Jackson was a -700 favorite.
Strader began the fight with a pair of leg kicks. Jackson dropped Strader with a right hand on the break of a clinch exchange, and while Strader was able to pick himself up, he was hurt, and Jackson dropped him again with a quick combination near the cage. Jackson didn’t allow him to recover, following the knockdown up with some strong ground and pound strikes, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Montel Jackson by TKO at 1:58 of Round 1
Jackson was a -700 favorite for a reason. Strader took this fight on short notice and was naturally a sizeable underdog making his UFC debut here, and the fight played out as expected. Jackson is now 4-2 in the UFC with this win.
Brendan Fitzgerald broke the news that next week’s featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega has been canceled due to COVID protocols. The fight is expected to be rescheduled for a later date.
TREVIN GILES (13-2, 185.5) VS ROMAN DOLIDZE (8-0, 185) – WELTERWEIGHT
They exchanged kicks in the opening minutes of the first round. Giles tagged him with a solid straight right hand but got caught by a spinning back fist moments later. Dolidze recorded his first takedown of the fight in the latter half of the round, and while he couldn’t keep Giles down for long, he controlled the remainder of the round against the cage. 10-9 Dolidze.
Giles landed a strong left hand to begin the second round. He was tagging Dolidze with his jab, and Dolidze was having trouble closing the distance without getting hit. Dolidze’s best work continued to come from his kicks and tried to roll for a heel hook, bringing the fight to the ground. Giles postured up and landed some heavy ground and pound shots, and Dolidze was continuously repositioning himself in an attempt to lock in the submission while avoiding Giles’s powerful punches. Giles worked his way back to his feet but was held against the cage to end the round. 19-19.
Giles stuffed a takedown early in the third, and he was looking like he had a bit more left in the tank coming off of his stool. He hurt Dolidze badly with a right hand, and he looked to finish the fight on the ground. Dolidze ended up rolling for a knee again, and while he didn’t get it, he ended up in half guard. Giles worked his way up yet again, and they separated with a minute remaining in the round. Giles landed a 1-2 but was taken down moments later. These last two rounds were close, but I thought Giles landed the heavier blows throughout those rounds, and I gave him the edge on the scorecards. 29-28 Giles.
WINNER: Trevin Giles by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was a close fight, but I ultimately agreed with the judge’s decision here. While Dolidze landed a ton of leg kicks, they didn’t seem to impact Giles much, and in turn, it seemed as though everything Giles landed was doing damage. Felder was puzzled by Giles decision to engage Dolidze in the grappling when he had him hurt, and while Giles did a good job of explaining his logic in his post-fight interview, I would have to agree with Felder’s stance that Giles probably could have finished the fight if he kept it standing when he had Dolidze hurt in the final round. Giles is now 5-2 in the UFC.
LEONARDO SANTOS (18-3-1, 155.5) VS GRANT DAWSON (16-1, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Santos landed a number of leg kicks and stuffed a takedown attempt from Dawson. He connected with some slick right hands and seemed to be the more comfortable fighter on the feet early. Dawson landed a right hand, and tried to take Santos down, but was unsuccessful. Instead, it was Santos who took the fight to the ground with a trip. Dawson quickly worked his way up, but was cut open above the ear somewhere in the process.
The commentators spent the opening minute of the second round discussing the respective twitch streams of Stipe Miocic and Jens Pulver. Santos caught Dawson with a kick that landed low, and the fight was paused for a minute. Dawson caught Santos with a head low kick of his own when the fight resumed but ate a knee moments later as he attempted a takedown. Santos spent the next couple of minutes defending takedowns, and ultimately took Dawson’s back after stuffing one. Santos landed a strong right hand but ate a spinning kick to the face before the round concluded.
Santos defended yet another takedown to begin the third round. About two minutes in, Dawson finally managed to get Santos down, and he began to work from half guard. It looked as though Dawson was going to ride out the round on top, but with seconds left in the round, he stood up and began to throw down these vicious hammerfists, and he knocked Santos unconscious just before time expired.
WINNER: Grant Dawson by KO at 4:59 of Round 3
Wow. This was an incredible finish to what was a very close fight. Two of the judges apparently had Dawson up two rounds to nothing heading into the third, but it could have just as easily been 20-18 Santos. This marked the end of a lengthy unbeaten streak for Leonardo Santos, who last lost in May of 2009. Dawson called out Clay Guida in his post-fight interview and asked Paul Felder to follow him on Instagram.
