Marvin Vettori put on a dominant showing against Kevin Holland in the pair’s UFC Fight Night main event on Saturday, edging closer to a rematch with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in the process.
Italy’s Vettori (17-4-1) was due to take on Darren Till, but the Liverpudlian broke his collarbone a week before the bout, forcing him out of the contest.
Enter Holland (21-7), who is no stranger to fighting on short notice.
The Texan went 5-0 in an incredible 2020 but saw his win streak halted at the hands of Derek Brunson just last month. Till’s injury provided ‘Trailblazer’ with the opportunity to bounce back from that unanimous-decision defeat, in which Holland was outwrestled for the best part of five rounds.
But, as it happened, three weeks were not enough for Holland to make the relevant improvements to his grappling game, and he spent 25 minutes suffering a similar fate on Saturday.
Vettori controlled Holland throughout the contest, taking his opponent down almost at will and looking to land heavy strikes from top position.
Holland did a good job at limiting the damage for the most part, though he did suffer some fairly severe swelling around his left eye, which threatened to stop the bout at the end of the second round. The ringside doctor gave Holland the benefit of the doubt, however, and ‘Trailblazer’ was allowed to continue.
Holland, at times known as ‘Big Mouth’ for his tendency to talk incessantly to his opponents, did not converse much with Vettori here, nor was he able to trouble ‘the Italian dream’ significantly.
In rare striking exchanges, Holland did land on Vettori, but those infrequent successes simply convinced the Italian to stick to his effective wrestling approach, which ultimately resulted in 50-44 scorecards in his favour from all three judges.
After the bout, Vettori called for a rematch with Adesanya, to whom he lost via split decision in 2018. That defeat marked Vettori’s last loss, with the 28-year-old having since put together a five-fight win streak, including Saturday’s victory over Holland.
In all likelihood, Vettori – who entered the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas here as the promotion’s No 6 middleweight – will need one more win to secure the rematch with Adesanya that he craves.
Holland, ranked 10th in the division, is always game, but a win over a top-five opponent must be next for Vettori.
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