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Michal Oleksiejczuk of Poland prepares to face Michel Pereira of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 299 event at Kaseya Center on March 09, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Michal Oleksiejczuk Hunting For Biggest Win To Date

Polish Middleweight Aims To Get Back On Track In Main Card Tilt With Kevin Holland On Saturday

Through the first 13 fights of his UFC career, Michal Oleksiejczuk has embarked on what feels like a pretty typical run for someone that touched down in the promotion in their early 20s and has spent the last seven years trying to figure out where they stand.

Debuting on the penultimate day of 2017, the 29-year-old Polish fighter’s time on the big stage began in earnest in 2019, when he posted back-to-back rapid finishes of Gian Villante and Gadzhimurad Antigulov to establish himself as a young talent to watch in the light heavyweight division. But a start like that often leads to accelerated pushes for those showing promise, and Oleksiejczuk was no different, as his third fight of the year came against divisional stalwart Ovince Saint Preux, who wisely played to his strengths, took him down, and forced him to tap to a Von Preux choke.

A second straight submission loss followed, then two more wins before a unanimous decision loss to Dustin Jacoby prompted Oleksiejczuk to drop down a division. More naturally suited to compete in the middleweight ranks, things began smoothly for the southpaw, as his tenure at 185 pounds began similarly to his first push at light heavyweight — with a pair of impressive, rapid stoppage wins.

Order UFC 302: Makhachev vs Poirier

But the pattern from his previous division has since followed him to middleweight, as well, as Oleksiejczuk has since sandwiched a win over Chidi Njokuani between submission defeats at the hands of Caio Borralho and Michel Pereira heading into his UFC 302 showdown with Kevin Holland on Saturday.

“Borralho and Pereira are top fighters in my category,” began Oleksiejczuk when asked about the lessons learned from his first two middleweight setbacks ahead of his return to action on Saturday. “I made a few mistakes, but I believe that one day I will become UFC champion.

His clash with the streaking Pereira at UFC 299 lasted all of 61 seconds, with the dominating Brazilian punishing Oleksiejczuk to the body with kicks, punches, and knees before wrapping his forearm under the neck and putting him to sleep.

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It’s the type of contest that invariably leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the athlete, having spent the previous number of weeks pushing hard in the gym, dialing in their diet, and committing all their focus to achieving a positive result, only to have things go sideways in a matter of seconds and end in a minute.

“The fight with Pereira was a difficult experience for me,” acknowledged Oleksiejczuk, who fell to 7-5 with one no contest inside the Octagon as a result of the defeat. “I had a great training camp and it's a pity that I didn't show a good fight. But I don't give up and I still believe in myself.

“After a defeat, I always want to win at all costs, and on Saturday, it will show in the fight.”

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If there is a silver lining to a rapid loss like the one he incurred in March, it’s that there wasn’t time for Oleksiejczuk to really suffer any injuries, which has allowed him to make a relatively expedited return to action this weekend, when he’ll welcome Holland back to the middleweight ranks.

The 31-year-old Holland broke out in a big way during the 2020 pandemic campaign, winning five fights in eight months to earn a spot in the rankings and position himself as a contender on the rise in a division always in need of fresh, ascending names.

Michal Oleksiejczuk of Poland reacts after his victory over Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on August 26, 2023 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Zuffa LLC)
Michal Oleksiejczuk of Poland reacts after his victory over Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on August 26, 2023 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Zuffa LLC)

Consecutive losses to rankings fixtures Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori followed, and after a no contest verdict in a clash with Kyle Daukaus where an accidental clash of heads impacted the action, Holland decamped for welterweight. In his eight appearances since leaving middleweight, “Trailblazer” has posted four wins and four losses, collecting them in sets of two.

Like Oleksiejczuk, Holland also lost at UFC 299, landing on the wrong side of the scorecards against Michael “Venom” Page.

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“Thank you very much to the UFC for such an honor,” began Oleksiejczuk when asked about the matchup, which marks his first appearance on the main card of a numbered event. “I am very proud of the fact that I am fighting in the main card.

“Kevin is a very good striker, I respect his skills,” he added, noting that he did not work being trash talked mid-fight into his preparations as previous Holland opponents have done in the past.

It’s an interesting opportunity for the Polish middleweight — a chance to collect a victory over an established name with a history in the division, on the main card of a highly anticipated pay-per-view — and Oleksiejczuk plans on making the absolute most of it this weekend.

“I feel that it will be a great fight,” he offered when asked how he sees things playing out between he and Holland. “This will be the greatest success in my career.”

Order UFC 302: Makhachev vs Poirier

UFC 302: Makhachev vs Poirier took place live from Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on June 1, 2024. See the Final Prelim and Main Card Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses, and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!