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Kevin Holland poses for a portrait in Miami, Florida, on March 6, 2024. (Photo by Kevin Holland/Zuffa LLC)
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Kevin Holland Out To Prove Page Doesn't Belong

UFC Stalwart Focused On Making Debut Of Michael “Venom” Page A Night The Newcomer Wants To Forget

Kevin Holland didn’t have the type of performance fans have become accustomed to during the course of his time competing inside the Octagon in September when he faced off with Jack Della Maddalena at Noche UFC, but not for a lack of trying.

“I landed so many strikes, I threw so many strikes; I was trying to hit Max Holloway numbers,” he said pointedly, but with a smile, when asked about his atypical last outing ahead of his return to action this weekend in Miami, where he’s set to welcome Michael “Venom” Page to the Octagon for the first time.

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The matchup with Della Maddalena was a highly anticipated one, and while the volume thrown on both sides was impressive, the action itself was somewhat muted compared to what the welterweights typically deliver. After 15 minutes, Holland landed on the short end of a split decision verdict that halted his modest two-fight winning streak but did little to diminish his standing as one of the most popular all-action fighters on the UFC roster.

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“Jack had a high guard, so with a high guard, you throw a lot of volume at the front, come around the side, hit the guard, and dip out the way,” said Holland, offering his thoughts on why things played out the way they did against the streaking Australian, who also competes this weekend at UFC 299. “Jack did a few good things here and there, but I don’t think Jack did anything great.

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“Jack did a good job of blocking a lot of shots, so you couldn’t land a lot of power shots on him, reiterated Holland, who has gone 4-3 in seven appearances since dropping to the welterweight ranks. “The couple times he stepped forward, he ate a kissed right hand to the face, but he ate it.

“Props to Jack — he’s a tough guy and he did a good job,” he said, adding “not everybody is gonna be like Jack.”

Kevin Holland Fight Week Interview | UFC 299
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Kevin Holland Fight Week Interview | UFC 299
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A high guard is unlikely to be something Holland has to worry about this weekend when he steps in with Page, who transitions to the UFC following a lengthy run as a human highlight reel and welterweight contender in Bellator.

Where Della Maddalena was fundamentally sound and defensively responsible, the 36-year-old Page is the opposite — a born showman who fights with his lands by his side, relying on speed and upper body movement to avoid oncoming fire while looking to land sniper shots of his own.

RELATED: UFC 299 Countdown | Kevin Holland vs Michael "Venom" Page

It’s an interesting time for the British veteran to matriculate to the UFC, and the pairing with Holland feels tailor-made for being a crowd-pleaser in the middle of this weekend’s pay-per-view main card. Although Holland admitted he’s enjoyed Page’s performances in the past, he was also clear that he’s intent on showing that things are different when you step into the UFC Octagon.

“It was cool — I’m a fan of the guy’s work; I like the way he fights,” he said of Page, who carries a stellar 21-2 record into his promotional debut this weekend. “It’s always cool to fight a guy like that, but (getting this matchup) didn’t really do anything (for me). He’s Bellator, I’m UFC.

“The shorts say, ‘You (aren’t) invited,’” continued the engaging and occasionally bombastic Texas resident, who wore a pair of Hyde Park shorts to his media availability, “and I don’t know who the f*** invited the guy.”

Best Moments: Kevin Holland
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Best Moments: Kevin Holland
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Despite being unsure of who brought Page to the party, the duo are perfect dance partners for one another when you look at their respective approaches and intentions when they step onto the canvas, and, from a divisional standpoint, the pairing also makes a great deal of sense on paper, as well.

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Page has only lost twice, each time in championship bouts, both on the scorecards, and he subsequently avenged one of those setbacks. He’s clearly been one of the better welterweights in the sport competing beyond the UFC walls, and stepping in with Holland on Saturday is a perfect means of measuring where he fits in the division right out of the chute this weekend.

As for Holland, he returns to Miami, where he won last April by knocking out Santiago Ponzinibbio in the third round at UFC 287, is stationed at No. 13 in the welterweight rankings and entrenched as the caliber of competitor one has to beat in order to advance into the Top 10 in the 170-pound weight class. Turning back the new arrival in his highly anticipated, much publicized promotional debut would be a marquee win on a major card; the kind of thing that would further elevate Holland’s standing in the division, and likely garner more eyeballs than a victory over someone positioned closer to him in the pecking order.

Of course, the 31-year-old “Trailblazer” has a different perspective on things.

Kevin Holland punches Jack Della Maddalena of Australia in a welterweight fight during the Noche UFC event at T-Mobile Arena on September 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Kevin Holland punches Jack Della Maddalena of Australia in a welterweight fight during the Noche UFC event at T-Mobile Arena on September 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“I just think it’s a free body,” Holland said when asked about the matchup. “He has no rank next to his name. Me personally, I don’t really care; I just do it.

“Doesn’t move me forward, doesn’t move me back — I don’t feel like it does too much of anything; it’s a free body. I don’t get an extra check or anything, but if you remember back in 2020, I love stuffing my truck, so I’ll take a free body.”

That year, Holland won five fights in eight months, jumping into opportunities whenever called upon and making the absolute most of them, and he believes this weekend’s pairing with Page will be reminiscent of his breakout campaign three years ago.

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“That s*** that he does, he takes some chances that he probably shouldn’t take, and there are other aspects of the game that I’m a little more comfortable (with) than other people are,” he said, offering a modicum of insight into his thoughts on how things will play out on Saturday. “I’m a different build than anyone he’s fought before.

“He had a hard time with a guy named Fernando back in the day,” continued Holland, referencing Page’s bout with Fernando Gonzalez, which resulted in a split decision win for the UFC newcomer. “He had a hard time with Fernando, a very hard time with (Douglas) Lima — has he grown as a fighter since then? We shall see.”

Kevin Holland celebrates his submission victory over Michael Chiesa in a welterweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Kevin Holland celebrates his submission victory over Michael Chiesa in a welterweight fight during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Asked how he intends to show that the celebrated debutant doesn’t have what it takes to compete at this level and hasn’t grown since those tough fights several years back, the verbose welterweight veteran was uncharacteristically concise.

“Pretty, pressure, and dominant,” he said.

We shall see, indeed.

 

Gavin Porter contributed to this story.

UFC 299: O'Malley vs Vera 2 took place live from Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida on March 9, 2024. See the final Prelims & Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass