Derek Brunson defeated Kevin Holland via unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46×2) to extend his winning streak to four. The 37-year-old veteran also ended Holland’s five-fight win streak which was put together in 2020 by increasing his own chances of one last title push in the Middleweight division.
The start to round one began emphatically, with both men trading front kicks before Holland appeared to slip and was met with a huge right hook from Brunson taking the fight to the ground. It was perfect for Brunson who is a wrestler by trade and was able to get the fight to the mat without using too much energy for a takedown. For the rest of the round, he was in cruise control, working the ground and pound well with some big elbows whilst dictating the pace of the contest. Holland knew it would be difficult to break away from his position, so decided to defend the shots as best as possible and play guard until the round was over. It was a brilliant start of Brunson heading into the second.
Back on the feet for round two and Holland started with a left jab to the head of Brunson. His opponent immediately engaged for a takedown by clinching up with Holland, but it was easily brushed off by the 28-year-old. Holland replied with a massive right hand that wobbled Brunson who grasped for a single leg to buy time to recover. It led to him clinching with Holland up against the fence and going for a trip that led to a great takedown. Holland decided to scramble more than he did in the first to try to escape and succeeded at first but was taken down once again from the fantastic wrestling of Brunson who again maintained the position until the horn sound.
Holland, who looked the more comfortable on the feet, picked his shots well in the opening to round three with a good right hand. However, he continuously struggled to defend takedowns as Brunson executed another one less than a minute in and found it easier to control due to the fatigue kicking into his opponent. Subsequently, Holland’s guard was breaking and Brunson inflicted more damage in the ground and pound. The number 10 ranked Middleweight really needed to step it up going into the final two rounds.
Unfortunately for Holland, he was falling into the same traps of swinging towards Brunson and getting exposed to the takedown. Although he stayed on the feet for longer, Brunson replied with some strong uppercuts before yet again changing levels and taking down Holland. Brunson switched it up in side control but it didn’t change the way he could chip away and make sure Holland was unable to get back to his feet where he is most dangerous. Holland couldn’t cope with the grappling and defended as well as he could to stay in the fight, yet he was down big going into round five.
With nothing to lose going into the final round, Holland swung more vigorously in the hope to gain a stoppage but Brunson read them well again and initiated a clinch at the centre of the octagon. Surprisingly, Holland reversed the roles and took Brunson down himself, catching him off guard and landing a flurry of body shots thereafter. With 90 seconds of the contest to go, Holland let Brunson get back up to his feet for a final chance at victory in the stand-up, although was taken down again shortly after where Brunson ground out a deserved win.
It was a well-drilled performance by Brunson, avoiding the strengths that Holland has on the feet and comfortable in taking the fight exactly where he wants it to use his superior wrestling and grappling skills. The number seven ranked called out Brazilian Paulo Costa after the bout.
After Gregor Gillespie versus Brad Riddell was called off due to COVID protocols, Max Griffin defeated Song Kenan via KO just after two minutes of the first round in the new co-main event of the evening. Griffin wasted no time as soon as the fight began, piling on the pressure with a right hand and head kick combination which resulted in the 35-year-old taking a stiff jab to the face in the process.
Moments later, Kenan swung for a hook shot but a great counter combination by Griffin denied him, switching levels afterwards to clinch. Breaking up the clinch fairly quickly, it seemed to look like Kenan had found his rhythm and settled into the contest until a leg kick and jab to the body took the wind out of him.
It signalled that the end was near when Kenan let his guard slip because of the pain to the midsection, letting Griffin take advantage and rock him with a big one-two hook combination sending the Chinese native straight to the canvas out cold. That’s now consecutive wins for the vet and earned Griffin the Performance of the Night award.
Rest of the card
On the rest of the main card, Montserrat Ruiz beat Cheyanne Buys via unanimous decision (29-28×2, 29-27) in the Women’s Strawweight division. Ruiz dictated the grapple heavy contest by performing multiple takedowns and using her jiu-jitsu to cause problems on the mat. There were times when she was looking for an armbar or similar other submissions and was unable to lock it in, although she comfortably rode out a win on the judge’s scorecards for her first win of the year.
In the Bantamweight division, Adrian Yanez beat Gustavo Lopez via KO in the third round for a sixth successive victory. Yanez was dominating the fight on the feet, and it paid off when a right hook landed flush into the face of Lopez within the opening 30 seconds of the round claiming another Performance of the Night bonus.
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Meanwhile, Heavyweight Tai Tuivasa needed only 49 seconds in his bout with Harry Hunsucker to defeat the American via TKO. Hunsucker was initially hurt by the brutal leg kicks being executed on him, before shortly after getting wobbled by a right hook that dropped him. Tuivasa looked to end the fight with hammer fists which Hunsucker momentarily defended, but a couple of clean strikes to his head eventually called a stop to the contest by referee Herb Dean.
There were more vicious knockouts on the prelims, where Grant Dawson got the win over Leonardo Santos in virtually the last second of the contest. Dawson, who was making his Lightweight debut, controlled the fight with his wrestling and leant back to give way to throw ground and pound strikes with the last few seconds remaining. One of the strikes caught Santos clean to the temple and earned Dawson a stoppage victory right at the death.
Montel Jackson defeated Jesse Strader via TKO despite his opponent missing weight by one and a half pounds over the Bantamweight limit. It came in the very first round where Jackson caught Strader with a right hook 30 seconds prior to the stoppage. It dropped the 29-year-old and he seemed to recover straight after, getting back to his feet into attack mode. Jackson dropped him again with a lovely combination, and the subsequent ground and pound were enough to call it a night for referee Keith Peterson.
In the first bout of the night, Bruno Gustavo da Silva beat JP Buys in the second round of their Flyweight division contest. It came via TKO just as Buys was getting a foothold into the fight, where a right hand rocked him in the centre of the octagon. As Buys scrambled back up, an uppercut sent him back down to the ground where a follow up of punches was stopped to give Silva his first win since 2018.