I know we’re only two fights in – and against unranked competition at that – but the welterweight version of Kevin Holland appears to be a good one.
Holland (23-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC), the UFC’s crime-stopping sensation, showed solid form in his sophomore appearance at 170 pounds with an overall stellar win against Tim Means that ended with a second-round submission by D’Arce choke. The triumphant effort comes on the heels of his divisional debut against Alex Oliveira, where he also finished with a second-round TKO.
One of the things that’s most noticeable with Holland in this division is the strides in his ground game. After putting together some notable victories during his tenure at middleweight, we saw a pretty clear ceiling for him in that division when he was forced to fight grapplers. It’s not that his technique was horrendous, but the size and strength of people like Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson were just not attributes he could overcome.
Fighters might not like to hear it or accept it, but when you get to the highest level of the sport, every little intangible matters. Sure, Holland might be able to get victories over a Vettori or a Brunson on the right night with the perfect performance, but he’s stacking the chips against himself by competing at a weight that obviously isn’t his best fit.
Now, Means and “Cowboy” Oliveira aren’t exactly the cream of the crop when it comes to grapplers at welterweight. They’re decent, but certainly not on the level of Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Khamzat Chimaev, Gilbert Burns or Belal Muhammad, who currently occupy the top of the rankings.
If Holland is able to stack up wins to the point of securing a fight against one of those names, we’ll find out if he can break through, or if he’s destined to walk a similar path as he did at 185 pounds.