TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
The self-styled ‘Big Mouth’ gladly stepped up to replace the injured Scouser in this weekend’s middleweight main event, where he will face Italian contender Marvin Vettori.
Vettori, like his new opponent, enjoyed a stellar year in 2020, picking up a pair of impressive victories against Karl Roberson and Jack Hermansson to rise to sixth in the UFC rankings.
‘The Italian Dream’ will be looking to consolidate his place in the top ten by inflicting a second defeat inside a month on Holland, a victory 27-year-old Vettori hopes could secure him a rematch against 185lb king Israel Adesanya.
With that, and so much more, to look forward to on Saturday night, here are five reasons why you should be glued to your screen this weekend.
It’s at UK prime time!
No alarms in the middle of the night! No sidestepping social media for fear of spoilers! No missing out on the buzz of live fights!
That’s right – this weekend the UFC comes to you live and direct at UK prime time, beginning with the prelims at 6pm on BT Sport 3 HD before the main card gets underway on the same channel at 8pm.
Nights like these don’t come around often so grab a pizza, settle down on the sofa and soak up a spectacular night of action from inside the Octagon!
A flash in the pan – or a real middleweight ‘Trailblazer’?
It would be fair to say Kevin Holland was served a heaped plate of humble pie in his last outing against 185lb veteran Derek Brunson.
The brash 28-year-old shot to notoriety after a stunning breakout year that saw him crowned BT Sport’s Fighter of the Year 2020 and had appeared on the cusp of cracking the middleweight elite.
Armed with the gift of the gab and a wild, fan-friendly style, Holland’s five wins in 2020 – the joint-most ever inside a calendar year – put his name on the lips of every fight fan coming into 2021.
But the manner of his defeat against Brunson, combined with his blasé attitude during the one-sided loss, shocked many who had expected Holland to mount a serious charge up the middleweight rankings.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani earlier this week, Holland hinted at his regret in getting carried away with his ‘Big Mouth’ moniker, promising to show more of his ‘Trailblazer’ alias against Vettori this weekend.
“There is a little bit more action with Trailblazer,” he explained.
“Trailblazer is a little bit more zeroed in, a little more focused. Big Mouth is a little bit more for entertainment. I think Big Mouth was created and I just ran with it. But Trailblazer is something I’ve always been.”
Win or lose, it might be tricky to read too much into Holland’s comeback on Saturday night given the last-minute nature of the contest.
But another loss would certainly bury the last of the momentum Holland had built throughout a record-breaking 2020.
Can the California native secure a high-pressure win – or will it be back to the drawing board for the ‘Trailblazer’?
The middleweight division's dark horse
Six months ago, not many would have picked Marvin Vettori as the next potential threat to Israel Adesanya’s middleweight reign.
The Italian 185lber had picked up three wins since defeat to Adesanya in what was the New Zealander’s second ever UFC assignment in April 2018 - but Vettori lacked a real statement victory to bolster his improved credentials.
All that changed in December as he stepped in at short notice – ironically as a replacement for Kevin Holland when ‘Trailblazer’ came down with Covid – to face Jack Hermansson.
What transpired was a thrilling, gruelling slugfest in which Vettori muscled his way to a deserved win over the Norwegian, demonstrating an impressive blend of toughness and technique through a five round Fight of the Night war.
Suddenly, it seems not such a faraway prospect to imagine Vettori being granted a rematch against the incumbent middleweight king.
Absent an obvious next challenger to Adesanya’s middleweight throne, another emphatic performance on Saturday night would surely make ‘The Italian Dream’ one of the leading candidates for a maiden shot at UFC gold.
The UK’s next best title hope?
It might be strange to suggest Arnold Allen is still a rising star in the UFC given the fact the Ipswich man is entering his sixth year in the promotion.
However, during that time, the 27-year-old has only made seven Octagon appearances; only once has Allen fought twice in a calendar year for the UFC.
Through a combination of bad luck, misfortune and injury, one of Britain’s brightest stars has endured a stop-start ride while somehow maintaining a perfect 7-0 record in the promotion.
A fight against Jeremy Stephens, booked for late 2020, appeared to be just the tonic for Allen, finally rewarding him with a big name on a big stage that could have proved to be his long-overdue coming out party.
Rotten luck struck once again however when Stephens was forced to withdraw from the contest through injury.
Now returning to action after more than a year on the sidelines, Allen will take on fellow featherweight prospect Sodiq Yussuf in the co-main event on Saturday night.
Having fought his way to the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series, the hard-hitting Nigerian Yussuf has aspirations of extending his perfect record in the UFC to five with an early stoppage on Saturday night.
“It’s evenly matched on paper but I think I’m getting the finish in this one,” Yusuff said.
“Just the way my camp has been going and what I have been working on, I don’t see it going three rounds.”
Mike Perry – need we say more?
Love him or loathe him, you simply cannot take your eyes off of Mike Perry.
The eccentric Florida fighter has only three wins from his previous nine in the UFC but the 29-year-old loves nothing more than a good, old fashioned tear up.
This weekend, he faces MMA journeyman Daniel Rodrigue who finally looks to have found a home in the UFC having also fought for Bellator, King of the Cage and Combate.
The 34-year-old is 3-1 in the UFC, losing on his last appearance to Nicolas Dalby via the scorecards.
It could be a significant crossroads fight for Perry; having missed weight during defeat to Tim Means last time out, Perry has been vocal about wanting to move up to middleweight in the near future given his struggles to cut down to the 170lb limit.
Another loss may take that decision out of his hands with the UFC making a habit of offloading some high-profile names coming off the back of defeats in recent weeks.
Is Mike Perry fighting to save his UFC career? He won’t want to find out!
Make sure you don't miss a minute of the action starting at 6pm on BT Sport 3 HD on Saturday night!