ORLANDO -- Don't write Stephen Thompson out of the welterweight title picture just yet.
Thompson (17-6-1) earned one of the biggest wins of his career on Saturday, as he stopped Kevin Holland (23-9) in the fourth round via TKO. Holland's head coach Bob Perez waved off the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds, as Holland was clearly suffering from an injury to his right hand. The welterweight fight headlined UFC Fight Night inside Amway Center.
The 170-pound contest was an even back-and-forth affair for the first two rounds, before Thompson started to assert himself in the third and fourth. Holland hurt Thompson with a heavy right hand in the opening round and had some success with elbows and punches in the clinch. As the fight progressed, however, Thompson's longer strikes proved more effective.
Thompson hurt Holland with kicks to the midsection and head in the third round, and blitzed him with punches along the fence. The left body kick visibly hurt Holland again in the fourth round. He tried to play it off, but the damage was very apparent, and his offensive output declined to essentially nothing, as he turned more and more defensive.
Despite the two losses in 2021, Thompson went into Saturday's contest tied as the UFC's No. 6-ranked welterweight. He holds wins over Geoff Neal, who is also tied for the No. 6 ranking Vicente Luque, who is ranked No. 9. Saturday was his sixth knockout in the UFC, which is tied for the most knockouts in UFC welterweight history.
According to UFC Stats, Thompson out-landed Holland in total strikes 145 to 102. Holland took Thompson down several times, usually in a scramble after both were off-balance in their strikes, but he repeatedly let Thompson back to his feet rather than try and keep him on the floor. A former middleweight, this is Holland's first loss as a welterweight.
UFC Orlando results
Welterweight: Rafael dos Anjos (32-14, 21-12 UFC) def. Bryan Barberena (18-9, 9-7 UFC) by submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
During a bout where dos Anjos became the man who has spent the most time in the Octagon, the former UFC lightweight champion put on an efficient, dominant performance.
Dos Anjos beat Barberena via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:20 of the second round Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Orlando. During the first round, dos Anjos passed Frankie Edgar for the most fight time logged by any UFC fighter in history. By the end of the bout, he had remarkably eclipsed the eight-hour mark inside the UFC cage: 8:01:49, per UFC Stats.
"Me and my team, we put together a gameplan," dos Anjos said. "He's tough as hell. That guy is big. This is my return to welterweight. I'm so happy I got the W."
Afterward, dos Anjos said he had more than earned the right to call someone out. And then he did, challenging former UFC double champion Conor McGregor. The two were supposed to fight each other in 2016, but dos Anjos withdrew due to injury.
In the first round Saturday, dos Anjos scored a takedown and nearly finished Barberena with an arm-triangle choke. Barberena survived that choke and the round, but wasn't as lucky in the second. Barberena tried clinching dos Anjos in the second and that didn't work out so well for him.
Dos Anjos took him down, got his back and cinched in the choke. Barberena had no choice but to tap.
Dos Anjos, 38, has won three of his last four fights. The Brazilian-born fighter was making his return to welterweight in this bout. Dos Anjos was the UFC lightweight champion in 2015 and 2016. Barberena, a 33-year-old fighting out of Minnesota, had a three-fight winning streak snapped.
Men's flyweight: Matheus Nicolau (19-3-1, 4-0 UFC) def. Matt Schnell (16-7 1 NC, 6-5 1 NC UFC) by TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Nicolau was efficient and dangerous, knocking down Schnell early on in Round 1 with a straight left hand, then dropping him for good in the second round with a looping overhand right and finishing on the canvas for the KO at 1:44.
But Nicolau's sixth straight win was also a product of his defense. The 29-year-old Brazilian maintained distance with sharp footwork, moving in to land a heavy strike and then getting out of the way of everything coming back his way. Nicolau is No. 10 in the ESPN men's flyweight rankings.
Schnell, 32 and from Shreveport, Louisiana, has just one win in his last four fights.
Heavyweight: Sergei Pavlovich (17-1, 5-1 UFC) def. Tai Tuivasa (15-5, 8-5 UFC) by knockout (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Sergei Pavlovich needs less than 60 seconds to finish off Tai Tuivasa in front of a disappointed Orlando crowd.
Pavlovich, of Moscow, knocked out Tuivasa with strikes in just 53 seconds, good for his fifth consecutive first-round knockout.
