Derek Brunson claimed a unanimous-decision victory over Kevin Holland to close out UFC on ESPN 21 with a dominant display of his grappling chops.
Brunson caught an early break in the first round. Holland slipped while attempting a kick and he rushed his opponent with punches before getting him to the ground. From there, Brunson held the top position for most of the first round.
He wasn't able to land anything that accumulated too much damage, but it was definitely a strong start.
Holland didn't appear to be too bothered as he asked Khabib Nurmagomedov—who was sitting cageside—for some advice between rounds:
Trailblazer looked like he'd be able to back up his talk at the beginning of the round. He came out swinging but ended up getting caught by Brunson and the fight once again found its way to the mat where Brunson held the upper hand.
For all of Holland's in-cage chatter he didn't make the necessary adjustments to find success against Brunson. His immense potential as a striker was definitely overshadowed by his weakness in the grappling department.
- Derek Brunson def. Kevin Holland via unanimous decision (49-45, 49-46 x2).
- Max Griffin def. Song Kenan via KO at 2:20 of Round 1.
- Montserrat Ruiz def. Cheyanne Buys via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 29-27).
- Adrian Yanez def. Gustavo Lopez via KO at 0:27 of Round 3.
- Tai Tuivasa def. Harry Hunsucker via TKO at 0:49 of Round 1.
- Macy Chiasson def. Marion Reneau via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
- Grant Dawson def. Leonardo Santos via TKO at 4:59 of Round 3.
- Trevin Giles def. Roman Dolidze via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
- Montel Jackson def. Jesse Strader via TKO at 1:58 of Round 1.
- Bruno Silva def. JP Buys via TKO at 2:56 of Round 2.
Max Griffin def. Song Kenan
With the original co-main event of Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell scratched because of COVID-19 protocols, Max Griffin and Song Kenan stepped into the opportunity to lead into the main event.
Griffin took advantage of it with a huge first-round KO. The 35-year-old found a home for a right hand that wobbled his opponent, and he didn't waste time, following with a 1-2 that put Kenan on the ground and brought about the end of the fight.
It was huge for Griffin to pick up the win. His career has been marked by inconsistency. This is the first time since January 2016 he has won two fights in a row.
A knockout win like this may be a sign he's finally putting things together even if it's a little late in his career.
This is a disappointing turn for Kenan. He was on a 4-1 stretch in his last five fights before the loss. A blowout loss to a fighter like Griffin does not look good for a fighter who is still establishing his place in the hierarchy.
Montserrat Conejo def. Cheyanne Buys
It was a rough night for the Buys family. Cheyanne Buys followed up her husband JP Buys' loss on the prelims up with a unanimous decision loss to Montserrat Conejo.
Buys' UFC debut was one of the bigger storylines on the card. After a successful appearance on Dana White's Contender Series, her striking made her a favorite to make a statement tonight. Instead, her takedown defense and grappling failed her.
Conejo was able to get multiple head-and-arm throws that put her in position to essentially hold Buys down and land ground-and-pound.
It was an impressive performance from Conejo, who may have been undervalued coming into this fight. She was able to fight through Buys' advantage on her feet to get her to the ground, so it'll be interesting to see if this fight was actually indicative of a prospect on the rise or just a good style matchup for Buys.
Adrian Yanez def. Gustavo Lopez
On a card with a lot of prospects trying to stand out, Adrian Yanez should consider that mission accomplished. He looked great in a third-round knockout of Gustavo Lopez.
The 27-year-old Yanez was making just his second appearance in the UFC but put on a striking masterclass. Lopez isn't the greatest striker to begin with and is much more likely to submit his opponents. He is now just 1-2 in the UFC.
This one was over long before the knockout. Yanez showcased tremendous timing, countering and cage craft. He controlled the distance and pace of the fight while making each of his counters count. Then came the beautiful finish:
There's obviously still a lot to find out about Yanez. We've only seen him fight Lopez and Victor Rodriguez in the Octagon. Rodriquez was also making his UFC debut, so Yanez needs to prove he can do this against better competition. But the future could be bright.
Tai Tuivasa def. Harry Hunsucker
This just in: Tai Tuivasa still hits really hard.
The Australian heavyweight scored his fourth knockout victory in the UFC, dispatching promotional newcomer Harry Hunsucker in the first round. This was a classic heavyweight slugfest from the jump as Hunsucker swung for the fences looking to make a name for himself.
Bam Bam was more than happy to play that game and landed a big right hand that floored his opponent. Some strikes to the downed opponent, and the fight was over.
While it's fun watching Tuivasa in a slugfest, this didn't really tell us much about him as a fighter. The 28-year-old has already shown he has tremendous power. He utilized some leg kicks, which shows some more depth to his game, but Hunsucker didn't offer much as an opponent.
With back-to-back wins, perhaps Tuivasa will draw someone who can challenge his wrestling defense next time out.