Stephen Thompson still has a life in MMA as he approaches his 40th birthday. Thompson and Kevin Holland put together a symphony of punches, kicks, knees and elbows in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Orlando, Florida on Saturday.
Thompson’s fights tend to be pretty mundane. Opponents often employ fighting tactics or are stifled by their decorated karate skills. Holland dove deep, going blow-for-blow with Thompson and nearly getting the better of the two-time UFC welterweight title challenger.
Holland ate Thompson’s best shots in round 1 and responded with double the impact. A big right hand staggered Thompson and forced a retreat to the fence. “Wonderboy” endured cutting elbows from Holland and, although Thompson survived the exchange, he sustained welts and a cut over his left eyebrow. Thompson landed flush on Holland several times afterward, including a combination that knocked Holland’s head back, but Holland was not noticeably bothered.
Thompson fought more competitively in Round 2, pinning Holland with dynamic head kicks that had little effect. A barrage of punches from Thompson finally stunned the Netherlands, if only for a moment. Despite the competitive nature of the bout, Holland opted out of wrestling in rounds 2 and 3. Holland knocked Thompson down but immediately invited Thompson to his feet, a decision that would later haunt him. The gesture was returned in kind by Thompson later in the fight when Holland slipped.
Thompson’s confidence grew tremendously as the fight progressed. Holland was dealing with a damaged right hand, which he revealed after the fight that occurred in Round 1. Holland’s corner reminded him that it was an MMA fight and implored him to fight more. It was too little too late, however, as Thompson disrupted multiple takedown attempts and punished Holland with strikes from a video game: jump kicks, roundhouse kicks and hook kicks, all slamming into Holland’s skull. Leg kicks further immobilized Holland as he leaned against the fence and tried to roll with Thompson’s punches. Strong kicks to the liver in round 4 forced the Netherlands to retire. Interestingly, it appeared referee Dan Miragliotta had called off the fight, but it turned out that Thompson caught Holland with an accidental groin strike.
In the final moments of Round 4, Thompson finally grounded Holland and ground-and-pounded but failed to draw a stoppage. Holland’s corner conceded the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds as Holland could no longer punch with his right hand. The fight was officially ruled a round 4 TKO via corner stoppage.
“He’s tough as nails. Both my hands are sore right now because of his hard head,” Thompson told UFC commentator Daniel Cormier during his post-fight interview. “Kevin Holland is a beast. I knew I had to use my longest tools, my kicks, against his 81-inch reach.
“I’m here for a long time.”