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UFC Fight Night preview: Thompson vs Holland

UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs Holland
Photo credit: UFC.com

The UFC is back this Saturday with a stacked fight night card from Orlando, Florida. Former title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson looks to get back to his winning ways against the talented Kevin Holland. Also featured on the card is a fight between former Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos and the always-entertaining Bryan Barberena.

UFC Fight Night: #6 Thompson (16-6) vs Holland (23-8)

Stephen Thompson and Kevin Holland are both lethal strikers in the UFC’s welterweight division. Thompson is coming off back-to-back losses against No. 4 Belal Muhammed and No. 5 Gilbert Burns, who are two of the best fighters at 170 pounds. At one time Thompson was the most feared striker in the division, a kickboxing savant with an impressive professional record. Now at 39 years old, Thompson has a significant test ahead of him in the form of Kevin Holland. Holland has two finishes since moving down to welterweight, submitting Tim Means and finishing Alex Olivera by TKO.

In Holland’s last fight he was matched against undefeated Chechen phenom Khamzat Chimaev (9-0). That fight did not go as planned for Holland, as he was submitted in the first round. However, this is nothing to be ashamed of as Chimaev is thought to be a future champion in the division. On paper, Holland is a skilled grappler in his own right having a black belt under Travis Lutter in Jiu Jitsu, which could very well play a factor in this fight with Thompson.

The key to victory for Thompson would be to keep the fight standing and at a kicking distance. Thompson is a master of range but may have slowed down in the past few years. Holland is very athletic and could have a speed advantage in this fight. This is a very interesting matchup that is extremely hard to predict. Online sportsbooks have Holland as a slight favorite near -180. The main event of UFC fight night Orlando is a five-round fight.

Bryan Barberena (18-8) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (31-14)

Rafael Dos Anjos makes his return to welterweight after coming up short against #6 ranked Rafael Fiziev in a lightweight fight this July. The 32-fight UFC veteran has fought the best competition the sport has to offer, he dethroned Anthony “Showtime” Pettis to win the title in 2015 and has faced nine former or current world champions in his career. At 38 years old it will be intriguing to see how much Dos Anjos has left in the tank. Barberena is coming off the most impressive victory of his career earning a TKO finish over former champion Robbie Lawler.

Barberena’s last fight with Lawler won the fight of the night and was an absolute brawl from start to finish. Barberena thrives at exchanging punches on the inside and against the cage. In order to get inside however Barberena has to take chances against the experienced Dos Anjos. Barberena has tremendous power in his hands and is one of the most durable fighters on the UFC roster. His ability to take a shot and keep coming is disheartening to most of his opponents.

Dos Anjos’ experience and technique may play a factor in this fight. Barberena throws wild looping hooks at times that could lead to trouble against the former champion. Dos Anjos’ best punch is his straight left hand, which may land on Barberena if he rushes in with reckless abandon. This fight could very well be the fight of the night although, I believe this fight will go to the judges because of the toughness and durability of both fighters.

#4 Tai Tuivasa (15-4) vs #5 Sergei Pavlovich (16-1)

Heavyweight fan favorite Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa is back this weekend facing the surging Russian powerhouse Sergei Pavlovich. Tuivasa is coming off a loss to the #1 ranked Ciryl Gane but is 5-1 in his last six fights. Tuivasa is an entertaining fighter whose post-fight celebrations and one-punch knockout power have captured the attention of the American audience. Pavlovich is 4-1 in the UFC with his lone loss coming to former title challenger Alistair Overeem. Pavlovich has not lost since his first setback inside the octagon, knocking out each of his last four opponents.

At UFC 277 in July, Pavlovich knocked out Derrick Lewis in 55 seconds catapulting him into the top 6 of the UFC heavyweight rankings. Pavlovich will have a nine-inch reach advantage in this fight and is currently the betting favorite at -220 currently. It is highly likely that this fight will not make it out of the first round. Tuivasa comes out very aggressive and Pavlovich has never been out of the first round in his UFC career.

This fight is extremely hard to predict but I like the value of Tuivasa as the betting underdog. Tuivasa has faced tougher competition and will not be afraid to trade punches with Pavlovich. My biggest question going into this fight concerns the ground game of each fighter. Tuivasa has struggled at times with elite wrestlers, but Pavlovich has not shown what kind of grappling he has in his short time in the UFC. Don’t blink during this matchup because both competitors have the capability to end the fight early.

UFC Fight Night: Prelims

The UFC Fight Night prelims on ESPN+ will be headlined by a middleweight fight between Jack Hermanson (23-7) and Roman Dolidze (11-1). Hermanson is a skilled grappler and has a creative submission game. In his last fight, he easily defeated Chris Curtis and showed his improved striking and movement. Dolidze is 5-1 in the UFC with his last victory being a devastating knockout over Phil Hawes. Dolidze is physically strong but should be cautious while on the ground with Hermanson. Whoever wins this matchup should jump into the top 10 rankings of the UFC’s middleweight division. Longtime UFC fighters Michael Johnson (21-18) and Clay Guida (37-19) will also both have fights on Saturday’s prelims.

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