Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland, 29, has an extensive 9-4 record with a no-contest since earning a UFC contract from Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018. Six of Holland’s nine wins have come via stoppage while three of his four losses have gone to decision. Tim “Dirty Bird” Means, 38, has a 32-12 professional record and is 12-7 since joining the UFC in 2014.
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Holland opened as the favorite and his odds have continued to grow. He’s currently listed at odds of -300 while Means, the underdog, can be found at odds of +220.
Since 2020 Holland has had an eventful two years in the UFC. In 2020, Holland fought and won five straight fights in the middleweight division. Then, in 2021, he fought twice in title challenger eliminator fights where Holland lost to two massive and skilled wrestlers. Then, in 2022, Holland dropped down a division to welterweight, where he had a no-contest due to an accidental clash of heads, but rebounded in 2022 with a second-round knockout. Also, during those 2 years, Holland has stopped not one but two criminals in his everyday life. Pulling the relevant information from his busy two years, Holland has dropped down a weight class and looked impressive despite still struggling to defend takedowns. Holland was a tall and long middleweight striker, and, in the 170lb division, his length is only amplified. He often fights behind a stiff jab, cracking cross, and incorporates a snapping head kick. His striking is seemingly effortless, lighting fast, and lands with show-stopping power, especially in this smaller division. Holland was able to ride his impressive striking nearly to a title shot. However, an important gap in Holland’s game was exposed, his defensive wrestling. Despite having a frame that is typically difficult to takedown and despite spending time training at AKA, arguably the best wrestling gym in the world, a 34-year-old Alex Oliveira was able to land two takedowns and snag a submission attempt in round 1 against Holland. Holland has the striking speed, power, accuracy, and frame to climb into and through the rankings. However, until he shows otherwise, most of his opponents will have the easy option of taking him down and controlling rounds.
Means is a UFC veteran with a complete and well-rounded game. In his prime, Means used his length and striking technique to piece opponents up from range and force them to close the distance. Once in tight, Means would land sharp slicing elbows, especially when he pinned his opponent against the cage. Then, he’d either continue to dirty box for a knockout, or, if necessary, Means would drag his opponent from the cage to the mat and continue to rain down elbows. Like many talented strikers in the early to mid-2000s UFC, Means found his specialty, range striking, and added another layer, dirty boxing, to create a well-rounded and successful arsenal of attacks. Lately, though, as Means has aged and his striking has slowed. He is on a 3-fight winning streak, but the way he’s won has been with more clinch control and less dirty boxing. He’s found crafty victories rather than the bloody entertaining victories Means had early in his career. Still, “Dirty Bird,” knows his strengths, had reliable cardio and can make an opponent pay if they leave an opening. But, at 38 years old, Means has become more hittable and can struggle to advance position from the clinch to the mat with regularity.
If Means tries to stand and throw with Holland, this fight should end quickly. Holland has the edge in speed, power, variety, and accuracy on the feet. Means, like most of Holland’s opponents, will look to weather the striking storm and find the takedown. However, even if Means can land a takedown, I’m not confident he can hold it for an entire round. Even if he does that, Means doesn’t have the ground and pound or submission game to finish the fight on the mat. So, at some point, I like Holland to find Means’ chin and drop him.
Pick: Kevin Holland to win inside the distance (+160 at BetUS)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.