UFC veteran Derek Brunson successfully put a halt to Kevin Holland's five-fight winning streak tonight. The win came courtesy of the relentless takedown pressure he applied on the Trailblazer. Derek Brunson has a decorated record in collegiate wrestling (NCAA Division II All-American wrestler). He displayed his grappling aptitude at UFC Vegas 22.
Kevin Holland, who predominantly relies on his striking, spotted Khabib Nurmagomedov sitting near the Octagon. Holland sought advice from the Sambo practitioner to scrap against Brunson's unceasing takedown attempts. Holland, who was once labeled a 'big mouth' by UFC President Dana White, was not taken seriously by the retired lightweight champion. Nurmagomedov chuckled at the animated fighter between rounds.
But what if Khabib Nurmagomedov had accepted Kevin Holland's invitation to be his fifth cornerman? Here are four pieces of advice Nurmagomedov could've given to Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22.
#4 Piece of advice Khabib Nurmagomedov could've offered to Kevin Holland - Initiating the takedowns
Khabib Nurmagomedov is well-versed in Sambo, a Soviet-based martial art that heavily relies on grappling and hand-to-hand combat strikes. The Russian fighter has two World Combat Sambo Federation titles to his name. He also successfully implemented a wrestling-oriented approach throughout his run in the UFC.
To negate Derek Brunson's wrestling tonight, Khabib Nurmagomedov could've advised Kevin Holland to initiate the takedowns himself, setting the pace against the UFC veteran, Holland did secure a takedown in the fourth round but could not find openings to land shots on the grounded Brunson. The No.6 ranked middleweight eventually scrapped out of the subservient position and took Holland down again.
If Khabib had imparted knowledge of his vast expertise in ground and pound, it could've helped the up-and-comer secure the win.
#3 Disengage from the clinch
Despite not giving up on his antics and chatter inside the cage, Kevin Holland appeared to be struggling with his opponent's clinch game. Relentless takedowns were Derek Brunson's bread and butter throughout the fight. Although Holland did well in the striking department, he did not have an answer for Brunson's suffocating grappling pressure.
Khabib Nurmagomedov deployed his wrestling effectively against each opponent he faced. He has a deep-rooted understanding of the clinching game. Along with forcing his opponents against the cage, he can also scrap out of jeopardizing positions into more dominant ones. His grit was on full display at UFC 242, when he popped his head out of a tight guillotine choke by Dustin Poirier before taking the Diamond's back.
Kevin Holland, who lost on all three judges' scorecards, might have done better if Nurmagomedov had dropped some gems on disengaging from the clinch.
#2 Use more striking to keep Derek Brunson at range
Kevin Holland threw a right hand in the second round that rocked Derek Brunson. It was apparent that Holland might have some advantage on the feet. However, when he proceeded with a flurry of strikes, Brunson caught one of his kicks and took the fight to the ground once again.
If Holland had picked up his shots and kept Brunson at striking distance, the fight may have played in his favor. However, each time Holland entered Brunson's range to strike, the veteran shot at Holland with a takedown and kept the fight on the ground.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is no stranger to opponents who throw heavy strikes to nullify his takedown attempts. At UFC 254, he faced Justin Gaethje who threw several debilitating calf kicks Nurmagomedov's way. For tonight's main event, Kevin Holland should've imposed Gaethje's plan to keep Derek Brunson at range and not let him shoot for a takedown.
#1 Focus more on the fight and less on the talking
Kevin Holland is being heavily criticized for displaying a lack of urgency to finish his opponent tonight. MMA pundits have condemned the Trailblazer for throwing away his shot at a career defining victory by 'talking nonstop' before and after the fight.
If Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was known for his chivalry and respectful nature, had advised Kevin Holland to focus on the fight more than talking, it could've made a major difference. When Holland asked Nurmagomedov for wrestling advice, the Dagestani fighter replied by saying, "Relax".