The decorated judoka overcame two horrific cuts near his hairline to earn a unanimous decision against Chris Camozzi in the featured UFC Fight Night 101 “Whittaker vs. Brunson” prelims on Saturday (online betting) at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. Scores were 29-28, 29-27 and 30-27, all for the ageless Kelly (12-1, 5-1 UFC).
Camozzi (24-12, 9-9 UFC) opened a gnarly gash on the Australian with a standing elbow strike in the first round. Blood sprang forth immediately, but Kelly was undeterred. The 39-year-old kept moving forward, and slowly wore down Camozzi. Kelly spent nearly the entire second round in top position after delivering a trip takedown and pushed “The Ultimate Fighter 11” graduate to the canvas again late in the third. It was enough to swing the scorecards.
Kelly has won three fights in a row.
Brown Stuns Struggling Tuck
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship alum Damien Brown notched his seventh victory in eight appearances, as he eked out a contentious split decision over Jon Tuck in a preliminary lightweight matchup. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Anthony Dimitriou and Evan Field for Brown, Christopher Shen for Tuck.
Tuck (9-4, 3-4 UFC) had the Australian reeling in a one-sided first round. There, he freed himself from an early guillotine, unleashed his ground-and-pound and later floored “Beatdown” with a straight right hand that resulted in a cut across the bridge of the nose. Blood spilled all over the canvas, the gash leaking like a sieve. Brown (17-9, 2-1 UFC) weathered the assault and took an advantage of a diminished opponent in Round 2. The tide effectively turned, the two lightweights went back and forth over the final five minutes, as Tuck cut off the cage and Brown answered his shots with plenty of his own.
Tristar’s Meunier Subdues Walsh
Tristar Gym export Jonathan Meunier proved his superiority across 15 minutes, as he was awarded a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” semifinalist Richard Walsh in a three-round undercard clash at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges sided with Meunier (8-1, 1-1 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Walsh (9-5, 2-4 UFC) never shifted out of neutral. Meunier launched his assault from all angles, incorporating unorthodox spinning attacks with more traditional techniques. He kept Walsh at a desired distance with his long reach and kicks to the body, leg and head. Meunier showed off all his tools near the end of Round 2, where he blasted his counterpart with a front kick to the face, followed with a pair of spinning hook kicks and closed out the frame with a series of jumping knees in close quarters.
Behind on the scorecards, Walsh upped his aggression in the third round, only to see his efforts go for naught. The 27-year-old has lost four of his last five fights.
Nguyen Routs Reeling Herrera
Australia-based South Dakota native Ben Nguyen overwhelmed Geane Herrera with volume punching and cruised to a unanimous verdict in their preliminary flyweight pairing. Nguyen (15-6, 3-1 UFC) drew 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26 marks from the judges.
Herrera (9-3, 1-3 UFC) fired his best bullet at the start with a flying side kick to the head, but his situation deteriorated from there. Nguyen struck effectively at all levels, settled in and performed surgery on the Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran’s face with stout, accurate punches. Herrera became less and less of a factor as the fight drifted past its midway point, eating strikes to the legs, head and body from the taekwondo black belt.
Nguyen, 28, has recorded 10 wins over his last 11 fights.
Surging Knight Upends Hooker
Jason Knight furthered his cause in the featherweight division, as he took a unanimous decision from Elevation Fight Team’s Dan Hooker in a three-round undercard battle at 145 pounds. Knight (15-2, 2-1 UFC) carried all three scorecards: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-26.
Hooker (13-7, 3-3 UFC) could not solve the Alan Belcher protégé’s riddle. Knight struck in basic two- and three-punch combinations, his chin often held high, and backed them up with sneaky level changes and takedowns. The Mississippi native threatened to finish it in the second round, where he executed a takedown, advanced to the back and fished repeatedly with rear-naked chokes. Hooker survived but seemed resigned to his situation.
Knight continued to press forward in the third round and withstood a last-stand punching volley from his counterpart, winning for the 10th time in 11 outings.
Vera Outduels Ning to Decision
Team Oyama’s Marlon Vera won for the third time in five appearances, as he captured a unanimous verdict from “The Ultimate Fighter China” winner Guangyou Ning in a preliminary bantamweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Vera (8-3-1, 2-2 UFC).
Outside of thudding leg kicks and a burst of second-round ground-and-pound, Ning (5-4-1, 2-2 UFC) struggled to string together meaningful offense. Vera, meanwhile, mixed periods of maddening inactivity with pure magnificence. The 23-year-old Ecuador native jumped to Ning’s back while standing in the first round and kicked off the cage into a dominant position on the ground. The finish did not materialize, but momentum shifted.
Vera made another significant move in the third round, where he floored the Tiger Muay Thai rep with a left jab-left hook combination. Ning never seemed to recover from the two-punch volley and spent much of the final five minutes in retreat on unsteady legs.
Debuting Lausa Handles Yao
Exquisite footwork and quick, punishing strikes carried former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion Jenel Lausa to a unanimous decision over Zhikui Yao in a three-round undercard tilt at 125 pounds. Lausa (7-2, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27 marks from all three judges.
Yao (2-4, 1-3 UFC) stayed competitive but had no answers for the Filipino standout’s speed and skill. Lausa floored him with a right hook in the first round and a head kick in the second, establishing his superiority in the standup department. Yao’s best chance at an upset came and went near the end of Round 2, where he struck for a takedown and applied punishing ground-and-pound to no avail.
Lausa, 28, has rattled off five straight wins.