Stephen Thompson ended last year in pursuit of a title fight. After 12 months of failing to get something on the books with the organization, he’s set to return to The Octagon for five rounds this Saturday at UFC Orlando, though still a ways away from a division championship fight. Though not Khamzat Chimaev as previously hoped for, the UFC is finally pitting him against Kevin Holland, a bout both athletes have been asking for. Together, they headline a stacked card of ranked contests in the UFC’s first return to Orlando since 2018. In total, eight top 10 fighters are in the lineup for Saturday’s event.
Outside of the main event, the cards for UFC Orlando are ridiculous, especially the main card. Supporting Thompson vs Holland on the marquee is another welterweight battle of No. 7 Ryan Barberena defending his position against the unranked Rafael Dos Anjos. Just months after fighting Ciryl Gane in a heavyweight title eliminator, No.4 Tai Tuivasa is getting right back to work against No.5 Sergei Pavlovich.
The preliminary card is sure to have fans at their seats in the Amway Center and at home right from the start as well. Two key bouts in the women’s divisions help kick off the night, featuring Angela Hill and Amanda Ribas in strawweight and flyweight fights respectively.
Main Event Preview – Stephen Thompson vs Kevin Holland
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Thompson (16-6-1) was fighting for UFC gold at 170 pounds, just seven contests ago. Still, it has been six years since his last real push, and he’s gone 3-4 since then. Entering his UFC Orlando feature, “Wonderboy” has lost his last two fights, falling first to Gilbert Burns and then Belal Muhammad, both in 2021. Now 39 years old, Thompson hasn’t fought since last December, looking to make the most of his appearances in The Octagon and hopefully get one more shot. Fighting the unranked Holland (23-8-0), however, feels like a changing of the guard than a resurgence.
While Thompson didn’t get to face Chimaev this year, the Universe ended up giving that opportunity to Holland in September when the Swedish fighter failed to make weight for his bout against Nate Diaz and chaos ensued. A reshuffling of the UFC 279 card saw Holland face Chimaev instead of Daniel Rodriguez, and the outcome arguably did the perception of him more harm than help, despite being a last-second opponent change. After a war of words, Chimaev made quick work of Holland, going straight for Holland’s legs and securing a submission just halfway through the first round.
A kung fu fighter, Holland enters Saturday as a slight favorite (-195) against Thompson, a karate specialist. Holland is nine years younger than his opponent, three inches taller (6’3”), and is generally a heavier athlete. Strong on the ground, “Trailblazer” is actually favored to win on the feet, pulling +175 to win by knockout or disqualification.
UFC Orlando Fight Card and Odds*
*Odds are from the start of the week and subject to change.
#6 Stephen Thompson (+120) vs Kevin Holland (-140) – Welterweight
#7 Bryan Barberena (+420) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (-540) – Welterweight
#6 Matheus Nicolau (-365) vs #7 Matt Schnell (+300) – Flyweight
#4 Tai Tuivasa (+165) vs #5 Sergei Pavlovich (-195) – Heavyweight
#8 Jack Hermansson (–) vs #8 Roman Dolidze (–) – Middleweght
Eryk Anders (+170) vs Kyle Daukaus (-200) – Middleweight
Niko Price (-140) vs Phil Rowe (+120) – Welterweight
#12 Angela Hill (+105) vs #13 Emily Ducote (-125) – Women’s Strawweight
Clay Guida (+130) vs Scott Holtzman (-150) – Lightweight
Michael Johnson (+230) vs Marc Diakiese (-275) – Lightweight
Darren Elkins (+360) vs Jonathan Pearce (-450) – Featherweight