Kai Kamaka III claims narrow decision win in UFC 252 debut
In a clash of debutantes Kai Kamaka digs deep to earn a Unanimous Decision win (29-28) over Tony Kelley
Tony Kelley (5-1) makes his UFC debut against fellow promotional newcomer Kai Kamaka (7-2). Kelley’s single loss was a split decision against DWCS alum Kevin Aguilar at Legacy FC 57.
Tony Kelley started the first round very strong with solid movement and striking, but Kamaka responded nicely by matching his pace and countering Kelley’s jab with a precise left hand. In what began as an evenly contested round ended confidently in Kamaka’s favor. His counter striking became progressively dominant and in a few moments could have found a finish with more consistent pressure. With some additional points for his take downs, Kamaka soundly took round one.
Kamaka began the second round with high confidence landing his shots early. Kamaka continued to find success with his counter striking, while dictating the pace of the round and controlling the octagon. Kelley would put his toughness and heart on full display eating everything Kamaka could offer.
Kamaka would again score a takedown into the cage as Kelley’s face began to leak blood. Kelley spent significant energy walking his way back up the cage only for Kamaka to immediately return him to the mat. Kamaka abandoned the clinch to open up the striking one again with both fighters trading significant strikes. Kamaka again ends the round with an edge, but Kelley made round two much closer and hoped to put some doubt into Kamaka’s personal assessment.
Kelley controls the beginning of the third round strongly and fires off several heavy knees from the thai clinch. Kamaka ducked into a guillotine choke, but Kelley dropped to the canvas to snap in the hold and lost grip. Kamaka would control the ground position for quite a while before they finally walked back up the cage side and engaged in open striking.
Kelley again followed his opening combos and struck his way into the the clinch to deliver knees to the body. Both traded dirty boxing shots before Kamaka again sought the wall and stall clinch. Kelley stayed busy striking near the ear before breaking the clinch with elbows.
Kelley returned to his knee attacks in the Thai clinch. Kamaka was wearing his own blood now as an errant knee from Kelley delivers a low blow. The always tranquil Chris Tognoni called time and Kamaka was allowed to rest after a ferociously paced exchange and recharge for a fresh start to the end of the final round. The final seconds delivered a slower and much more deliberate pace as they traded blows into the bell. Kamaka took the edge in a close contest earning a unanimous decision. Both fighters would enjoy a $50,000 Fight of the Night performance bonus.