UFC on ESPN 21: Brunson vs. Holland Preview

On paper, Kevin Holland was the most successful UFC fighter in 2020. Racking up five wins within the calendar year, Holland attained more wins than any other fighter in the promotion. Hoping to carry that momentum into 2021, Holland will fight Derek Brunson in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Here’s a preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (7:30PM EDT / 4:30PM EDT) (ESPN 2 / TSN 5)

Bout 1: JP Buys (9-2) vs. Bruno Silva (10-5-2) (Flyweight)

JP Buys will make his UFC debut in the opening bout of the card, fighting Bruno Silva in a flyweight bout. Buys earned a UFC contract in November, defeating Jacob Silva on “Dana White’s Contender Series” with a guillotine choke. The win was the fifth in a streak that included championship fights in South African promotion EFC.

Silva will be looking for his first UFC win in his fourth appearance for the promotion. His last fight was in October, where he lost a decision to Tagir Ulanbekov.

Bout 2: Montel Jackson (9-2) vs. Jesse Strader (5-1) (Bantamweight)

Jesse Strader will start his UFC run with a bout against Montel Jackson on Saturday. Strader enters the UFC after only six bouts as a pro. He last fought in 2019, where he picked up two stoppage wins in regional promotion Combate Americas.

Jackson is returning after a three-fight win streak was brought to a halt by Brett Johns last year, who won via decision against him.

Bout 3: Trevin Giles (13-2) vs. Roman Dolidze (8-0) (Middleweight)

Undefeated middleweight Roman Dolidze will return to action with a fight against Trevin Giles. Dolidze wasn’t actually set to fight on the card, although he stepped in after Dricus Du Plessis withdrew from the fight. He has recorded two wins in his UFC career thus far, defeating Khadis Ibragimov and John Allan.

Similarly, Giles is on a two-fight win streak. He earned a stoppage victory in his last outing, which came in November against Bevon Lewis.

Bout 4: Grant Dawson (16-1) vs. Leonardo Santos (18-3-1) (Lightweight)

Grant Dawson has been flawless in his UFC run so far. He has picked up four wins since 2019 and will aim for his fifth when fighting Leonardo Santos on the prelims.

Santos, a UFC veteran, has been undefeated since 2013. This has gone unnoticed by many, as his inactivity through stretched periods of time has made him fly under people’s radars. His last fight, a 2020 win over Roman Bogatov, was only his second fight since 2016. Nonetheless, he has won his last six bouts.

Dawson’s last win was in July, where he defeated Nad Narimani via unanimous decision.

Bout 5: Marion Reneau (9-6-1) vs. Macy Chiasson (6-1) (Bantamweight)

The final fight on the prelims will see Marion Reneau fight Macy Chiasson. This fight was first scheduled for February, although it was moved ahead by a month due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Reneau will attempt to snap a three-fight losing streak in the bout. Her last loss was last year to Raquel Pennington.

Chiasson picked up a win in her last fight, defeating Shanna Young on scorecards, although it was now over a year ago.

Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)

Bout 6: Tai Tuivasa (11-3) vs. Harry Hunsucker (7-3) (Heavyweight)

Stepping in on short notice, Harry Hunsucker will get his UFC debut against Tai Tuivasa. Hunsucker took the place of Don’Tale Mayes, who withdrew from the bout earlier in the week.

Hunsucker was last seen on TV last year, as Jared Vanderaa defeated him on an episode of “Dana White’s Contender Series.” He has since picked up a win on the regional scene, stopping Cory Moon within a minute on an HR MMA card.

Tuivasa snapped a three-fight skid in his last bout, defeating veteran Stefan Struve back in October.

Bout 7: Max Griffin (16-8) vs. Song Kenan (16-5) (Welterweight)

Welterweights Max Griffin and Song Kenan will be matched for the main card. Griffin picked up a win through gruesome fashion in November, as an ear injury to Ramiz Brahimaj gave him a win in the third round. Prior to then, Griffin lost two bouts via decision.

Song enters this fight after winning four of his last fight bouts. He last fought over a year ago now, defeating Callan Potter within a round with strikes.

Bout 8: Adrian Yanez (12-3) vs. Gustavo Lopez (12-5) (Bantamweight)

Both returning after earning their first UFC win, Adrian Yanez and Gustavo Lopez will collide on the main card.

Yanez had a strong UFC debut in October, catching Victor Rodriguez in the first round with a head kick to finish their fight. The debut came just three months after he earned a UFC contract with a 39-second stoppage win over Brady Huang on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Lopez picked up a submission win in his last fight, defeating Anthony Birchak. Before then, he lost his short-notice UFC debut to Merab Dvalishvili.

Bout 9: Cheyanne Buys (5-1) vs. Montserrat Ruiz (9-1) (Strawweight)

A double debut will take place when Cheyanne Buys faces Montserrat Ruiz. Buys was first scheduled to face former Invicta FC fighter Kay Hansen in this bout, although changes on short-notice have brought Ruiz into the mix.

Buys sees her first UFC bout after winning a “Contender Series” fight in August against Hilarie Rose. The win was her fourth-in-a-row when including wins on the regional scene.

Ruiz ended a year-and-a-half break from competition in July, submitting Janaisa Morandin in the main event of an Invicta FC card.

Bout 10: Gregor Gillespie (13-1) vs. Brad Riddell (9-1) (Lightweight)

Gregor Gillespie will make his return to the cage in the co-main event when fighting Brad Riddell.

Gillespie had an undefeated run of 13 fights that included six UFC wins stopped quickly in late 2019, as Kevin Lee connected with a head kick that knocked him out in the first round. Now after over a year out of competition, Gillespie returns.

He fights Riddell, who has yet to lose since joining the UFC roster in 2019. Fighting out of New Zealand’s City Kickboxing, Riddell has earned three wins in the UFC. The third in the trio came in September, where he won over Alex da Silva at UFC 253.

Bout 11: Derek Brunson (21-7) vs. Kevin Holland (21-5) (Middleweight)

Kevin Holland had a strong 2020. Despite not winning a title fight or even getting a main event spot, many were throwing him in “Fighter of the Year” discussions in December. With the chance to show his success was not just a quick fad, Holland will fight Derek Brunson in the main event of Saturday’s card.

Brunson’s successful 2020 had five wins, including four via stoppage. While there were big wins in that run like victories over Joaquin Buckley and Darren Stewart, his most notable win was in December, where he defeated Jacare Souza within two minutes with strikes.

While Holland has been booked for three five-round bouts early in his career, Saturday night will be the first time he will compete in a main event since joining the UFC roster in 2018.

He has a tough challenge in front of him, as he faces Brunson, who carries nearly a decade of experience at a high level of MMA. Having now competed in the UFC since 2012, Brunson has picked up 12 wins and only five losses. He has become a strong gatekeeper for the division as of late, earning wins over names like Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch and, most recently, Edmen Shahbazyan.

Holland will look to grow his list of names he has stopped in the middleweight division. Holland will attempt to add another name to the list of prospects he stopped. On Saturday night, someone is being added to someone’s list.

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