Marvin Vettori amplified Kevin Holland’s wrestling deficiencies with a dominant and record-breaking main event victory – before calling for a rematch against existing champion Israel Adesanya, who beat him by split decision three years ago this month. Elsewhere, there were big wins for women’s strawweight Mackenzie Dern and featherweight Arnold Allen among others.
Different opponent, same problem for gamely Holland
50-44, 50-44, 50-44: Marvin Vettori (#6) defeats Kevin Holland (#10) via unanimous decision
If Derek Brunson’s showing three weeks ago was workmanlike, then Vettori produced a messy mauling and broke records en route to a tiring decision win over his short-notice replacement.
After completing 11 of his 16 takedown attempts over 25 minutes, the Italian now owns the UFC’s middleweight record for most takedowns in a single fight. He didn’t seem particularly fussed afterwards, instead vowing to improve while calling out Adesanya for a title fight date in October.
“I worked a lot with my wrestling coach, I’m not too happy with what I did because I wanted to finish him and wasn’t able to, but it was a dominant win, keep improving, knowing about myself.
Five rounds for me is just a normal thing, keep winning and progressing. I want Adesanya next. I will improve, October I want to fight him, I think I deserve it, with the longest win streak (5) right now.
Other people were supposed to show up but they didn’t, I put on winning and dominant performances: I want this title now.”
Holland started purposefully, throwing a series of kicks early on – including one right on Vettori’s groin – as referee Herb Dean issued him a hard warning after a one-minute interval.
As usual, the Trailblazer looked impressive when it came to striking at distance and stuffed two early takedown attempts as the pair exchanged punches in the pocket. Promising.
That was, until Vettori eventually secured his first takedown of the evening. Things only worsened from that moment for Holland, despite brief flashes of encouragement including noticeably more energy and application to power out of bottom position.
Round two was more of the same for Vettori, who swarmed the #10 contender up against the cage and landed a plethora of ground strikes.
Holland tried to scramble but without success, as the fight stats showed the Italian Dream had more than five times the total strikes in R2 (36-7) with a minute left, which rather spoke volumes.
Holland’s left eye was cut and swollen as he verbally fumed frustration between rounds. Little did he know, things would intensify as his shaky takedown defence was continually exploited.
He unloaded with a wild punch flurry to finish round three strong, but make no mistake: he was clearly losing through 15 minutes.
Vettori’s suffocating pressure helped him to almost earn a submission win with an arm-triangle, though as he’d done previously, Holland reversed position and stood up – albeit momentarily.
Round four saw them exchange big shots in the first 30 seconds, before Vettori returned to his wrestling and began mauling his short-notice opponent across the Octagon.
Despite still having energy, a badly damaged eye that was rapidly closing and finding himself in bottom position for sustained periods of time, Holland refused to give up. If this was a boxing bout and not MMA, he would’ve made it far more competitive and potentially won too.
He landed a pair of one-two combos early in the fifth which momentarily wobbled Vettori, but just like the big flurry Brunson absorbed in round two last month, the 27-year-old capitalised on another opening to assert further dominance as the pair went a full 25 minutes.
Whether he drops to welterweight or stays at 185lbs, Holland must improve his wrestling skills – adding new coaches or changing camp – otherwise this tough losing skid will continue. For more analysis, both from him after this sobering loss and the post-fight show, watch this video below:
In the space of three years Francis Ngannou did, and he’s now UFC heavyweight champion. It can be done, but goodwill will only take you so far in a sport as ruthless as the fight game.
Statistic: After replacing an injured Darren Till, Holland tied the record for shortest turnaround between two main event fights (Deiveson Figueiredo last year, Michael Bisping in 2017).
Allen outsmarts Yusuff in competitive featherweight clash
29-28, 29-28, 29-28: Arnold Allen (#10) beats Sodiq Yusuff (#11) via unanimous decision
After a 15-month absence, Allen returned to keep his UFC winning streak alive – now 8-0 with four consecutive decision victories, after getting the better of fellow ranked featherweight contender Yusuff over 15 minutes.
Yusuff was aggressive and applied pressure well, though defence and his timing ultimately let him down in a competitive battle that could’ve gone either way – had he not been knocked down in each of the first two rounds.
Allen earned two takedowns in round one and scored an unexpected knockdown with a deftly-placed straight left hand that rocked the Nigerian backwards to the mat.
They took turns loading up on their punches and missing big in round two, though it was again Allen who landed the more impactful shots: a nasty head kick that prompted a delayed reaction from Sodiq before falling for a second time after being overzealous in close.
The Englishman set his attacks up well and was clearly ahead on the judges’ scorecards through ten minutes, so much so that despite Yusuff’s energetic third round flurry, you could only envisage one winner by this stage unless he secured an unlikely late finish.
It didn’t come, though there was respect aplenty between a pair of talented 27-year-olds evenly matched for large periods – subtlety and fight IQ proving key as Allen retained his top-10 ranking.
