Dana White blames 'mental breakdown' for Kevin Holland's inexplicable performance vs. Derek Brunson

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·3-min read

LAS VEGAS — Kevin Holland won the talking contest going away. The 10th-ranked middleweight, whom UFC president Dana White dubbed “Big Mouth” during the "Contender Series," was chatting nonstop before, during and after his fight with Derek Brunson in the main event of UFC Vegas 22 at Apex.

Brunson said little, but he did most of the effective fighting and won the bout going away. Brunson used his wrestling to roll to a 49-46, 49-45, 49-46 victory over Holland. Yahoo Sports scored it 49-46 for Brunson.

“I think that was a mental breakdown,” White told Yahoo Sports. “The only other thing I saw like it was [in boxing] when Lennox Lewis fought that guy [Oliver McCall] who kept his hands at his side and was crying. I don’t know what he was doing. I think he might not have been able to handle the pressure and just broke mentally. I haven’t seen anything like that."

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Holland slipped early in the first round and Brunson took advantage. He fell in Holland’s guard and spent the rest of the round there. He didn’t do a lot of damage, but he controlled him and landed just enough so that referee Herb Dean didn’t stand them up.

When asked if Holland was complaining to him between rounds about the mat being slippery, White said, “He wasn’t b****ing about anything; He thought everybody in here was his friend and he was just out having some fun."

Holland landed several shots early in the second that appeared to shake Brunson, but Brunson took him down, a pattern that repeated itself throughout the fight.

Holland appeared more concerned with complaining to White and talking to former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov between rounds and talking to Brunson during the bout. Brunson ignored the occasionally bizarre antics and simply tried to use his wrestling to punish Holland.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 20: (R-L) Derek Brunson punches Kevin Holland in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
(R-L) Derek Brunson punches Kevin Holland in their middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 20, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

It was not his most aesthetically pleasing win, but it was a clear and convincing victory over an opponent who had matched a UFC record by scoring five wins in 2020.

But Holland just seemed off and not focused on the event. Perhaps it was the pressure of his first main event or insecurities about his ability to deal with an elite wrestler like Brunson, but he spent far more time goofing off than he did fighting.

White was unhappy and got up in the fifth round and walked away from his ringside seat.

Even when the fight ended, Holland tried to goof off with Brunson, who wanted no part of it and kept walking away from him.

It was a disappointing effort because Holland showed in the rare occasions that he fought that he had the ability to win it. But it almost appeared he didn’t care whether he won or not.

It was a bizarre ending and it was totally on Holland.

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