UFC 291 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Holland: Why I Changed My Pick This Week (Saturday, July 29)

UFC 291 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Holland: Why I Changed My Pick This Week (Saturday, July 29) article feature image

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC welterweight Michael Chiesa

Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Holland Odds

Chiesa Odds+125
Holland Odds-145
Over/Under2.5 rounds (+145 / -180)
LocationDelta Center in Salt Lake City
Start Time10 p.m. ET
BroadcastESPN+ PPV
Odds as of Saturday and via DraftKings

After 18 months away from the UFC octagon, Michael Chiesa returns to action on Saturday as part of the opener for the UFC 291 main card (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV).

The Ultimate Fighter 15 champion has been a top contender at lightweight and welterweight, and at 35, Chiesa has time for one last potential run at the title.

"The Maverick" will have to get through Kevin Holland first.

Holland has been the polar opposite of his opponent in terms of activity level, managing to squeeze in five fights and a brief "retirement" since we last saw Chiesa. With three performance awards in his last five fights, Holland is one of the most exciting fighters in the division – sometimes to the detriment of his win-loss record.

Can Chiesa's fast-paced grappling ground Holland long enough to grind out the win? Or will Holland's superior striking be enough?

Tale of the Tape

Avg. Fight Time9:5411:18
Weight (pounds)170 lbs.169.5 lbs.
Reach (inches)75"81"
Date of birth12/7/198711/5/1992
Sig Strikes Per Min1.884.12
SS Accuracy41%52%
SS Absorbed Per Min1.672.98
SS Defense54%52%
Take Down Avg3.390.84
TD Acc54%41%
TD Def60%50%
Submission Avg1.00.5

Kevin Holland is one of the more enigmatic fighters in the UFC, known as much for his ceaseless trash-talking as his fighting ability.

Despite a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he's best known for his aggressive and unorthodox striking style, which has only improved after dropping down to welterweight following his run as a middleweight.

Holland is extremely long for the division, with an 81-inch reach that gives him an edge over most of his opponents – Chiesa included.

Holland doesn't always maximize his length, though, and he can have mediocre footwork that allows shorter opponents to close the distance against him. But he kicks at range fairly well, and his long arms allow him to generate plenty of power on straight shots.

He's at his best when sticking to more traditional strikes, which he showed off in his fight against Stephen Thompson.

Thompson is an excellent defensive fighter, but Holland was able to find a repeated home for his right hand on Thompson's chin, especially when Thompson fought from a southpaw stance.

He looked much worse when throwing wild, looping shots at Thompson, as Holland's long arms create too much wind up and are somewhat easily avoided.

I suspect we'll see a similar dynamic against Chiesa, a southpaw with similar dimensions as Thompson.

Holland has his moments in grappling exchanges, as well. He knocked out Jacare Souza with a hammerfist from the bottom, finished a fight with a slam, and has two submission wins to his name in the UFC.

Still, Holland's BJJ-based style finds him on the bottom far too frequently, and he likely needs this fight to remain standing to end up with his hand raised.

That's due to the wrestling and scrambling ability of Chiesa. Watching some of his past fights, I was consistently impressed at his ability to come out on top in uncertain positions.

Not only does Chiesa win the majority of scrambles, but he also is an excellent guard passer who is always looking to improve his position when on the ground.

My biggest issue with Chiesa's ground game is his prioritization of positions and submission attempts over damage. Especially with the modern scoring system, simply being in top position doesn't guarantee winning rounds.

Starting off a STACKED main card 🔥@MikeMav22 vs @Trailblaze2top opens the show Saturday at #UFC291!

[ Live on ESPN+ PPV: https://t.co/pLr0edbRRg ] pic.twitter.com/e8tR22KetE

— UFC (@ufc) July 27, 2023

To his credit, Chiesa tends to end up in more dominant positions that play better to the judges, but it's still a concern.

I was impressed by Chiesa's footwork and defense against Neil Magny, who like Holland has a huge reach edge on Chiesa.

Chiesa followed the rule of "all the way in or all the way out," and he didn't rush takedown attempts from a dangerous range. His ability to score takedowns from the clinch – rather than needing to shoot – is a massive benefit against taller fighters.

Chiesa's offensive striking is lacking, though, with fewer than two significant strikes landed per minute in the UFC, and zero professional wins by knockout.

Unlike in boxing, in MMA you can't win rounds with defense – so Chiesa needs some takedowns to have a shot here.

Chiesa vs Holland Pick

I came into this week expecting to be all over Holland. Chiesa is the older fighter, has been out of action for a while, and lost his last two fights. However, my opinion has shifted.

Chiesa's grappling style might be the ideal one to face Holland, as his clinch takedowns keep him out of danger, both from submissions and from getting caught on the way in. Chiesa's also extremely durable, with his only TKO loss coming via a cut, rather than being actually knocked out.

Especially at plus money, that's enough for me to be on Chiesa's side. We can do better than the moneyline, though. Holland has enough grappling ability that a submission is unlikely, especially in the early parts f this fight. For that reason, I'd rather bet Chiesa and Over 1.5 rounds in a same game parlay at +190, or Chiesa by decision at +330 – both at DraftKings.

On the other side of the risk tolerance scale, Over 2.5 rounds at +150 on DraftKings is appealing. Between Chiesa's durability and Holland's submission defense, I'm surprised to get such long odds on the over.

While it ultimately comes down to your risk tolerance – do you want bigger payouts, or do you want a higher chance of winning? – I'm splitting the difference and going with Chiesa and Over 1.5 rounds.

That's more than long enough odds for me, and a late stoppage thanks to the high altitude in Salt Lake City is likely enough to scare me away from betting this one to go to a decision.

The Pick: Chiesa & Over 1.5 Rounds SGP (+190 at DraftKings)

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