Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (+118) vs. Kevin Holland (-144)
Weight Class: Middleweight (185 lbs)
Kevin Holland will be looking to put a cherry on top of what has been by far the best year of his career when he takes on Jacare Souza at UFC 256. Holland has been one of the most active fighters in the post-COVID world, having picked up four wins since the UFC resumed activities. Three of Holland’s 2020 victories have come via stoppage, the most notable being a knockout of Joaquin Buckley in the latter’s UFC debut. Buckley of course went on to land a viral spinning kick knockout that has been dubbed the craziest KO in MMA history, so a win over him is looking better and better with time.
In addition to the win over Buckley, a third round KO, Holland knocked out Anthony Hernandez just 39 seconds into the first round at the first of three UFC Jacksonville events back in May. Most recently, the newly ranked 15th best middleweight in the world secured a first round submission against Charlie Ontiveros. Holland cashed as an 8-to-1 favorite over the debuting Ontiveros, who stepped in on short notice.
As for Jacare Souza, the now 41 year-old will be making his first appearance of 2020 at UFC 256. A longtime presence atop the UFC middleweight rankings, Souza went 0-for-2 in 2019 and has won just two of his last six bouts overall.
With that said, match-ups are everything in MMA. There are no easy fights once you cross into the elite territory that Souza has been in for years and his 2019 opponents highlight that. The jiu-jitsu great lost a five-round, unanimous decision to Jack Hermansson in May of 2019, then lost a split-decision to now light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in November of that same year.
Jacare’s last win came via KO against former champion Chris Weidman in November of 2018.
With the one fight light heavyweight stint behind him, Jacare will perhaps be extra motivated for his return to the middleweight division. Dana White announced that there would be “serious cuts” by the end of the year, and while I personally think cutting Jacare — even with a loss here — would be stupid, it could happen. The UFC has been moving away from veteran fighters with no clear path to a title and three straight losses could be a problem. A win over an ascending Holland, however, would put Souza right back in the middleweight conversation.
This should be a great match-up. Will Kevin Holland fight up to the upgrade in competition or will Jacare remind everyone that recency bias is ever present?
While this should be close, I definitely lean Kevin Holland in this one. Those who are high on Jacare for this match-up will no doubt highlight the grappling, as the 41 year-old is one of the all time great BJJ practitioners in UFC history.
It’s been awhile since Jacare really dominated a fight on the ground, however, and he hasn’t secured a submission since February of 2017. He went 1-for-8 on take down attempts against Kelvin Gastelum and was unsuccessful on five attempts in his last fight against Blachowicz. In the grappling-heavy Hermansson bout, Hermansson racked up seven minutes of control time to Jacare’s three. Hermansson was able to land plenty of offense while on the ground and was never in submission trouble.
Holland is a BJJ black belt himself. Jacare might have the edge on the ground overall, but it isn’t the massive edge it would have been four years ago. I definitely think the Brazilian has lost a step and will be hard pressed to secure take downs against Holland. If he gets one, it will likely be the result of a clinch situation.
Striking wise, Holland will be working with a massive nine-inch reach advantage. He is very creative from a striking standpoint and will throw in a mix of tight hooks, spinning attacks and front kicks. Kevin Holland is very good at fighting while going backwards, so there is a clear path for him to win via points.
With that said, the striking of Jacare has always been underrated. He has great power for the division and can change fights he’s losing with an unexpected big shot. Holland will definitely have to be careful to not get countered.
Thankfully for Holland, his fight with Darren Stewart should go a long way in getting him ready for this match-up. Known to trash talk quite a bit in the Octagon, he really bit down on the mouthpiece after getting rocked by Stewart. Boundless confidence is part of Holland’s style, but I’ve gotta believe that he knows it’s got to be business first in this match-up. If Holland can stuff inevitable take down attempts and be himself on the feet, I see him cruising to a decision.
Gambling wise, the line on Holland is a great value in my opinion. It has moved from (-172), where I got in, down to (-144). This is likely due to people betting on Jacare’s past achievements, so I’m not worried.
I do think there’s a strong chance Holland wins by points, but this line is too good to pass up on given how much I like his overall chances. I placed .5u on Holland at (-172), so the current line is even better. A sprinkle bet on Holland by points was worth a play, however, and I also included him in a parlay with a Billy Quarantillo victory.
The breakdown for the Quarantillo fight should be up later today.