UFC on ESPN 42 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland: 3 Bets for Orlando’s Main Event (Saturday, December 3)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: UFC welterweight Kevin Holland
- Former title challenger Stephen Thompson meets fellow contender Kevin Holland in the UFC Orlando main event.
- Holland is a modest favorite despite Thompson having more main-event experience.
- Below, Sean Zerillo breaks down the matchup and offers multiple betting angles for the ESPN-televised clash.
Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland Odds
The UFC returns to Orlando on Saturday with a 14-fight card (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), highlighted by an exciting welterweight bout between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Kevin Holland.
Holland will look to extend his official UFC welterweight record to 3-0 and claim Thompson’s No. 6 contender ranking spot. “Big Mouth” had previously climbed into the top 10 at middleweight before moving to 170 pounds last winter, where he looks massive for the weight class.
Thompson has spent his entire career at welterweight, twice challenging for a title (0-1-1 against Tyron Woodley in late 2016-2017) before turning into a gatekeeper for the division’s upper echelons in his late 30s.
Can Holland pass the Thompson test and put himself on the doorstep of title contention, or will Wonderboy stifle a rising talent again?
Below, I’ll provide my analysis and projections for Saturday’s matchup and utilize those factors to bet on the UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Holland main event.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||14:34||10:40|
|Weight (pounds)||170 lbs.||170 lbs.|
|Date of birth||2/11/1983||11/5/1992|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||3.90||3.85|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||2.81||2.38|
|Take Down Avg||0.29||0.83|
Holland is easily the largest opponent whom Thompson has faced during his UFC run. The previous tallest (6’1″) or longest (76″ reach) opponents whom Thompson has faced have merely matched his size; he’s never faced a size discrepancy of this magnitude.
Holland is a physical specimen at welterweight, and he’ll be both taller (3″) and own a significantly longer reach (6″). As a result, Holland carries significantly more power for the division – and should remain the more dangerous man for the duration of the fight.
Age and durability could be cause for concern on the Thompson side too. When there is at least an eight-year age gap between UFC combatants, the younger fighter wins 68.1% of the time at average odds of -130 (56.5% implied). Increase the criteria to 10 years, and the record moves to 72.5%, at average odds of -147 (59.5%) over a sample of more than 350 fights.
Historically, the UFC likes to feed rising prospects to aging veterans with name value. Still, the public often bets on the popular/older fighter as an underdog, leading to long-term value on the younger favorites. We’ll see if that trend persists in the future.
One thing that shouldn’t be a concern on Saturday – for either fighter – is cardio. Unlike many main events of late, which have featured one fighter with five-round experience against an opponent in their first main event, both Holland and Thompson have sufficient five-round experience.
On Saturday Thompson will headline a UFC card for the ninth time while Holland enters his third (and also demanded a five-round fight in his quick loss to Khamzat Chimaev).
Holland showed a ton of heart in his middleweight main event losses to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori, where he was thoroughly out-grappled but continued to pour on pressure – when he wasn’t on his back – in the championship rounds of those fights.
While cutting to welterweight could hurt his stamina to a degree – and we haven’t seen him extend for multiple rounds yet at this weight class – Saturday’s bout should be contested at a far more moderate pace than those grueling matchups with grapplers. Wonderboy, the karate specialist, hasn’t landed a takedown since 2015.
If anything, Holland would be the one to wrestle (0.8 takedowns per 15 minutes, 43% accuracy), as Thompson has been smothered in recent losses to Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns (combined 10 of 15 on takedown attempts, 19:10 of control time), who spent 63% of their bouts neutralizing Thompson on the mat or up against the cage.
Historically, Thompson had shown strong takedown defense; both losses were concerning about his late-career physical state.
Thompson loses when you can grapple him. When prospects try to outstrike him for 25 minutes, they get picked apart (outlanded Geoff Neal and Vicente Luque by a combined margin of 309 to 162; neither attempted a takedown).
While Holland has all of the physical advantages, Thompson is the far better technician with much better timing on the feet. And he may have a speed advantage, despite his advanced age.
Holland is an incredibly accurate striker by the numbers. Still, against fighters willing to stand in the pocket and engage with him, he’ll have difficulty tracking down Wonderboy, who relies on movement as his best attribute.
Unless he catches and finishes his opponent early or lands multiple knockdowns, Holland needs to mix in takedowns in at least one or two rounds to win minutes in an extended fight.
And Holland has proven himself to be utterly untrustworthy throughout his UFC run, becoming distracted between rounds, trash-talking opponents instead of finishing them, and generally trying to prove himself a showman more than a real threat to the top end of any division.
Due to that inherent lack of trust, Holland is the type of fighter you consider betting as an underdog, rather than laying juice on him as a favorite. Yet his line has steamed nearly 12% from a pick’em price (-110, 52.4% implied) on Nov. 21 to -180 (64.3%) as of writing.
The physical analysis – the statistics on age difference and Thompson’s appearance in recent fights, Thompson’s first time facing a size discrepancy in the octagon, and Holland’s underrated power for welterweight – point toward the favorite.
Still, aside from Holland’s grappling upside, which he seems unlikely to deploy consistently, the technical analysis points to Thompson, a veteran minute-winner who is one of the more aesthetically-pleasing strikers in the sport’s history.
It’s an intriguing fight and one that may be set up in a binary fashion for betting purposes.
Thompson vs. Holland Pick
I projected Kevin Holland as a -167 favorite (62.5% implied) in this UFC Orlando headliner, and I don’t see value on either side of the moneyline.
I want something closer to -150 (60% implied) to back Holland or +182 (35.5% implied) to back Thompson, so I’ll continue monitoring the market until fight time.
I see value concerning the total, projecting the fight to reach a decision 40% of the time (+150 implied), a slight edge compared to current odds (+166 at FanDuel).
However, all of that value – and more – is tied to my projection for Thompson to win by decision (projected +311, listed +440 at BetRivers), and I think that is the clear way to play the fight from an underdog perspective. The market is far higher on Thompson by KO/TKO than I would expect for a true point fighter who hasn’t finished an opponent since 2016.
The alternative angle is to play Holland by submission (projected +700, listed +950 at BetRivers) or to win by finish (projected +113, listed +120 at BetRivers). He hunts for chokes after hurting opponents on the feet – and he has extremely underrated jiu-jitsu.
I’m going to play all three props and structure it so we profit more than a unit on a Holland submission or a half unit on a Thompson decision – while breaking even on a Holland knockout win. I’d be relatively surprised with any other result; I project Holland’s finish rate and Thompson’s decision rate, combined, at 71.1%
But if I had to choose one wager – based purely on line value – it’s Thompson by decision; there are just huge red flags, given the size discrepancy of the fighters.
The Picks: Thompson wins by Decision (+440, 0.2u at BetRivers) | Holland wins by Finish (+120, 0.25u at BetRivers) | Holland wins by Submission (+950, 0.1u at BetRivers)