Matches to Make After UFC on ESPN 21

By Brian Knapp Mar 21, 2021

Derek Brunson turned a deaf ear—two of them, in fact—to Kevin Holland’s antics.

The Sanford MMA export managed to drown out all the noise and do what he does best, as he utilized takedowns, ground-and-pound and positional control in capturing a unanimous decision over Holland in the UFC on ESPN 21 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Brunson carried all three scorecards: 49-45, 49-46 and 49-46.

Holland had the North Carolina native reeling with punches more than once but failed to maintain a safe distance in their exchanges. A two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the Division II level, Brunson lured him into clinch range and cut off his escape with takedowns. He executed six of them in all, piled up nearly 17 minutes of control time and outstruck Holland statistically in the first, third and fourth rounds.

In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN “Brunson vs. Holland,” here are four matches that ought to be made:

Derek Brunson vs. Darren Till-Marvin Vettori winner: Brunson may never set the world on fire in name or in approach, but no one can argue with the results. The Henri Hooft protégé has rattled off four straight victories since he suffered back-to-back losses to Ronaldo Souza and Israel Adesanya in 2018, defeating Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch and Elias Theodorou in succession. The 37-year-old followed his game plan to perfection against Holland, poked holes in the proverbial dam and let gravity due the rest. Brunson now has 13 wins as a UFC middleweight, placing him third on the promotion’s all-time list at 185 pounds behind only Michael Bisping (16) and Anderson Silva (14). Till and Vettori are scheduled to lock horns in the UFC on ABC 2 main event on April 10.

Max Griffin vs. Carlos Condit: The dangerous but frustratingly inconsistent Griffin put his best foot forward in the welterweight co-feature, as he wrecked Kenan Song with a blistering two-punch combination. Song packed his bags 2:20 into Round 1. Griffin initially flashes his hyperaggressive side before settling into a rhythm and picking apart the Phuket Top Team representative. The former two-division West Coast Fighting Championship titleholder at long last has some momentum behind him, as he has posted consecutive victories for the first time since he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in 2016. Condit last competed UFC on ABC 1 in January, when the onetime World Extreme Cagefighting champion took a unanimous decision from Matt Brown.

Adrian Yanez vs. Davey Grant: Yanez looks like a potential star in the making, though time will tell whether or not he can continue to match the hype with results. He has had no issues doing so thus far. Yanez, 27, improved to 2-0 in the UFC and climbed another rung on the 135-pound ladder with his sensational one-punch knockout of Gustavo Lopez in the third round of their bantamweight showcase. A counter right hook drew it to a decisive close 27 seconds into Round 3, gave the Metro Fight Club prospect a six-fight winning streak and likely accelerated his rise through the ranks. A finalist on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Grant last appeared at UFC Fight Night 187, where he punched out Jonathan Martinez on March 13.

Tai Tuivasa vs. Chase Sherman-Parker Porter winner: An under-30 heavyweight with obvious skills and the charisma to match, Tuivasa remains a valuable commodity in mixed martial arts circles. The 28-year-old Australian needed less than a minute to dismiss Harry Hunsucker in their heavyweight attraction, quieting “The Hurricane” with a pair of clubbing right hands and follow-up punches just 49 seconds into the first round. Tuivasa has effectively righted his ship—he suffered consecutive losses to Junior dos Santos, Blagoy Ivanov and Sergey Spivak between Dec. 1, 2018 and Oct. 5, 2019—as his rout of Hunsucker followed a first-round knockout of Stefan Struve five months earlier. Sherman and Parker have been booked opposite one another at UFC on ESPN 22 in April.
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