UFC Vegas 23: Vettori Looks to Finish Extinguishing the Red Hot Holland

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Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland, UFC Vegas 23
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 09: (L-R) Opponents Marvin Vettori of Italy and Kevin Holland face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on April 09, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Top ranked Marvin Vettori is looking to get his first shot at the middleweight title, but the man of 2020 Kevin Holland is looking to do what he does best and win another short notice fight at UFC Vegas 23.

Perhaps more so than before, Marvin Vettori has zero intention of turning into a part of someone else’s script going into his network television debut.  “The Italian Dream” has had to hear all month how the current champion wanted to fight his formerly scheduled opponent Darren Till.  And now, his latest foe, Kevin Holland, is looking to steal his thunder with another short notice booking similar to those that worked out so well for him in 2020.

But the platform Vettori has, and the timing of the opportunity, is one he can not afford to let slip away.  After fighting now current champion Israel Adesanya to a split-decision in 2018, Vettori has reeled off four consecutive victories.  While a fifth in a row is already valuable in the loaded title picture, it is the timing that could be vital.  In the last two years, Adesanya has notched victories over Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum (fighting next week) and Derek Brunson who fought last month.  If Adesanya is indeed on the verge of lapping the field in his next outing, Vettori could make the most sense considering his loss is the furthest removed and he would be on the longest win-streak of the three.

While short notice bouts are often high risk situations that top level fighters are advised to avoid, Kevin Holland has made them his signature in the past year.  However, this one opportunity could not have come at a better time.  Less than three weeks ago, Holland was shut out in a fight against Derek Brunson and lost the incredible momentum he generated by going 5-0 in 2020.  The loss brought criticism: that he had been distracted by talking too much and that he had been exposed by a wrestler.  He went in with a chance to break into the title picture, but left looking like a contender with a lot of room left to grow.  Now, he has a chance to complete an entire 360 degree turn to get right back into the mix.

It is an unbelievable turn of events for Holland to have an even bigger opportunity on Saturday than he did a few short weeks ago.  Already known for entertaining the audience watching at home, a win over an even more assertive contender than Brunson on network television could propel “Trailblazer” back to the title picture.  Furthermore, he adds the feather to his cap of tying the record by Michael Bisping and Deiveson Figueiredo for least amount of time (21 days) between UFC main events.  That’s not to mention, an astounding seven fights within a twelve month span.

Stylistically, Vettori should follow a similar blueprint to Brunson and use his physicality to wear down Holland.  Though not as decorated a wrestler as Brunson, nine of Vettori’s sixteen victories are by submission and he should look to get the fight to the ground.  Holland must be the aggressor on the feet early as Vettori’s full camp figures to give him the edge should the fight go into the later rounds.  Holland has the advantages in height and reach and should use them to full effect.  While Holland did not sustain heavy damage in the bout with Brunson, it will be worth monitoring to see how his gas tank holds up after having recently fought a full 25 minutes and taking the fight on just over two weeks’ notice.

The next step for both men figures to be determined by what happens next week in the bout between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.  A Whittaker victory figures to set him up as the next challenger for current champion Israel Adesanya, in which case Vettori or Holland will likely take another bout.  Should Gastelum win, Saturday’s winner will likely face him in a title eliminator.

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