5pts Joe Solecki to win by Submission or Decision at 8/13 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
1.5pts Marvin Vettori to win by Decision at 7/4 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
Marvin Vettori’s UFC journey has been riddled with bout cancellations in the last few years. While not a single one has been from his own doing, he has undergone a training camp for six different fights that have ultimately fallen through. In the build-up to the biggest fight of his life, a bout against Liverpool’s Darren Till for the chance to compete for the belt, The Italian Dream was likely suspicious when everything seemed to be going according to plan.
Unfortunately for Vettori, his fears became reality when a broken collarbone forced Till to the sidelines, just two weeks removed from the event. While it looked like Vettori would once again have to wait for an overdue chance to break into the top five, the ever opportunistic Kevin Holland was quick to offer himself as a replacement, competing in his second main event in the span of a month.
Elsewhere on the card, surging UK prospect Arnold Allen faces the hard-hitting Sodiq Yusuff in one of the most anticipated bouts of the year so far. Joe Solecki also headlines the preliminary card, as he competes with the 47-fight veteran, Jim Miller.
The main event bout between MARVIN VETTORI and Kevin Holland would have been an intriguing and hotly anticipated matchup had it been announced a month ago, but the latter’s underwhelming main event performance against Derek Brunson has really put a dent in the fans’ perception of The Trailblazer.
Holland was dominantly out-grappled by Brunson that night, conceding five takedowns and spending almost three-quarters of the 25-minute bout on his back with nothing to offer in response. With Khabib Nurmagomedov in attendance, Holland did not appear overly interested in trying to win the fight, instead taking the opportunity to crack jokes with the Russian sat at ringside, much to the dismay of Dana White and UFC fans.
Holland has the opportunity to right his wrongs and reclaim some of the hype he generated from an impressive 2020, but he will be facing a very tough test in Vettori. The Italian Dream is a very well rounded competitor, with sheer aggression, good cardio, a granite chin and, most importantly, a penchant for controlling his opponents on the mat.
Considering this is a short-notice fight for Holland, who took some hard shots in a five-round beatdown less than a month ago, I really struggle to see how he wins. His best path to victory would be an early knockout, but Vettori is defensively sound and has demonstrated ridiculous durability in the UFC so far. If Holland cannot find a way to finish this fight, then I expect Vettori to use his grappling to put a bigger beating on Holland than Brunson did last month.
The betting for this fight really reflects how dominant Vettori should be, but I am surprised to see the oddsmakers expect a finish from the Italian. Vettori has gone to the scorecards in seven of his eight UFC bouts, having landed just one knockdown and attempted an average of 0.8 submission attempts per fight. Whilst he has been dominant in winning, his opponents rarely find themselves in any serious danger.
To Holland’s credit, he is also a very difficult fighter to finish. Across 27 professional fights, he has been submitted on just two occasions and is yet to be knocked out. Considering The Trailblazer has gone the distance against the likes of Gerald Meershaert, Curtis Millender and Thiago Santos, I think he is more than capable of staying in the fight against Vettori. Along with this, Holland’s lack of urgency on the mat against Brunson should aid in his survival, as minimal movement will present little opportunity for the Italian to capitalise on.
Overall, while I feel this fight should be relatively one-sided, I trust Holland’s durability enough to expect a full 25-minute main event. With a dominant 50-45 on the judges’ scorecards, we should see Vettori to enter the top five and become a serious contender to Israel Adesanya’s throne.
MMA is an unforgiving sport at the best of times, but the way it handles its ageing veterans is by far the cruelest part. Retirement is not an easy conversation for these athletes to have, and while many continue to carry a warrior’s spirit into their late 30s, their speed, durability and athleticism do not follow suit. Time and time again we see legends of the sport go out on their shields, with their illustrious and respected careers ending with a whimper, rather than a bang.
A similar fate seems destined for Jim Miller, the current record holder for the most UFC bouts of all time. Now at 37 years old, he has competed inside the UFC’s Octagon on 36 occasions, and it seems to be taking its toll on his body. He has looked slow and vulnerable in some of his recent outings, and has not won a fight past round one since 2016.
Miller has had some success in recent years, leaning on his veteran experience and high-level grappling to score quick submission victories against fresh-faced newcomers, but I do not think it will be enough to get past JOE SOLECKI, who is a highly skilled Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt in his own right.
The 27-year-old Solecki has been nothing short of dominant in his three fights under the UFC banner. In his most recent bout, Solecki made short work of Austin Hubbard, submitting him in under four minutes. This was a near perfect performance, the reputation that Hubbard had built for himself as a defensive grappler making the victory even more impressive. In previous bouts, Hubbard competently survived 15-minute grappling affairs against both a former Olympic wrestler and one of the most credentialled BJJ grapplers in MMA history, yet it was Solecki that took less than a full round to find the submission finish.
Solecki should really make light work of Miller on Saturday night. Considering the veteran only seems to be competitive for five minutes, the younger fighter really just needs to stay composed and defensively sound with his grappling and weather the early storm, before eventually taking over and putting on a dominant display in the second and third rounds. We saw Miller wilt in his last bout when he was unable to find the first-round finish over Vince Pichel, and I would consider Solecki an even tougher opponent to find a stoppage against.
Much like Marvin Vettori in the main event, Solecki is rightly priced as a heavy favourite here. On this occasion however, the Double Chance market is a logical place to find value, as Solecki has only won one of his 10 victories via knockout, with the other nine coming by SUBMISSION OR DECISION. Coupled with Miller’s proven durability against strikes, suffering just two KO losses in 47 bouts, as well as neither fighter being particularly skilled in the striking department, it is hard to see Solecki finishing this fight via knockout.
The blueprint to beating Miller has been common knowledge for some time, and as long as Solecki survives the veteran’s spirited effort in round one, the submission or decision victory is there for the taking.
Posted at 1630 BST on 06/04/21
We are committed in our support of responsible gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133, or visit begambleaware.org.