Bisping criticized Holland’s performance immediately following Saturday’s event, pointing to a fateful sequence early in the fight where the talkative welterweight had Thompson down on the canvas. Instead of trying to do damage, Holland let his opponent up. It was not the last time he did so over the four-round fight.
“We see all the time, people say, ‘The first one to shoot is a coward,’” Bisping said during the UFC Orlando post-fight show on ESPN+. “But then guess what, people shoot, because you know what, it’s allowed in the rules. It’s a mixed martial arts contest. This was one of the first times, and maybe the only time, I’ve actually seen somebody truly live up to that.
“Kevin Holland had top position. Clearly. A couple of times, he was like, ‘No, no, no. We’re going to strike. That’s what we came here to do.’ I believe he will regret that decision going forward, because that was his ego getting the better of him.
“This is not a popularity contest in terms of, ‘Oh, everyone thinks I’m a real badass guy.’ No, you come here to win a fight. This is high stakes. Do you want to be a champion? Do you want to earn a lot of money? Do you want to be known as one of the best fighters in the world, or a guy who puts on a show and possibly gives away a victory. That was not high fight IQ.”
UFC commentator Jon Anik intervened before Bisping could expound, but the criticism harkened back to Holland’s early days in the promotion. UFC President Dana White famously called out “Trailblazer” for being too chatty with his opponents, a knock the welterweight made light of but didn’t heed.
When his career hit a skid with back-to-back losses, Holland appeared to turn a corner, focusing more on his wrestling and refraining from near-constant talking in the octagon. Over time, however, the habit slowly returned, and on Saturday, it was in full form.
Much of the time Holland and Thompson spent in the octagon together was as friendly as it was violent. The two regularly gave each other high fives. Holland playfully ribbed Thompson’s speed and smiled at his attacks, and Thompson returned the gesture. As the fight went on, however, the seriousness of Thompson’s work wiped the smile off Holland’s face, and as the fight went into championship rounds, he appeared to be suffering badly from the punishment he’d taken including a hand injury.
At the end of the fourth round, Holland survived a near-finish after Thompson dropped him with a punch. But when he took his stool at the end of the round, he signaled he couldn’t continue, and his corner threw in the towel.
Holland afterward disclosed that he suffered a broken hand in the first round of the fight. He was transferred to the hospital immediately after the event.