Kevin Holland

UFC 291 takes place in Salt Lake City this Saturday and features six Welterweight matchups. Three of these take place on the PPV main card, including a battle between a returning Michael Chiesa and the forever vocal Kevin Holland. The #12 ranking at 170 lbs hangs in the balance as Holland looks to break into the top echelon of the division.

This is a classic matchup between a high-level wrestler in Chiesa and the unorthodox striker in Holland. Both men are well-rounded veterans of the UFC and that well-roundedness will certainly be tested as both men look to impose their polarizing game plans.

How to watch: Order the UFC 291 PPV now to watch every fight live this Saturday night, including Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje.

How to bet: Sign up to BetUS and cash in our special sign-up offer of up to $2,500.

Betting Odds

Kevin Holland is the slight betting favorite in this wrestler vs striker matchup. Those who bet on the better grappler will be happy to snag Chiesa as an underdog:

  • Michael Chiesa: +120 (BetUS)
  • Kevin Holland: -150 (BetUS)

Special Offer: Sign up to BetUS today and get an exclusive sign-up offer worth up to $2,500

Fight Breakdown

Always entertaining is the 24-9 Trailblazer, Kevin Holland. At only 30 years old, it feels impossible that Holland has been in the UFC as long as he has but Saturday will be fight #19 with the organization. He was willing to fight Stephen Thompson at his own game and we were treated to a stand up war between the two; I don’t see him being so generous against Chiesa this weekend.

Holland is a striker by trade with developed wrestling that pairs well with his black belt in BJJ. He’s incredibly tall and long for 170 lbs. At 6’3 and an 81” reach, he’s one of, if not the biggest fighter in the weight class. His length is utilized well in his striking as he loves to work the lead jab and long straight kicks to keep his opponent at range and only allow exchanges in tight on his terms.

His striking is unorthodox and unpredictable and when he gets going and is able to string together shots, he attacks openings from every angle incredibly efficiently. He’ll switch stances and throw from both sides but he’s mainly an orthodox fighter. He has good striking defense when he’s not being countered. When he is countered though, he’s often open to be hit as his hands drop low. Though he may get a bit wild at times, he shows really intelligent striking with his shot selection both at range and in the pocket. He keeps a deep, wide stance to allow for him to explode into his shots which gives him a lot of sting on his shots (especially his straight right hand), but leaves him susceptible to low kicks as Ponz exposed in their most recent bout.

Kevin’s weakness in the octagon was always his wrestling and he’s grinded throughout his career to tighten up the takedown defense. Unfortunately, the only film of him defending takedowns recently is against Chimaev on short notice who may have landed a cheap one at the beginning of the fight as Holland went to touch gloves and that was all it took for the Chechen to finish it. His only two fights since have resulted in zero attempts to take him down. Holland does have a few tells on when he’s planning to enter into the pocket like raising his front knee and throwing the half jab into a pawing left hook which doesn’t do a lot of damage and can be a signal for Chiesa to shoot as Holland closes this range.

His opponent will be Michael ‘The Maverick’ Chiesa who is returning from an octagon hiatus of nearly two years. Chiesa’s last fight was against Sean Brady in November of 2021 where he lost unanimously in a relatively close fight. He suffered a first round submission loss to Luque before this after having the Brazilian in trouble with his own submission attempts just seconds before he tapped. These two losses shouldn’t be indicative of his skill level though as he had rattled off four in a row previous to his last two losses and against talent such as Rafael Dos Anjos, Carlos Condit and Neil Magny.

Chiesa is approximately the exact opposite of Holland stylistically. Where Holland is a striker with good grappling and developed wrestling, Chiesa is a high-level wrestler and great grappler on the ground with improved striking that he’s used to get the better of his opponents at range before taking them down and smothering them.

His best position is in the clinch when he and his opponent come together in a striking exchange and he can get his hands locked for a trip or throw. He’s shown great timing when circling the cage to land the double leg as well which is a great weapon when using the movement and long striking style that he has become so efficient at over the years. His top pressure is just as impressive as his takedown ability; he understands how to keep pressure on his opponent while still attacking transitions and submissions.

One of my favorite things about the Maverick is his awareness on the ground; he keeps great top control but when he’s in a bad position and in danger of losing his opponent, he won’t force the position. Instead, he welcomes a scramble but does an incredible job at controlling the chaos and transitioning to a safer position while staying on top and forcing his opponent to exert a lot of energy.

Chiesa is a southpaw and likes to use his jab and straight left hand to keep distance while stinging his opponent with surprisingly fast shots down the middle. This is, of course, a set up for takedown opportunities as he looks to frustrate his opponent and make them believe they need to blitz in tight to get around the lengthy strikes which is where he’ll lock you up and dump you. He’ll utilize kicks and knees up the middle as well as his punches which give him more weapons at range and in the clinch.

There are a couple of things that stand out as weaknesses in Michael’s game. The first is his own takedown and ground defense. For someone so well-versed being the attacker, Chiesa has struggled to defend takedowns at 170 lbs. In exchanges along the fence, he relies on keeping the underhook on both sides to stay in control but once he loses that, he’s been dragged down with relative ease. He’s also suffered four of his six career losses by submission – all of them at the UFC level.

The flaw in his game that sticks out the most as an issue in this matchup will be his defense on the feet. He has a good high guard that is great at blocking traditional striking that ends after a couple of strikes. He’ll back up quickly to avoid the strikes until he hits the cage but once here, he starts to get tagged when his opponent opens up. Especially as the fight goes on, he becomes more hittable and a fighter with such unorthodox striking such as Holland will likely give him problems.


I love this matchup for both guys as it’s a test for both to see how they’ve improved as a mixed martial artist. The game plan for both is clear: Holland will be trying to keep this fight at range while Chiesa will need to find a way to close the distance and get Holland to the ground.

Kevin Holland is a great striker and when he stays at range with technical, long strikes, he does really well. However he does have a habit of rushing in with striking and chasing his opponent when they exit quickly. This makes him off-balance and he swings at air which could be the opportunity Chiesa needs to shoot for a takedown as he did against Vicente Luque. For Chiesa, he tends to favor a lot of movement and using his own length and range to set up the takedown. With Holland being the bigger, longer fighter, he’s going to have to time Holland’s shots to enter and dump him quickly.

This one can go either way and I like Holland’s chances on the feet to finish Chiesa. I think Chiesa will be able to work him down to the ground at times, but it’s unlikely he submits Holland. Therefore, the fight will be back on the feet at the beginning of each round at the very least and gives Holland more spots to work his offense and get the finish. Given Chiesa’s long layoff and focus on commentary with the UFC as well, I’m going with Holland to win by KO. The odds for Chiesa to take it on the scorecards though are too hard to pass up at +375

Prediction: Kevin Holland to win inside the distance (+105)

Best Bet: Michael Chiesa by decision (+375)

Special Offer: Sign up to BetUS today and get an exclusive sign-up offer worth up to $2,500

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *