Chael Sonnen Didn’t Appreciate Kevin Holland’s Strategy At UFC Orlando

Former two-division UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen was not a fan of how Kevin Holland approached his recent fight with Stephen Thompson.

This past weekend, Holland headlined in the UFC for the third time overall and the first as a welterweight. Three months after being decimated by Khamzat Chimaev on late notice, “Trailblazer” was handed an opportunity to break into the rankings in a big way against a perennial contender and two-time title challenger.

In the build-up to the UFC Orlando main event, much had been made about the pair’s desire to throw down on the feet given their respective setbacks on the ground in recent times.

Both men certainly made good on their promise, putting on a memorable standup affair across four rounds before a corner stoppage secured the victory for “Wonderboy” and sent Holland on his first losing skid at 170 pounds.

Ahead of the contest, some had predicted that Holland would utilize grappling if the opportunity presented itself, especially having seen Thompson’s deficiencies on the ground exposed twice in 2021.

The opportunity to do so presented itself on numerous occasions, but rather than maintain top control and use the position to score, Holland returned to the feet and allowed Thompson to continue his masterclass in MMA striking.

According to fighter-turned-analyst Chael Sonnen, that strategy was extremely questionable.

Sonnen Questions Holland’s Approach

During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, former middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger Sonnen looked back on Holland’s display inside the Amway Center this past Saturday.

Assessing the fact that Holland’s desire to “entertain” was his apparent priority on fight night, Sonnen insisted that he and the wider MMA fanbase will never credit a fighter who chooses to ignore tools that can aid their chances of victory.

“Guys, don’t ever try to entertain me. Me is not Chael, the person; I am the collective community of mixed martial arts,” Sonnen said. “If that is your goal, don’t ever tell me that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re not gonna get credit from me, and you’re damn sure not going to get a pass, ever, if you go into unarmed combat and you neglect a skill and or ruleset.

“If you’re ever in a fight and you think, ‘I’m gonna avoid the ground because the crowd doesn’t like the ground. But had I gone there, I could’ve beaten him,’ you’re not gonna have any appreciation from me,” Sonnen added. “If you’re not doing whatever it is you can do to win, I’m not going to make and subsidize your outcome within my mind.”

Sonnen also looked to dispel what he perceives to be a myth regarding the fans’ view on striking and ground battles.

While “Big Mouth” is under the impression that the crowd would much rather witness him standing and trading with entertaining standup fighters like Thompson, Sonnen pointed to the lower-level of prominence that striking-only sports like kickboxing and Muay Thai have compared to MMA in its short existence.

“If you buy into the school of thought that the fans want to see two guys stand and trade, I’ve got to stop you right there… Where did you get that concept?” Sonnen asked. “There’s another sport out there that never really got off the ground and it’s called kickboxing. It’s hanging on… There’s another sport out there. Boy, it’s trying to get some exposure… called Muay Thai.

“If it’s so true that the audience wants to see two guys stand and bang, Muay Thai would be the king sport, followed by kickboxing… If I want to see two guys stand and trade, I can. If I want to see two guys fight with a more wide-open ruleset, I can do that too in the form of mixed martial arts,” Sonnen continued. “Kevin Holland looked to me as if he could have and would have won the fight… How could you ever go into battle and not use everything you possibly have to get your hand raised?”

While those in the arena certainly enjoyed the on-feet battle at UFC Orlando, Holland’s decision to stand and strike with one of the best the UFC has seen in that regard has certainly puzzled some fans and pundits since.

Nevertheless, “Trailblazer” wasn’t without his supporters, a few of whom praised his decision to put on a show in the night’s headliner.

Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s take on Kevin Holland’s performance against Stephen Thompson at UFC Orlando?

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