Kevin Holland: Trail Blazer or Big Mouth of the UFC

May 16, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Kevin Holland (blue gloves) defeats Anthony Hernandez (red gloves) during UFC on ESPN at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday featured a main event that was supposed to be the coming-out party for the man affectionately referred to as “Loud Mouth.” Kevin Holland was taking on Derek Brunson in the Main Event of UFC Vegas 22, and the fight was set up as an opportunity for Holland to break out.

It was supposed to serve as a test for Holland to prove that he was a legitimate force at middleweight after going 5-0 in 2020 with a win over former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, which capped off a great year in the cage.

Saturday’s Main Event ended with Holland’s back against the canvas as Brunson controlled the Texas native throughout the fight.

The performance drew a lot of criticism for Holland, but not because of his fighting ability. Rather it was his antics inside the cage that came under fire.

It’s okay to have a “Big Mouth” like Kevin Holland… if you win

Holland is known for being vocal, which was evident going into the fight, as ESPN’s Social Team released a video showing highlights of him talking during fights.

The video had everyone fawning over Holland’s ability to talk trash and reminding everyone of two famous siblings fighting out of Stockton. Holland spent the entire bout talking to Brunson, consistently trying to draw a reaction out of the North Carolina native.

Just like with many other fighters who love to talk or have antics, though, Holland found out quickly afterward that people only like this sort of behavior when you win. Just ask the likes of Conor McGregor, Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, and countless others who’ve been in similar situations.

Brunson, Souza? It doesn’t matter to “Big Mouth”

Getting to the question at hand, was Holland’s constant chatter an issue against Derek Brunson? In short: Yes and no.

It’s tough to look at the fight and say that the talking was no big deal. At times, it felt like Holland took the talking more seriously than the fight itself.

There were times where the Texas native was stuck on the bottom, and rather than try to get up, he chose to talk to Brunson. The feeling once the fight was over was that Holland preferred to stick to his fun antics rather than take the tilt seriously.

That’s why Holland was lambasted as much as he was. Fighters are asked to find ways to market themselves and stand out from the pack. Holland did that all while still being himself. So what’s the problem?

The talking was never an issue before the Brunson bout. Holland has constantly talked to all his other adversaries. In his last outing, he yapped to Souza at the same time he knocked him out.

Clearly, laying down verbal smack is not the problem for Holland. The issue comes when the chatter takes away from the actual performance.

Talking trash while getting dominated

On Saturday night, the chatter was not a problem. Holland is going to have a motor mouth whether he wins or loses. This isn’t the first time he was constantly wrestled and still had a full podcast’s worth of dialogue with his opponent.

Holland’s fight against Thiago Santos back in 2018 at UFC 227 went exactly like Saturday’s defeat. He talked the entire time while getting completely outwrestled.

It’s not a talking or even a concentration problem. It’s a wrestling problem that’s becoming a discouraging trend for Holland.

Why it matters: When you win and talk trash the entire time, you look like a genius. Talk trash while getting dominated? Now, Holland has to take a look at himself and strongly consider improving his wrestling arsenal before something like this happens yet again. 

Remember: This is the fight game, which means as long as you’re winning you’re doing everything right. In this case, Holland disappointed in his big opportunity.

  • It was predictable for anyone that understood how good Brunson’s wrestling is and how vulnerable Holland can be on the ground.

The bottom line: Saturday night was only a bump in the road for “Trail Blazer” — provided he does what’s necessary to build out his skill set. Holland doesn’t need to focus on building his obvious strengths. He needs to work on his wrestling.