MARION RENEAU (9-6-1, 136) VS MACY CHIASSON (6-1, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Reneau’s primary weapon throughout the round was her low kick. Chiasson seemed to be having a bit of trouble finding her range, and Reneau was landing some solid right hands when she closed the distance. Reneau landed a heavy kick to the body, and Chiasson responded with one of her own. Reneau took Chiasson’s back in a clinch exchange and ended the round strongly. 10-9 Reneau.
Chiasson backed Reneau up with a hard shot early and backed her up against the cage. Reneau was bleeding heavily from her nose, and Felder speculated that her nose may be broken. Chiasson racked up a solid amount of control time throughout the round and landed a hard kick to the body when they separated. Reneau connected with a pair of right hands, but Chiasson was beginning to take over their striking exchanges. Late in the round, Reneau took Chiasson down, but Chiasson swept her way on top and ended the round in Reneau’s guard. 19-19.
Reneau knocked Chiasson off-balance with a kick to the body, but Chiasson recovered quickly. Chiasson defended a takedown attempt, and they exchanged right hands. Reneau dragged Chiasson down near the cage with two minutes remaining in the round, but Chiasson picked herself up, and they both landed heavy hooks in the pocket before Chiasson recorded a takedown of her own, and ended the round in top position. 29-28 Chiasson.
WINNER: Macy Chiasson by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was a good back and forth fight, and I thought both fighters looked better here than they did in their last respective outings. Reneau will soon be 44 years of age, and she is now on a four-fight losing streak, and one has to wonder how much longer she plans to continue fighting. As for Chiasson, she is now 5-1 in the UFC, and will likely find herself in the top ten of her division when the rankings are updated.
TAI TUIVASA (10-3, 264.5) VS HARRY HUNSUCKER (7-3, 249) – WELTERWEIGHT
Hunsucker rushed forward with a strong combination, but his legs were getting beaten up quickly. Tuivasa hurt Hunsucker with a right hand, and he proceeded to drop him with another one. Tuivasa followed him to the ground and finished the fight with ground and pound.
WINNER: Tai Tuivasa by TKO at 0:49 of Round 1
Tuivasa hurt Hunsucker with leg kicks early and immediately moved in to finish the fight. Tuivasa was a sizeable favorite against his short notice important, and he proved the oddsmakers correct with this quick knockout. Tuivasa dedicated this fight to a cousin of his who was recently killed, and Felder had to cut him off to welcome fans to the UFC broadcast (there was a delay for American viewers due to an NCAA game). Tuivasa called for a top fifteen opponent in his post-fight interview.
GUSTAVO LOPEZ (12-5, 136) VS ADRIAN YANEZ (12-3, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Lopez was swinging hard with looping right hands, while Yanez’s go-to throughout the round was his straight right. It was an evenly paced round by and large, with both fighters having brief moments of success. Late in the round, Yanez really found his range and timing, and he was tagging Yanez with combinations near the cage. 10-9 Yanez.
Yanez dropped Lopez with a right hand but didn’t immediately capitalize on the moment, allowing Lopez time to recover. Both fighters were feinting constantly, which led to neither man being overly active. When they did exchange, however, Yanez continued to get the better of their exchanges, and Lopez just didn’t have the output to steal back this round after getting dropped early. 20-18 Yanez.
Seconds into the third round, Yanez landed a counter right hand that sent Lopez spiraling to the ground, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Adrian Yanez by KO at 0:27 of Round 3
Yanez looked great here. He fought a disciplined game plan, never put himself in danger, and everything he landed felt significant. I was very impressed with his first UFC win, and this performance further showcased his abilities. Bantamweight is a talent-stacked division, so there are no sure things, but Yanez is a legitimate prospect to watch out for.
MONTSERRAT CONEJO (9-1, 115) VS CHEYANNE BUYS (5-1, 116) – STRAWWEIGHT
Buys landed a solid shot in the opening seconds, and Conejo charged in to close the distance. She brought Buys down to the ground and peppered her with short ground and pound strikes. Conejo had her trapped in the scarf hold position, and Buys just couldn’t escape, and Conejo controlled the entire round from that position. I scored the round 10-9 for Conejo, but you could make a case for this being a 10-8 as well.
Buys connected with a combination of punches to begin the second round. Once again, Conejo punched her way into the clinch, and she searched for the same takedown she secured in the first round. Buys initially defended it, but ultimately found herself in the same scarf hold position. Buys worked her way back to her feet but was taken right back down, and despite a strong end to the round, in which Buys worked her way into top mount, I scored this round for Conejo as well. 20-18 Conejo.