Statistic: With this victory, Allen stands alone for the longest active win streak in the UFC’s featherweight division (8) – he was tied with divisional champion Alexander Volkanovski.
Marquez active and aggressive, leaves Alvey unconscious
R2, 2:07 – Julian Marquez defeats Sam Alvey via submission (rear-naked choke)
After suffering a fully torn latissimus dorsi during his split decision defeat by Alessio Di Chirico in July 2018 – missing almost two full years of action – Marquez has now earned two submission victories in three months.
He won a Performance of the Night bonus for his third-round finish against Maki Pitolo at UFC 258 in February, and claimed Fight of the Night honours after a deceptively entertaining middleweight clash against the gamely Alvey, who moved down from light-heavyweight but is winless in his last six fights.
Early on they traded shots in the pocket, though Alvey’s defensive tactic wasn’t doing him many favours – backing himself into a corner while loading up on punches.
Marquez was happy to apply pressure and showcase his fast hands, almost ending the fight twice in round one after a furious flurry of punches. Then, he got hurt himself, absorbing a heavy shot just seconds before the horn as they continued throwing.
Alvey landed a nasty right hook in the first minute of round two which typified Marquez’s issue, knowing when to enter and adopting necessary head movement.
He landed a counter right hand that visibly wobbled Alvey as he stumbled back towards the fence, then a big left hook dropping him – eventually putting him to sleep with a choke after defending a futile effort at recovery, raining down multiple hammer fists on the 34-year-old.
Dern dismantles Nunes on latter’s return in battle of mothers
R1, 4:48 – Mackenzie Dern (#11) defeats Nina Nunes (#5) via submission (armbar)
After a frantic but purposeful start by bullish strawweight contender Dern, she looked sharper in their brief stand-up exchanges and landed a right hand which backed Nina against the fence.
Despite an initial struggle, she eventually secured a takedown and was able to showcase her world-class jiu-jitsu – loosening up Nunes with multiple manoevures, looking to finish either through ground and pound strikes in mount position or a submission of some sort.
Just as you could hear two-division champion and Nina’s wife Amanda shout 20 seconds left in R1, Dern finally broke her left hand grip and sat sideways to extend an armbar submission, which resulted in the tap almost instantly.
“Next couple of weeks, we have a lot of big fights… Rose-Weili, Carla-Xiaonan, a lot of things will happen and it depends on where I’m in the rankings but I’ve been in the blue corner a long time, so want it to continue with someone higher ranked than me! I’m ready for anyone, feel like champ material now.”
Statistic: With this finish, Dern has now earned the tied-most submissions in UFC women’s history (4), alongside Gillian Robertson — and tied-most finishes (4) in strawweight history alongside Rose Namajunas and compatriot Jessica Andrade
armed with the jab, Rodriguez ruthlessly picks Perry apart
30-27, 30-27, 30-26: Daniel Rodriguez defeats Mike Perry via unanimous decision
“I don’t mind being that guy the UFC comes to for short-notice fights, but I appreciate the opportunity to have a full camp. I’m ready for whenever, full camps is why you got the best of D-Rod today.”
After a competitive but ultimately unsuccessful effort against Nicolas Dalby at UFC 255 in November, Rodriguez returned to the win column with style: producing beautiful boxing and timely takedown defence to stifle Mike Perry over 15 minutes to kick off the main card.
Perry was praised for his toughness and willingness to stand and trade, but that’s usually not an encouraging praise – firmly second best in this matchup, and in danger a few times as Rodriguez’s persistent jab caught him clean and cut him open.
Prelim results, were as follows
Lightweights Mateusz Gamrot and Joe Solecki earned contrasting wins over Scott Holtzman and Jim Miller to finish the eight-fight prelim slate. Gamrot earned his first UFC victory with a ground-and-pound finish vs. Holtzman, while Solecki needed the scorecards (29-28 x 2, 30-27).
In a catchweight bout at 156.75lbs, John Makdessi earned a split decision result (28-29, 29-28, 30-27) against Ignacio Bahamondes.
Since beating Justin Tafa at UFC 243 two years ago, Contender Series alum Yorgan de Castro is now 0-3 in the Octagon after a first-round knockout defeat at the hands of Jarjis Danho – who hadn’t fought since September 2016 after multiple injuries and proposed fight cancellations.
Welsh bantamweight prospect Jack Shore maintained his unbeaten record, improving to 14-0, but had a nervous wait before besting Hunter Azure via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).
Since beating Maurice Mitchell on the Contender Series in July 2018, Jordan Griffin is 1-4 in the Octagon – losing via decision (29-28 x 3) against featherweight debutant Luis Saldana.
South Korean light-heavyweight Da Un Jung was a dominant winner over William Knight (30-26 x 2, 30-27), after Impa Kasanganay returned to winning ways with a memorable welterweight debut with a second-round submission win (rear-naked choke) against Sasha Palatnikov.
Pictures source: Getty Images, MMAFighting.com