Kevin Holland set 2020 alight. He was a strong contender for Fighter of the Year. Breaking records with five wins across the 365 days, Trail Blazer looked set for more big things this year. But UFC Vegas 22 was somewhat of a buzzkill for Holland’s hype. He’s now set to enter the Octagon for the second time in 2021. This time he has something to prove.
Rewarded with a headlining spot against one of the UFC’s middleweight mainstays in Derek Brunson, Holland looked set to leap into title contention with a main event win. His performance couldn’t have been further from doing so.
Nevertheless, we know what Holland can do and saw it in his breakout year. From a long-reaching bomb detonated on Joaquin Buckley's jaw to one of the most remarkable knockouts in UFC history against Jacare Souza, Big Mouth attracted talk and interest with his performances and personality.
UFC on ABC 2: Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland
Marvin Vettori had been set to face Darren Till at UFC on ABC 2 this Saturday. In a gutting turn of events for Till and the entire UFC fanbase, the Liverpudlian suffered a broken collarbone in training.
On one weeks’ notice, Kevin Holland will face "The Italian Dream," just three weeks after his five-round main event with Derek Brunson. If that isn't the game, I don't know what is.
Stepping in at such short notice, Kevin Holland heads into the event as a serious underdog. But he shouldn't be underestimated. If anyone needs a reminder of what Holland is capable of, here are his three most brutal finishes in the UFC.
#3 Kevin Holland vs. Charlie Ontiveros - UFC Vegas 12
The conclusion to Kevin Holland’s fight with Charlie Ontiveros was a scary one. For Trail Blazer, it ended with a fourth consecutive win in 2020 and a Performance of the Night bonus. For Ontiveros, it ended with a trip to the hospital.
The American Bad Boy was a late replacement after Holland’s original opponent, Makhmud Muradov, withdrew from the card. Ontiveros jumped at the chance to make his promotional debut; a first appearance that left bad memories for the 29-year-old.
The unlikely stoppage came in the very first round. Holland looked dominant on the ground and found the finish with his second takedown. After momentarily making his way back to his feet, Ontiveros was brutally slammed back to the canvas.
Having felt a pop in his neck, he verbally submitted, and Mark Smith swiftly jumped in, instructing the stricken middleweight not to move.
After numerous scans, it was confirmed Ontiveros, thankfully, hadn't suffered any significant damage. Nevertheless, it was still a unique and vicious finish for Kevin Holland.
#2 Kevin Holland vs. Joaquin Buckley - UFC Vegas 6
From the long-reaching punch that dealt it to the clean connection and flying mouth guard, Kevin Holland gave us one of 2020’s most satisfying KOs at UFC Vegas 6.
In his second appearance of 2020, Big Mouth faced Joaquin Buckley. Just two months later, that name would become associated with one of the craziest knockouts in UFC history.
But at UFC Vegas 6, he was at the opposite end of the strike. Holland had already dropped him with a single punch in the first round. It was the second knockdown that signaled the end for New Mansa.
Holland's long reach sent a dose of saliva and Buckley's mouthpiece flying across the Octagon. Buckley scrambled on the canvas immediately after landing, but it was clear he wasn't sure where to look and the fight was stopped.
Everyone loves a one-punch finish, and this was no exception.
#1 Kevin Holland vs. Jacare Souza - UFC 256
There aren't many superlatives that do justice to what Kevin Holland did to Jacare Souza at UFC 256. If I were to try and name a few, extraordinary, unbelievable and special go some way to describing it. It was a breath-taking finish.
So many elements of the knockout made it memorable. The sheer power to put Souza to sleep, the ability to generate that power from his back, the calm talking seconds before unleashing. Kevin Holland became a contender at UFC 256.
It's the kind of knockout you find yourself re-watching every week. From the first shot that clearly surprised the Brazilian to the KO blow against the cage after Holland jumps to his feet, it's certainly one for the UFC's highlight reel.
Holland will be hoping to rebound from his loss to Brunson last month with a performance similar to those that brought him into Fighter of the Year contention last year. Marvin Vettori poses an almighty threat, but if anyone can pull something out of the bag, it's Trail Blazer.