This week marks the only week of the month in which the Zuffa-owned promotions are off. As such, our attention shifts to Kansas City’s Titan Fighting Championships 24.
Although it would be easy to take a deeper look at the event’s headliner featuring former UFC fighter Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, the most intriguing fight on the card is in the night’s co-main event.
That fight features world-renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Braulio Estima making his long-awaited MMA debut against heavy-handed slugger Chris “The Hammer” Holland.
The classic striker vs. grappler match-up will air live on AXS TV on Friday, Aug. 24, from Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
Let’s take a deeper look at the fight. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another.
At 36 years old, Holland’s career in the MMA world got off to a late start. However, that hasn’t stopped the Colorado fighter from leaving a path of destruction with his hands. The former hockey player has scored all five of his wins by way of (T)KO, including his most recent victory over UFC and Pride veteran Phil Baroni. Holland is still evolving as a striker under the tutelage of Marc Montoya at Factory X Muay Thai, but with true finishing ability in both hands, Holland has the clear edge on the feet.
It’s safe to assume that Estima’s stand-up game will be a work in progress. Fighters with the grappling credentials of Estima aren’t going to pick up the striking game overnight, but then again, Estima hasn’t rushed into his MMA career. In fact, he was slated to make his debut more than a year ago for the now-defunct Shine Fights promotion. So, he’s had ample time to hone his skills on the feet. Recently, Estima has spent time with the Blackzilians camp in Florida, but until we see him in the cage, it’s tough to predict how he’ll perform in this department.
While Holland has the edge on the feet, he’s going to be in trouble if this fight goes to the ground. With only eight fights under his belt, Holland has yet to face an elite submission fighter, let alone an Abu Dhabi champion like Estima. In his most recent outing, Holland was able to scramble and avoid some bad positions against the aforementioned Baroni, but comparing Baroni’s ground game to Estima’s is like comparing a dust devil to a tornado—there’s a huge difference. Holland’s strategy on the mat has to be to stall and not make a mistake.
Without question, this is where Estima wants the fight. As one of the more dominant BJJ competitors on the planet, Estima would be favored on the mat against almost anyone. Although some highly-decorated grapplers have struggled to implement their submission game in MMA, others like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Roger Gracie have translated their attacks without any issue.
Holland would never claim to be a wrestler, but he hasn’t had to be. Other than his fight with Baroni, most of Holland’s opponents have made the mistake of standing and trading with him for the majority of their bouts. Hence, most have ended up unconscious. Against Baroni, Holland was taken down multiple times, but he showed grit and explosiveness to scramble and get back to his feet. Training with multiple UFC-caliber fighters and former Olympian (and former Bellator champion) Joe Warren, Holland’s wrestling may still be basic, but it could be adequate to keep this fight upright.
Since Estima is a lifelong grappler, he will have an edge in the takedown department. However, he may struggle to translate his positional attack to the world of MMA. It’s very different working for a single-leg or trip when you’re being punched in the face, especially by someone with Holland’s power. If Estima’s chin is capable of surviving the onslaught, he’s certainly got the better hips and grappling experience to take this fight to the ground.
It would be easy to point the finger at Holland’s MMA experience advantage, but with Estima having spent years on the mat, it’s unlikely to be a major factor. Without a doubt, this fight comes down to one thing: where it takes place. If Estima tries to stand and trade with Holland, he’s going to have a miserable debut and one hell of a headache the next morning. But, if Estima brings the fight to his world, Holland’s lack of top-notch grappling competition will be obvious as he’s forced to tap to the submission ace.
Verdict: While the numbers show a slight edge for the Brazilian, the fight starts on the feet. Having witnessed Holland’s ability to turn out the lights on his opponents firsthand, I like the Coloradan’s chances to spoil Estima’s debut with a vicious, first-round KO win.
Top Photo: Braulio Estima (MMA Fighting)