Kevin Holland -130 vs. Ronaldo Souza + 100
In the second fight of the main card, we’ll have a glaring striker-vs.-grappler contest. Kevin Holland is a young but vetted up-and-comer, while Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is a decorated veteran known as one of the best grapplers in the game.
But time is not on Souza’s side. At 41, he’s into a phase of his career where if he does not get a spectacular finish, he loses to competent strikers. And Holland, with the longest wingspan in the division, combined with excellent precision striking, certainly will have the advantage on the feet.
At just 28, Holland remains fresh and durable and likely has been getting better through his UFC run. Offensively he will be a force, but the real question is whether his takedown defense will be able to keep the fight in his preferred position.
While Holland’s takedown defense is below average, Souza’s takedown offense is not as good as his grappling game once he gets to the mat. Should Holland stuff the takedowns, he has the arsenal to win this fight from long range. Holland uses more than double the striking pace of Souza, and Holland has the technical advantage of his precision and his head-strike defense. For every minute they stand and trade, he should be landing more often and more cleanly than Souza.
Souza exemplifies the MMA concept of the “grappler’s chance,” equivalent to the puncher’s chance elsewhere in combat sports. But given the nearly even odds, the numbers still lean toward Holland to be the deserving favorite.
Pick: Kevin Holland.
There’s value even as a slight favorite.
THE MAIN EVENT
It’s the second straight pay-per-view event featuring a title defense from flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo. He’ll take on the division’s top contender, Brandon Moreno, after both fighters won on last month’s UFC 255 card. The rapid turnaround shouldn’t be much of an issue from a durability standpoint as both won with first-round finishes. But it could affect the champ having to make weight again, presumably with only a few weeks’ notice. Figueiredo has missed weight for a title bout before.
Regardless of whether we have an official title defense, we have another situation where the incumbent champ is a heavy favorite against a dangerous up-and-comer. Since opening at already steep odds, the market has nudged Figueiredo to an even bigger favorite at -300. The numbers certainly agree he is likely to win, just not at such a steep price.
Currently, the value is gone for taking a side. Casual bettors will parlay the champ with other fighters, and that will likely pay off, but at a low rate of return. But expect Moreno to put up a decent fight, as he never has been finished in his UFC career. In a five-round fight, if he can survive the early onslaught, he could benefit from his youth and high-altitude conditioning to demand a close decision later. That’s a lot of ifs, though. It’s better to pass altogether, or look for a prop that the fight will start Round 2.