Holly Holm reacts at the end of her featherweight bout against Megan Anderson of Australia

Former champion Holly Holm returns this weekend after a controversial decision loss to Ketlen Viera in 2022. This time around, she faces a fellow striker in Yana Kunitskaya-Santos as a co-main event slot.

Both fighters are coming off of hard losses, with Santos taking over a year off after a devastating first-round knockout from Irene Aldana.

Despite this, both women have remained big names in their division and have fairly similar styles, making this an extremely interesting fight at women’s-bantamweight.

Betting Odds

As a former champion with a much more stacked resume, Holm comes into this fight as a solid favorite.

  • Holly Holm: (-245)
  • Yana Santos: (+205)

Fight Breakdown

From a statistical standpoint, both fighters are almost the same, with Holm sporting a 0.5-inch reach advantage and a 2-inch height advantage, both of which will likely not play a big role in the fight. The only alarming difference is their age, with Holm being seven years Santos’ senior at 41 years old. Age hasn’t appeared to play much of a factor in her recent fights, however, it’s significant enough to mention when considering the different points both fighters are at in their careers.

As stated before, both fighters have fairly similar styles, using sharp and technical kickboxing in order to set up heavy shots and outscore their opponents. Holm tends to fight a much more orthodox style, utilizing quick jabs and frequently following up with body kicks in order to set up a heavy head kick or left cross. Santos is much more liberal in the diversification of her strikes, often throwing long punch combinations to close the distance and spinning strikes when at range. Both fighters utilize sharp leg kicks to disable the footwork of their opponents as well, which could play a large factor should the fight go to the final round.

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The diversity of kicks from both strikers is what makes this bout so interesting from a technical standpoint. Holm uses a variety of precise kicks at clean angles in order to keep her opponents away, often throwing piercing sidekicks to the body and legs of her opponents or forceful front kicks to the head and midsection to send them back. Santos uses much more unorthodox kicks and knees, attempting to land hard and weaken her opponent’s guard or land flush for a fight-changing strike.

Defensively, Holm should have the advantage. She’s much more calculated in her counters and movement than Santos, throwing much cleaner strikes as her opponents come in that seem to have more power than Santos’. However, from an offensive standpoint, Santos is still extremely dangerous, often throwing intricate combinations in order to initiate a clinch where she throws devastating knees to the head and body.

Holm is also extremely effective from within the clinch, however, having a much more fundamentally sound level of grappling and wrestling. Her grappling is likely her most underrated asset actually, as she often used it to slow down strong strikers like Megan Anderson and Germaine de Randamie. She has solid takedowns from within the clinch and can hold down her opponents in side control fairly well, landing heavy strikes and wearing out her opponent in the process. Santos is fairly weak off her back and has rarely been on top in grappling exchanges, so this will likely play a large part in Holm’s game plan if she opts to go for a decision.

Prediction and Betting Guide

Despite her age, I think Holm pulls this one off solely based on her grappling advantage. Santos is extremely skilled on the feet but she’s shown her deficit on the ground too many times for Holm’s camp not to have taken notice. Santos is still very dangerous on the feet but Holm seems too defensively sound to get outstruck or knocked out as well. Santos’ chin is also suspect, as she’s often been caught coming in as was shown in her fights with Cris Cyborg and Aspen Ladd. That makes the +350 bet for Holm to win via knockout particularly interesting, however, if you want a safe pick, I’d go Holm by decision at -120.

Pick: Holm to Win (-245) or Holm to win by decision (-120)

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