LAS VEGAS — Middleweight Kevin Holland entered 2020 best known as the fighter from “The Contender Series” that UFC president Dana White disdainfully dubbed “Big Mouth.”
He ends it as only the third fighter in UFC history to win five bouts in one year, joining Roger Huerta and Neil Magny, and thrust himself into the Fighter of the Year conversation with a vicious knockout of Jacare Souza Saturday on the main card of UFC 256 at Apex.
The flamboyant Holland opened the bout with a kick and was quickly taken down by Souza, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The fighters eventually grappled to a position where they were on their knees near the cage in front of White.
Holland managed to get leverage on a combination that put Souza quickly to sleep. Referee Mark Smith dove between the fighters at 1:45 of the first to stop it as Souza slumped over unconscious.
As Souza was being attended to, Holland raced around the cage, shouting “6-0 next week!” and calling out Khamzat Chimaev.
Holland, who ended 2019 with a submission loss to Brendan Allen, knocked out Anthony Hernandez, Joaquin Buckley, Charlie Ontiveros and Souza. He won a controversial split decision over Darren Stewart.
It was a huge ascent for Holland, a quick, accurate and fast striker and a charismatic personality who is making a big reputation for himself. Even in a decision loss to Thiago Santos as a late replacement on Aug. 4, 2018, Holland showed immense potential.
By beating Souza, one of the stalwarts of the division and a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, he thrust himself into prominence.
Asked if Holland deserved to be in the Fighter of the Year conversation, White told Yahoo Sports, “After that, hell yes!”
Holland, who just turned 28, is now 21-5 and has a lot of major fights in his immediate future.
More from Yahoo Sports: