Derek Brunson has five losses over the past seven years. Every single one of them has come against a former or current UFC champion or perennial contender — Israel Adesanya is the UFC middleweight champion, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker and Anderson Silva are former UFC middleweight champions, and Yoel Romero is a longtime middleweight contender.
No one in the UFC’s 185-pound division has a better strength of schedule than Brunson. On Saturday, Brunson meets the red-hot Kevin Holland in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. If Brunson wins, he cements himself as a contender. If Holland wins, it’s a signal that he is at the top level of fighters in the division.
ESPN has Brunson ranked No. 9 in the world at middleweight. Holland is attempting to break into the top 10 and earn a signature win for his still-budding career.
Brunson (21-7) has won three in a row. Most recently, he toppled another prospect, Edmen Shahbazyan, in a third-round TKO last August. The North Carolina native, who trains out of Sanford MMA in Florida, sports a 12-5 UFC record but has not yet fought for a title. Brunson, 37, owns wins over Lyoto Machida, Uriah Hall and Chris Leben.
Holland (21-5) tied the record in 2020 for the most UFC victories in a calendar year (five). The Texas native has won five straight — four of those by KO/TKO. Holland, 28, has won eight of nine overall since his UFC debut loss to Thiago Santos.
Also on the card, heavyweight slugger Tai Tuivasa faces late-notice fill-in Harry Hunsucker, women’s strawweight prospects Cheyanne Buys and Montserret Ruiz square off, and welterweight Song Kenan meets Max Griffin.
Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recap the action from Las Vegas.
Watch the fights on ESPN and ESPN+.
Fight in progress:
Men’s flyweight: JP Buys (9-2, 0-0 UFC, -150) vs. Bruno Silva (10-5-2 1 NC, 0-2 1 NC UFC, +125)
Still to come:
Middleweight: Derek Brunson (21-7, 21-5 UFC, +150) vs. Kevin Holland (21-5, 8-2 UFC, -175)
Welterweight: Song Kenan (16-5, 4-1 UFC, +175) vs. Max Griffin (16-8, 4-6 UFC, -210)
Strawweight: Cheyanne Buys (5-1, 0-0 UFC, -360) vs. Montserrat Conejo (9-1, 0-0 UFC, +280)
Men’s bantamweight: Adrian Yanez (12-3, 1-0 UFC, -220) vs. Gustavo Lopez (12-5, 1-1 UFC, +180)
Heavyweight: Tai Tuivasa (11-3, 4-3 UFC, -380) vs. Harry Hunsucker (6-3, 0-0 UFC, +300)
Women’s bantamweight: Marion Reneau (9-6-1, 5-5-1 UFC, +180) vs. Macy Chiasson (7-1, 4-1 UFC, -220)
Lightweight: Leonardo Santos (18-4-1, 7-0-1 UFC, +170) vs. Grant Dawson (16-1, 4-0 UFC, -200)
Middleweight: Trevin Giles (13-2, 4-2 UFC, +105) vs. Roman Dolidze (8-0, 2-0 UFC, -125)
Men’s bantamweight: Montel Jackson (9-2, 3-2 UFC, -700) vs. Jesse Strader (5-1, 0-0 UFC, +500)
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