UFC Vegas 55: Holm and Vieira Facing Familiar Challenges in Critical Bout

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Holly Holm and Ketlen Vieira, UFC Vegas 55
Holly Holm and Ketlen Vieira, UFC Vegas 55 weigh-in Credit: Alex Behunin/Cageside Press

Rising contender Ketlen Vieira will be looking to add another former champion to her resume as she faces the returning Holly Holm at UFC Vegas 55.

One can only imagine the frustration of the last two years for Holly Holm.  Go back to October of 2020, and it can be argued that her rout of Irene Aldana was amongst her greatest victories in recent years.  Having already had three opportunities to regain championship gold since 2017, the fact that she turned away a fresh contender from entering the title picture showed that “The Preacher’s Daughter” was still a respectable threat.

But 2021 presented a more difficult challenge.  Injuries kept Holm out of the cage following the victory, and perhaps most frustratingly saw her withdraw from a bout with future champion Julianna Peña.  Now roughly a year-and-a-half since her last fight, Holm can conceivably set up a fourth shot at the belt should Peña prevail in her rematch against Amanda Nunes later this year.  But to do so, she will need to prove that her skills and athleticism can once again overcome not only a younger opponent but also Father Time as she enters the bout at 40 years-old.

It is easy to forget how close Ketlen Vieira was to her own career breakthrough in 2018.  Undefeated at the time at 10-0, “Fenômeno” suffered a knee injury at a time where she was on the short list for a shot at then-champion Amanda Nunes by process of elimination.  After starting her UFC run with wins over former title challengers like Cat Zingano and Sara McMann, it was a disappointing blow to say the least for the Brazilian contender.  Furthermore, her return in 2019 saw her suffer a first round knockout to Aldana and subsequently struggle to get back in the cage as the pandemic and injuries cancelled several of her fights.

Since 2020, Vieira has gone 2-1 with a loss to Yana Kunitskaya and victories over Sijara Eubanks and Miesha Tate.  The latter was seen as a key moment, as the former champion Tate rode a wave of momentum going into the match but struggled to deal with the size and skills of Vieira throughout the bout.  Now up against another highly regarded former champion, another victory for Vieira would put her in prime position to finally get a shot at UFC gold.

Vieira should look to utilize her size and physicality efficiently against the experienced Holm.  Attacks to the legs and body early will be crucial for Vieira as the bigger fighter in the cage as it will immediately test the durability and cardio of Holm following her layoff.  Maintaining an efficient pace and sharp shot-selection will be key to keeping up with Holm across all five rounds.  For Holm, she must get in-and-out with volume and keep Vieira from building forward pressure in the bout.  She is expected to be the more technically proficient fighter, but she can not risk falling into a deficit early by waiting for Vieira to be the aggressor.  Using her signature side-kicks to the body will be an important weapon towards keeping the fight at mid-range and the larger Vieira off of her.

Assuming the rematch between Nunes and Peña materializes this summer, then it can be assumed that the winner this Saturday will meet the champion late 2022 or early 2023.  Should there be a delay, it can be argued that Holm and Vieira should opt to wait for the champion to become available given the current landscape of the division.

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