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UFC Orlando Main Event Breakdown

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The number of live shows remaining for MMA’s top promotion, the UFC, is down to a precious three. Over the next three Saturday nights, the year’s itinerary comes to a close, beginning this weekend with UFC Orlando and the UFC Orlando main event.

Saturday’s event (main card 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT, ESPN and ESPN+ after the undercard at 7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT) will feature 15 fights and is the first UFC show to be held in the Orlando area in nearly five years. On Feb. 24, 2018, the promotion hosted a FOX UFC Fight Night from Amway Center, where the UFC Orlando main event will be held this week.

That night, Jeremy Stephens scored a second-round knockout of Josh Emmett in a featherweight bout in the main event. Almost five years removed from that card, the UFC brings a welterweight showcase to Orlando.

“Wonderboy” Takes On “Trailblazer” in UFC Orlando Main Event

Saturday’s main event pits No. 6 contender Stephen Thompson (16-6-1 MMA, 11-6-1 UFC) against Kevin Holland (23-8, 1 NC MMA, 10-5, 1 NC UFC). As with all UFC headliners, this one will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.

This fight marks the latter’s third appearance at welterweight since returning to 170 lbs. from middleweight at the top of this year. Holland previously competed in the welterweight ranks between 2015 and 2017, prior to joining the UFC.

UFC Orlando Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into this weekend’s main attraction, Kevin Holland stands as the taller man at 6-foot-3, compared to Stephen Thompson at six feet even. Holland owns a six-inch reach advantage (81 inches to 75 inches), with Thompson owning a two-inch leg reach advantage (42 inches to 40 inches.)

As of Thursday afternoon, the oddsmakers have Kevin Holland installed as a -165 favorite, with Stephen Thompson countering as a +140 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening on Saturday, please wager responsibly.

Stephen Thompson Coming Off of 50-Week Layoff

Stephen Thompson enters the UFC Orlando main event on Saturday night having gone 2-3 in his last five fights. Currently, he’s on a two-fight losing streak.

On Dec. 18 of last year, he suffered a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Belal Muhammad (22-3, 1 NC MMA, 13-3, 1 NC UFC) during UFC Vegas 45’s co-main event. By the time the cage door closes on Saturday night, he will not have fought in 50 weeks.

During his media availability on Wednesday afternoon, Thompson forecast an interesting fight for the fans in Orlando over the weekend.

“My last two fights have been against heavy grapplers,” Thompson began, “so this guy did really good in the 185 division, come down to the 170. He’s doing good there, even though he’s not ranked, he’s well-known. He’s exciting, he’s tall. He’s got that 81-inch reach that’s going to be fun to navigate Saturday. This has excitement all over it.”

Still, the fact that Thompson hasn’t set foot in the cage in close to a year brings to mind the age-old question of ring rust, especially considering that Holland’s fought three times already in 2022. We’ll know soon enough whether or not ring rust is a factor for Steven Thompson.

Kevin Holland Still Considering Retirement

In the other corner, Kevin Holland, who tied the UFC promotional record for most wins by a competitor in a calendar year with five in 2020, enters the UFC Orlando main event having posted a record of 2-2 with one no-contest in his last five appearances. Less than three months ago, he lost to Khamzat Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) by first-round submission due to a D’arce choke during the reworked UFC 279 co-main event.

About three weeks after the Sept. 10 pay-per-view event, Holland announced that he was retiring from MMA as a competitor, only to reverse course the very next day and accept this fight. Even though he’s returning to fight Thompson in the UFC Orlando main event, a more permanent retirement is an option for Kevin Holland after this card, which he revealed to the press on Wednesday.

“It was serious as hell,” Holland said of his one-day retirement. “It was super serious, and it’s still on the table. If I wake up Sunday morning after beating Wonderboy, and you guys have Chimaev fighting for a 185-lb. world title when he’s never won a fight at 85 in the top-15, I’m retired. I understand business is business, but favoritism is favoritism.”

Holland then brought up Chimaev’s weight miss ahead of UFC 279 and the fact that he was rebooked to fight him on the pay-per-view.

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“I shouldn’t have had to do that, but I did what I had to do,” he said. “I did what I was supposed to do for a company man, so I’m sitting here telling you guys now, certain things have to go certain ways.”

Will we see Kevin Holland fight for the last time on Saturday? Tune in and find out.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Orlando main event looks to favor Stephen Thompson. Although both men are former kickboxers, the former holds a fifth-degree black belt in Tetsushin-Ryu Kenpo and a first-degree black-belt in jiu-jitsu in addition to a black belt in kickboxing and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Kevin Holland owns a second-degree black belt in Kung-Fu and a black belt in BJJ. On paper, it appears that we’ll have another strength versus strength matchup this weekend.

Stephen Thompson Can End a Fight With Kicks

One aspect of Stephen Thompson’s fight game that jumps out on film is his ability to finish the fight with a kick. While it hasn’t happened with great frequency, when it has happened, it’s been amazing, like it was in 2015 against the now-retired Jake Ellenberger.

During the first round of a scheduled three, Thompson began with a couple of side kicks before landing a left-handed punch through Ellenberger’s guard. Ellenberger knocked Thompson down before the latter returned to the clinch and back to the feet.

Another side kick followed from Thompson, who forced Ellenberger to cover up due to ground and pound shots from the back mount. At this point, the former had control of the fight, outpacing his opponent by a 3-1 ratio in strikes, complimenting the effort with a spinning kick to knock Ellenberger down a second time.

Ellenberger was on wobbly legs as the round neared its end. Smelling blood in the water, Thompson scored another spinning kick to end the fight, so if his kicks are on the money, the UFC Orlando main event will be his.

Kevin Holland Just as Brutal With Knockouts

In the other corner, Kevin Holland also has the proclivity to end the fight in brutal fashion. Of his 23 professional wins, 13 have been via knockout, including his March 5 victory against Alex Oliveira during UFC 272.

As round two of the fight commenced, Holland connected on a vicious punch that sent Oliveira flying backwards and knocked him down. It was all over but the shouting as soon as that punch landed.

Holland landed repeated and relentless elbows to Oliveira, forcing the referee to intervene and call the fight. All he needs to win the main event this week is as little as one punch right on the button. If a single punch lands, it’s good night and thanks for coming.

Final Thoughts

Although this weekend is going to be dominated by the USMNT‘s bid to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, as well as conference championship games in college football, don’t forget about the UFC Orlando main event. We could have an entertaining fight on our hands.

This could be the best fight of the weekend. Don’t forget to tune in.

Prediction: Stephen Thompson by Unanimous Decision.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.