No one expected the fight to last long, and both heavyweights obliged to that expectation early. Pavlovich hurt Tuivasa in one of the opening exchanges and walked him back to the fence. Tuivasa, of Australia, tried to fire back but Pavlovich showed a lot of composure. He calmly slipped Tuivasa's counterstrikes and continued to pepper him with his right hand.
Idk who's scarier right now... Sergei or Francis?! Both have massive power! One has devastating kicks other has dominating wrestling.... Needless to say I look forward to that match up!#UFCOrlando— Corey 'Overtime' Anderson (@CoreyA_MMA) December 4, 2022
Eventually, Tuivasa went to the canvas near the fence and Pavlovich continued to hit him with right hands until referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in. He owns the longest active knockout streak in the UFC.
Tuivasa falls to 0-2 in his last two performances after winning five in a row. He suffered a third-round TKO loss to Ciryl Gane three months ago in France.
Middleweight: Roman Dolidze (12-1, 6-1 UFC) def. Jack Hermansson (23-8, 10-6 UFC) by TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Hermansson is one of the best grapplers in the middleweight division. He tried for a round and a half to get the fight to the ground and keep it there. But when that happened, it didn't exactly go as planned.
Dolidze somehow got Hermansson stuck in a calf slicer technique with both men's legs tied together and the pressure being put on Hermansson's left calf. Dolidze used that to basically take Hermansson's back and rain down punches until referee Marc Goddard stepped in to stop the fight. The time of the TKO finish was 4:06 of the second round.
"First of all, I'm a grappler," Dolidze said. "World champion grappling."
Hermansson tried in the first round to take Dolidze down and did once briefly, but Dolidze did a good job staying on the feet. Hermansson finally got Dolidze down with a clean takedown in the second round, but Dolidze was incredibly active off his back, attacking with several submissions. When Hermansson left his left leg behind while trying to pass Dolidze's guard, Doldize wrapped it up with his own legs into a calf slicer. That essentially rendered Hermansson unable to defend. Dolidze took the back, flattened Hermansson out and landed hard shots from top position.
#UFCOrlando— Charles 'DoBronxs' Oliveira (@CharlesDoBronxs) December 4, 2022
Wow, I imagined Dolidze would sub via calf slicer.
Afterward, Dolidze said he doesn't believe UFC star Khamzat Chimaev will return to welterweight, so he wants Chimaev next at 185 pounds.
"I'm here," Dolidza said. Dolidze, 34, has won four straight and now three in a row via finish. The Georgian-born fighter who trains out of Las Vegas was coming off a first-round knockout of Phil Hawes on Oct. 29.
Hermansson, a 34-year-old Sweden native who trains in Norway, has alternated wins and losses in his last eight fights.
Middleweight: Eryk Anders (15-7 1 NC, 7-7 1 NC UFC) def. Kyle Daukaus (11-4 1 NC, 2-4 1 NC UFC) by TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Anders fought more aggressively than usual, and landed several good shots on his way to a ground-and-pound finish. But it may have been an inadvertent blow -- an accidental clash of heads -- that led to the demise of Daukaus.
When the fighters clashed heads late in Round 1, Daukaus went down. Referee Kerith Peterson paused the action so he could recover and be evaluated by a ringside physician, but Daukaus didn't appear fully recovered, He was knocked down in Round 2 and finished on the canvas at 2:45.
YA BOI gets it done!! #UFCOrlando— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) December 4, 2022
Anders, who is 35 and from Birmingham, Alabama, ended a two-fight losing streak. Daukaus, a 29-year-old from Philadelphia, has lost two in a row.
Welterweight: Phil Rowe (10-3, 3-1 UFC) def. Niko Price (15-6 2 NC, 7-6 2 NC UFC) by TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Phil Rowe finishes the fight vs. Niko Price in Round 3 to send his hometown Orlando crowd into a frenzy.
Rowe had used his length and footwork to control the fight for two rounds, landing from distance and avoiding much of what Price threw back at him. But when Price came out for the final round determined to apply pressure, it all appeared to be on the verge of unraveling for Rowe. Until it didn't.
Rowe withstood an in-your-face barrage that had him wobbly and nearly finished. But then he turned the tide against Price, who had emptied his gas tank, and hurt him to the point where referee Marc Goddard jumped in for a standing TKO at 3:26 of the round.