Cheyanne Buys was able to keep the fight on the feet for the first three minutes of the final round, but she ultimately fell victim to the same takedown that had brought her to the ground in the two previous rounds. Conejo rode out the remainder of the round and unquestionably won this fight. 30-27 Conejo.
WINNER: Montserrat Conejo by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Buys was frustrated, and seemed willing to continue the fight after the bell, but cooler heads seemed to prevail. This was far from a high-level, entertaining fight, but Conejo did what she had to do to get the win, and Buys just couldn’t escape that scarf hold position, or at least she couldn’t escape it quickly enough to win her back the rounds. This was the UFC debut for both fighters.
MAX GRIFFIN (16-8, 170) VS KENAN SONG (16-5, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Griffin was aggressive to begin the fight. He landed a body shot and brought Song to the cage, but couldn’t keep him there long. Song connected with a number of jabs and caught Griffin with an impressive overhand right. Griffin backed him up moments later, and he tagged Song with a vicious 1-2, and Song just faceplanted, unconscious.
WINNER: Max Griffin by KO at 2:20 of Round 1
This was a card full of great knockouts, and Max Griffin certainly added to it with this finish. Song is a solid fighter, and this was probably Griffin’s best win since defeating Mike Perry in 2018. After that Perry fight, Griffin went 1-4 throughout his next 5 fights, and these last two knockout wins have done a lot to reassert Griffin’s status in the division. In his post-fight interview, Max Griffin called out Geoff Neal.
DEREK BRUNSON (21-7, 186) VS KEVIN HOLLAND (21-5, 183) – WELTERWEIGHT
Holland began the fight with a front kick but slipped on the canvas moments later, and Brunson made him pay for it, jumping on him. Brunson landed some solid ground and pound, and he smothered Holland from his guard. As you would expect, Holland was talking non-stop from the bottom, but as entertaining as his trash talk was, it didn’t win him the round. 10-9 Brunson.
Kevin Holland was talking to Khabib Nurmagomedov (who was sitting next to Dana White) between rounds. He landed a solid jab, and Brunson responded with a strong left hook. Holland hurt Brunson bad against the cage with a series of right hands, and it looked like he was in trouble, but he fired back and took Holland down, before moving into mount. Holland created a scramble, and Brunson moved into half guard. Brunson began to look for an arm triangle, and he created some space to go for the choke, but Holland escaped and made it back to his feet. Unfortunately for Holland, Brunson took him right back down and ended the round on top. This was a very close round, but I thought Brunson stole it back.
Holland tagged Brunson with a pair of right hands to begin the third round. Brunson took him back down and began to work from his guard. Brunson looked tired and was not overly active from top position, but he did enough to keep the fight from being stood up, and Holland was unable to get back to his feet. 30-27 Brunson.
Holland was tagging Brunson with right hands to begin the fourth round, and he defended a takedown attempt, but Brunson fired back with a flurry of uppercuts, and he brought Holland back to the ground. With a minute remaining in the round, Holland made it back to his feet, but Brunson pressed him against the fence until the end of the round. 40-36 Brunson.
Brunson landed a pair of left hands in the opening minute of the final round. A shot from Holland cut Brunson open below his right eye, and he proceeded to record a takedown of his own. Brunson did his best to wrap Holland up in his guard, and Holland attempted to pick Brunson up and slam him down. Holland landed a number of body shots, before Brunson escaped, and brought Holland right back down. Brunson let Holland up with ten seconds remaining in the round, but Holland chose not to engage to end the fight. 49-46 Brunson.
WINNER: Derek Brunson by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Derek Brunson has been the betting underdog in his last two fights against the division’s two top prospects, and he managed to dominate both of them. His wrestling was the difference maker here, and Holland just didn’t have an answer for Brunson’s takedowns throughout the fight. In his post-fight interview, Brunson asked for a top-five opponent, specifically Paulo Costa, who was recently forced to pull out of his fight against Robert Whittaker. That would be an excellent fight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the direction the UFC goes once Costa is ready. As for Holland, he was repeatedly criticized by the broadcast team for his lack of seriousness and urgency. Honestly, I disagree with that sediment. The non-stop talking, even when he’s losing, has been part of his charm since his UFC debut against Thiago Santos (a very similar fight). A more valid criticism would be that Holland needs to work on his takedown defense. Even when Brunson was hurt or tired, he was able to take Holland down, and more often than not, he didn’t have to work too hard for it. He discussed the prospect of moving down to welterweight in his post-fight interview, calling out Belal Muhammad.