Ocagon Oracles Joseph Holmes

Drew Beaupre

Grade: C+


Although a submission victory at Contender Series in October didn’t earn him a contract, Joseph Holmes’ first round finish in front of Dana White at Fury FC 53 in November finally got him signed to the UFC.


Holmes went 7-0 as an amateur from 2017-2018 before losing his pro debut at Bellator 218 in 2019, but since then he’s won seven straight and finished every opponent he’s faced. His submission game has been particularly dangerous, with one win by guillotine and four by rear-naked choke.


His success with submissions comes as no surprise when watching him fight, as his grappling game seems based around maximizing chances to make his opponent tap. Up against the cage he’ll get a body lock on his opponents and look for an outside trip, then try to take their back and get hooks in or slap on a body triangle while he looks to finish with a rear-naked choke.


On the feet, Holmes is at his best when he’s using his size and length. He’ll largely stay on the outside and focus on working his jab, while also mixing in kicks to the body and head. “Ugly Man” will throw a hard 1-2 when he’s feeling confident in exchanges, and although his right straight isn’t the prettiest punch it absolutely floored Jhonoven Pati when he threw it as a counter shot in his most recent fight.


At only twenty-six years old Holmes still has plenty of time to further develop his game, and there’s always room for new blood at middleweight to try and crack the top fifteen. Fighting Jamie Pickett for this debut should be interesting. Pickett has a similar build and length to Holmes, and I’m curious to see how he handles someone that will strike with him comfortably at his preferred distance. Ideally I’d like to see Holmes work to the fence and drag Pickett to the mat and look for a choke, as that’s where I think his biggest strength is currently.


Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner

A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion

James Colwell:

Grade: C+

Joseph “Ugly Man” Holmes is a young boom-or-bust prospect who has an enticing combination of physical gifts and finishing ability but has yet to be tested against anyone near his level. He’s 26 years old and got started in MMA as an amateur back in 2017 at age 21, where he put together a 7-0 record in 15 months before making his pro debut for Bellator, where he met a high-level wrestler and suffered his only loss in a decision. Since then, Holmes has strung together 7 straight finishes, with 5 submissions and two KOs, but his competition has been lacking (26-19-1 combined record).

He’s very tall for the division at 6’4, and its hard to believe that he fought at welterweight early in his career when you see the muscle mass that he’s added as he’s matured. His jiu-jitsu is undoubtedly his best trait, as he uses his long limbs as effective levers to shift his opponents’ balance and lock up their movements. His favorite finish is the rear naked choke, as that makes up 4 of his 5 professional subs, and its clear why when you see how effective his leg hooks are at controlling the position once he takes the back. He does a good job alternating his arms and trapping wrists while working to get his forearm under the chin, and his squeeze is hard to break once its set. One downside of his confidence in his ground game is that he can be too content to fight from his back and try to lock up an armbar or triangle despite never recording a finish with either, which can gift top control and ground striking opportunities to his opponents.

Holmes has also participated in a few professional Muay Thai and boxing matches, where he’s been successful and developed an underrated striking game. With the reach that he has, his jab is a very effective weapon when he chooses to throw it, but I’d like to see some more consistency in its use as he tends to get away from it as the fight continues. His kicking range is also extensive but he doesn’t seem fully comfortable letting them go, as the ground is still clearly his preferred area to work. He showed some nice power in his 1st-round knockout of Jhonoven Pati (6-5) for Fury FC, which was enough to earn him his UFC chance after not getting signed during the Contender Series despite a RNC of fellow BJJ practicioner Shonte Barnes (6-1-1). However, the big red flag of his level of competition remains, as Pati has been on a big losing streak since his own DWCS shot and Barnes was considerably older and obviously not as athletic as Holmes but was still the best opponent he’s faced so far in his career.

The matchmakers picked a good level-tester for Holmes’ UFC debut, as Jamie Pickett is towards the bottom of the middleweight division but is big and powerful enough that Holmes won’t be able to dominate using just his physical gifts and will be forced to put on a good technical performance if he wants to come out with a win. I currently predict a decision win for Pickett, as he’s shown improved wrestling recently and Holmes can struggle against that style of body-to-body control, but I think this is one of the closer fights on the card and I could easily see the Ugly Man pull out a submission win if he can get into a dominant position on the mat. If Holmes can polish his game and make his various tools work together, this projection could look very conservative, but for now I want to see how he does against a real top-level fighter.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion