Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland collide in a matchup wrestlers and fans alike can salivate about. This striker’s delight headlines UFC Fight Night at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Saturday night.
Thompson (16-6-1) finds himself floating out of the cloud of serious title contenders after back-to-back losses to grapplers Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. Thompson breathed a sigh of relief when he was paired up with a fellow punching enthusiast for this battle. At 39, ‘Wonderboy’ is still a puzzle that few strikers have solved. By contrast, the Netherlands presents unique challenges that Thompson is eager to crack.
“He’s definitely a tall opponent. He’s got an 81-inch reach, so he’s going to be fun to navigate, especially during the middle of the fight,” Thompson told CBS Sports. “He’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a guy named Travis Lutter, who’s with Carlos Machado, who’s my brother-in-law. So you have that lineage there. So I think it’s great. The guy is very good in all He’s got a lot of submissions under his record. He’s got a few knockouts. Do I expect this fight to stick? I think so.
“He’s not the type of person to start wrestling. I think he’s probably going to try to put me against the cage at some point. He’s the type of person who evolves as his wrestling career progresses. There are many guys out there that if you’ve You’ve seen a fight once, you’ve seen them fight 100 times in exactly the same way.”
Check out the full interview with Stephen Thompson below.
Thompson’s desire for exciting fights is rarely fulfilled these days. Some opponents rely on a grappling-heavy game plan to deny Thompson, while others freak out when faced with his precision and movement. Holland (23-8, 1 NC) is a willing dance partner. Holland respects Thompson’s praise, but plans to show the decorated karate practitioner that he too is a student of the game.
“I don’t think I necessarily say I’m much better or much more decorated than this person or that person,” Holland told CBS Sports. “He says I understand hitting.
“A lot of guys want to wrestle and a lot of guys want to play. One thing about me is I’m going to throw those hands.”
The UFC seems poised to travel more after the COVID lockdowns and restrictions. Many cards at the UFC Apex were stripped of quality, a combination of UFC-heavy pay-per-views and frequent Fight Nights thinning the roster. The UFC’s trip to Orlando fixes this with a juicy Fight Night main card.
Don’t have enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
The co-main event sees the return of former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos as he takes on action star Bryan Barberena in a welterweight matchup. Dos Anjos has continued to test himself against the best competition available to him as he nears the end of his career. He has faced every top welterweight contender from Kamaru Usman, Neil Magny, Robbie Lawler, Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Michael Chiesa and the list goes on. He is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Rafael Fiziev in July and is hoping to get back on track against Barberena, who has won three in a row and four of his last five. Dos Anjos had a chance to fight reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev a couple of times, but the fight was called off before they could get in the ring.
“Just for a few specific fights that I have in mind, I would (go back down to lightweight),” dos Anjos told reporters on media day this week. “I no longer have plans to win the title in that division, I’ll be honest with you. A couple of guys that if it’s in a good place for me and my personal life, I’ll take the fight.” For now I have Bryan Barberena this Saturday and I’m staying at welterweight.”
Also, another standout fight on this card sees the return of lovable heavyweight Tai Tuivasa as the Aussie takes on Sergei Pavlovich. After suffering three straight losses on his ascent up the ladder, Tuivasa rebounded by picking up five straight knockout wins, all coming in the first two rounds. The biggest of those wins came against former title challenger Derrick Lewis in February to earn himself a shot at Ciryl Gane. He came up short in that fight, but the two waged an epic war in which Gane was pushed to the edge before bleeding and stopping the veteran.
Other intriguing matchups fill out the rest of the card. Rising flyweights Matheus Nicolau and Matt Schnell join. Veteran middleweight Jack Hermansson returns to the Octagon to face Roman Dolidze. He was originally expected to face Derek Brunson before Brunson was forced to withdraw with injury. And another middleweight contest opens things up when Eryk Anders fights Kyle Daukaus.
Below is the rest of Saturday night’s card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before arriving at a prediction and picking the main event.
UFC Fight Night card, odds Kevin Holland -160
Stephen Thompson +175
Raphael dos Anjos -550
Bryan Barberena +400
Welterweight Matheus Nicolau -380
Matt Schnell +300
FlyweightSergei Pavlovich -220
Tai Tuivasa +180
Roman Dolidze +160
Eryk Anders +180
UFC Fight Night Viewing Information
Date: December 3 | Start time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Amway Center — Orlando, Florida
TV channel: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try free)
Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland: Thompson’s commitment to his style has held him back from ascending to title contention in the 2020s. Fortunately, Holland is a fighter who will accommodate Thompson’s desire to trade punches and kicks. Thompson’s shoddy record of late is less of a concern once you scratch past the surface. His drop from 13-1 to 16-6-1 as a professional fighter is a sign of the limitations of his style but not of his physical abilities. Thompson’s chin has held up very well and the man takes good care of his health. The only person who really dominated Thompson since 2012 was Muhammad, who leaned heavily on wrestling. Otherwise, Thompson has only lost close decisions and one by KO coming from behind. The Netherlands have developed a more versatile game and would do well to bring it to bear in this fight. Significantly threatening the takedown will disrupt Thompson’s ongoing game and he will present surprising opportunities that would otherwise be few and far between. Holland has a jiu-jitsu black belt with a legitimate mentor, but I’m not sure how potent his offensive grappling is, especially against someone whose success depends on takedowns. He envisions a more competitive turn in Thompson vs. Geoff Neal with the veteran barely achieving victory. Thompson via UD
Who wins Thompson against the Netherlands? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now for in-depth picks on every fight on UFC Fight Night, all from the peerless expert who has earned over $13,000 in MMA in the past three years, and find out.