Kevin Holland has not allowed events of this year to derail his quest for UFC gold, but can he make it a perfect 5-0 for 2020 when he takes on one of the premier fighters in the middleweight division, Jack Hermansson, in the main event of the December 5 UFC Fight Night card?
2019 ended on a downer for Holland as he was submitted in the second round by Brendan Allen, ending his three-fight win streak, but when he finally returned to action in May of this year he took out Anthony Hernandez with strikes in just 39 seconds, and a few months later he made it back-to-back wins by stopping Joaquin Buckley in the third round of their contest. That victory sparked a run of fights in three consecutive months for Holland and he was victorious in all of them.
A split decision win over Darren Stewart in September saw his stock receive another shot in the arm and when he finished Charlie Ontiveros inside three minutes in October he was rewarded with a high-profile bout against former welterweight title contender Darren Till. The Liverpudlian was then forced to withdraw from the contest, but Till’s decision may have done Holland a favour because he now gets to take on a top-five fighter in Jack Hermansson. A victory here could see the unranked 28-year-old surge up the pecking order and put him right into the mix for a shot at the 185lb crown in 2021 – but can he pull it off?
Hermansson has suffered a handful of defeats since signing with the UFC but that has not prevented him from being established as one of the premier middleweight fighters on the planet. He bounced back from a second-round knockout loss to heavy-hitting Jared Cannonier in impression fashion, forcing former interim champion Kelvin Gastelum to tap out to a heel hook just 78 seconds into their bout back in July, and ‘The Joker’ also boasts notable wins over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and former middleweight title challenger Thales Leites.
If Holland can beat Hermansson here it will be easily the biggest win of his career, but I do not like his chances. Hermansson may not carry much in the way of star power that makes him stand out among the rest of the top five, but what does make him stand out is his all-round game. This guy can get the job done in whatever way is required.
While KO/TKO victories remain the most popular route to victory that he has taken during his career, ‘The Joker’ has been showcasing his submission skills more and more in recent years. Three of his last four wins have seen him force his opponent to tap out, while his last success came via strikes over two-and-a-half years ago. Hermansson has claimed that he wants to “get those fists into action again” in this outing, but I am always wary of listening to pre-fight claims. Simply put, Hermansson will do whatever he needs to do to get the job done, whether that is beating his opponent with strikes or forcing them to concede defeat to a submission.
And that is exactly what he will do here – Hermansson will take Holland to the mat and finish the fight there, halting his opponent’s rise and strengthening his own title quest in the process.