Teddy Atlas: Kevin Holland Letting Wonderboy Up May Have Been Survival Instinct

Renowned boxing trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas has provided a unique assessment of Kevin Holland’s mindset as he battled Stephen Thompson.

This past weekend at UFC Orlando, formerly ranked middleweight Holland headlined for the first time at 170 pounds, colliding with elite striker and two-time title challenger Thompson inside the Amway Center.

As was advertised by both men, the pair engaged in a war on the feet, trading blows from minute one. Having both suffered grappling heavy losses in recent times, “Wonderboy” and “Trailblazer” were targeting an entertaining standup scrap, and their Fight of the Night bonus is evidence that they provided exactly that.

While much of the post-fight focus was on the fun nature of the bout, as well as the corner stoppage that brought it to a close, some focused on the approach of Holland, which while exciting, perhaps diminished his chances of victory.

Many have pointed to instances of Holland rejecting the chance to secure top position when Thompson hit the ground, instead beckoning the talented karate-based striker back to his feet. That left the likes of Chael Sonnen confused and bemused.

But Teddy Atlas, who has experience working alongside a host of legendary pugilists during his career as a boxing coach, has put forth an interesting theory surrounding Holland’s strategy on December 3.

Atlas Asks: Was Holland Preparing “An Out?”

During a recent episode of THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas, the 66-year-old combat sports voice looked back on the fights that were on offer this past weekend, including on the UFC Orlando card.

Unsurprisingly, talk of the night’s main event turned to the perception that Holland could’ve boosted his chances of victory by engaging in the grappling realm, where Thompson’s deficiencies were exposed by Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad in 2021.

But according to Atlas, the 30-year-old welterweight’s decision not to do so may have been rooted in a subconscious desire to create an “out” for himself, meaning that were he to lose after rejecting an opportunity to grapple, there’d be somewhat of an asterisk next to the result.

“They’re (fighters) human. They’re under siege every time they get in that Octagon, with demons trying to come over the wall,” Atlas said. “They gotta fight that fight too… They have to resist, not only the physicality of the man in front of them… but the thoughts, the human thoughts, the natural instincts to help yourself in other ways…. The human instinct to fight, to get away.

“Is there a possibility that with that fight going on inside the mind… is there a chance that Holland, during those moments, said, ‘No, I won’t go on the floor because I got it now in the back pocket.’ It wouldn’t be Holland, it would be a voice,” Atlas added. “It’s human instinct to survive, to find sometimes another way, an out… Could it have been possible that Holland said, ‘No, I always have it in my back pocket,’ that people will say he didn’t really lose, he lost because he made a bad decision of not going to where he could’ve beat the guy.”

Atlas went on to compare the phenomenon to a form of “protection” granted to the fighter on the losing side.

“Subconsciously… that voice from the caveman days, that’s in all of us, spoke to him and said, ‘Yeah, now if you do lose, you didn’t really lose. You’re protected. I just protected you.’ … You can always save yourself emotionally.”

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