Wowww what a fight #UFC281— Bill Algeo (@ElSenorPerfecto) December 4, 2022
Rowe, fighting in his Orlando home base, has won three in a row and 10 of 11. From Cape Coral, Florida, Price has won just one of his last five.
Strawweight: Angela Hill (15-12, 10-12 UFC) def. Emily Ducote (12-7, 1-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Hill walked forward with a nonstop array of punches, kicks and knees. Ducote moved backward practically the whole way, and only occasionally offered anything in the way of offense. While Hill never was close to a finish, she was in full control for three rounds and earned 30-27 scores from all of the judges.
The fight was most one-sided in Round 2, when Hill landed 67 significant strikes to just 16 by Ducote. Hill, 37, has won two in a row after a skid during which she had dropped five of six. Ducotte, 28, saw a four-fight winning streak come to an end.
Lightweight: Clay Guida (38-19, 18-16 UFC) def. Scott Holtzman (14-6, 7-6 UFC) by majority decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Guida turns 41 on Thursday, but he still has the energy of a teen. The little ball of energy from Johnsburg, Illinois, was relentless in his forward-always mobility, and he wore down Holtzman over three rounds in a tightly contested fight.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two going for Guida, who has won two of three. Holtzman, 39 and from Knoxville, Tennessee, has lost three in a row and appeared to take off the gloves and retire at the end of the bout.
Lightweight: Michael Johnson (22-18, 13-14 UFC) def. Marc Diakiese (16-6, 7-6 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Diakiese came out aggressive and flashy, throwing big kicks and landing a few, and pointing his finger and smiling whenever he connected and his opponent missed. But Johnson would not allow himself to be drawn into an emotional fight, and instead just calmly stalked his opponent for three rounds, landed the better shots and fended off every takedown attempt.
As a result, the 36-year-old Johnson won for the second time in his last three fights, after two judges gave him two rounds, and the other scored all three in his favor.
Diakiese, 29 and from England, saw a two-fight winning streak end.
Men's featherweight: Jonathan Pearce (14-4, 5-1 UFC) def. Darren Elkins (28-11, 17-10 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Elkins wears on his chest a tattoo that says "The Damage." By the end of three rounds, the damage he was wearing on his bruised, bloody face was beyond words, courtesy of a diversely brutal attack by Pearce.
Elkins sweats blood, he opens up like a 90s wwe match— Terrance 'T Wrecks' McKinney (@twrecks155) December 4, 2022
Pearce started with a relentless assault of front kicks to the face, then added punches and elbows to that had Elkins on the verge of being finished several times. But Pearce, a 30-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, just kept doling out the damage to win his fifth in a row (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Elkins, who is 38 and from Indiana, has lost two of three.
Lightweight: Natan Levy (8-1, 2-1 UFC) def. Genaro Valdez (10-2, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Levy used every kick imaginable, landing damaging blows to the head, torso and legs, and had multiple takedowns into top control position, yet was in a fight to the end against the resilient Valdez. The 31-year-old Israeli, who trains in Las Vegas, has won his last two fights after dropping his UFC debut. The judges scored 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Valdez, who is 30 and from Mexico, has lost in both trips inside the octagon.
Men's featherweight: Francis Marshall (7-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Marcelo Rojo (16-10, 0-3 UFC) by knockout (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
You don't start a UFC career much more impressively than Marshall did. The 23-year-old from Jersey City, New Jersey, remained unbeaten in his Octagon debut by clipping Rojo with a right hand and finishing him with punches on the canvas at 1:14 of Round 2.
Marshall had spent much of Round 1 on top of Rojo, after smoothly taking him down despite the Argentinian getting two toothless warnings for fence grabs. Rojo has lost all three of his UFC bouts.
Strawweight: Yazmin Jauregui (10-0, 2-0 UFC) def. Istela Nunes (6-4, 0-3 UFC) by TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Yazmin Jauregui finishes Istela Nunes on the ground to win the first bout of the night at UFC Fight Night.
Jauregui remained undefeated with her first UFC finish and second win inside the Octagon. The 23-year-old from Mexico dropped Nunes three times in the round and used heavy punches and elbows on the canvas to finish the job at 4:06.
Nunes, who is 30 and from Brazil, has lost all three of her UFC bouts.