UFC 291: Kevin Holland’s Wrestling Defense Holds, Submits Michael Chiesa Early

Michael Chiesa and Kevin Holland, UFC 291
Michael Chiesa and Kevin Holland, UFC 291 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

Wrestler Michael Chiesa took on Kung-Fu stylist and all-around thriller Kevin Holland to open the UFC 291 main card.

Holland dealt with wrestling woes as a middleweight but has been much better since moving down to welterweight, with his only loss via wrestling at 170-lbs coming to the dominant Khamzat Chimaev. He rebounded from a ‘Fight of the Year’ loss to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in 2022 by stopping Santiago Ponzinibbio earlier this year and now looks to challenge for a ranked spot again. Meanwhile the twelfth ranked welterweight Michael Chiesa has taken two years off after suffering back-to-back losses in 2021. No one really knew what shape Chiesa would be in, but everyone expected him to try to wrestle Kevin Holland in this stylistic clash.

After the glove touch Chiesa circled on the outside of the cage in his southpaw stance. Holland pressed forward gently. Holland unloaded with some uppercuts against a shelled up Chiesa before backing off. Kevin then just pushed Chiesa back and he fell down; Holland jumped into his guard but Chiesa was able to wrestle up. Chiesa shot in for a single leg takedown and chained it to a body-lock but Holland defended well and got the outside clinch position. Chiesa then attempted an inside trip and almost got it but Holland did well on that and the re-shot to defend, using the fence to stay up. Holland pressed Chiesa back and landed a big knee, dropping Michael to his knees. Holland jumped on the front headlock and locked up a d’Arce choke. Chiesa twisted and turned, trying to escape, but was eventually forced to tap.

After the fight Chiesa began to take off his gloves, seemingly indicating retirement, though it was not confirmed. In his post-fight interview Kevin Holland shockingly said he is “missing kids being born to be here,” perhaps indicating the birth of a child in his life. However, Holland is known for being a joker. He then said that if the ‘BMF’ belt is no longer at welterweight then he will move back up to 185-lbs, because he “likes to eat steaks [and] have sex.” Maybe he will change his mind when he sees himself ranked at 170-lbs after this.

Official Result: Kevin Holland def. Michael Chiesa by Submission (d’Arce choke), Round 1, 2:39