Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight prospects Song Yadong and Casey Kenney will throw down this weekend (Sat., July 31, 2021) at UFC 265 from inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
At just 23 years of age, Yadong already has a wealth of experience under the UFC banner. He rose up the ladder fairly quickly, scoring three dynamic finishes in four trips to the Octagon. Those wins resulted in a step up in competition, which has seen more measured results for the Chinese prospect. Five wins in six trips to the cage established Kenney as a major up-and-comer at 135 pounds as well, earning a showcase opportunity against former champion Dominick Cruz. However, Cruz proved a touch too crafty for the former LFA champ, and now he’s looking to rebound.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 16-5-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marlon Vera (UFC on ESPN 8), Alejandro Perez (UFC 239), Felipe Arantes (UFC Fight Night 132)
Key Losses: Kyler Phillips (UFC 259)
Keys To Victory: Yadong is one of the most explosive athletes in a division packed with quick and powerful men. He throws fast, deadly combinations that catch opponents off-guard, and for the most part, his wrestling and grappling have held up quite well even against top-notch opposition.
Though both men are quite well-rounded, the style clash really ends up at the classic striker vs. grappler battle. Yadong has a considerable speed and power advantage on the feet, whereas Kenney is the more experienced and proven mat technician.
Yadong likes to march forward as he attacks, which can open up takedowns if one isn’t careful. However, Yadong puts together better combinations than most, and if he’s smart about it with his shot selection, he can keep Kenney on his back foot without exposing his hips. Ideally, Yadong will mix his cross to the torso, as well as frequent uppercut inclusions to keep Kenney honest.
One adjustment I’d like to see Yadong make from his last match up vs. Phillips to this bout is to end his combination with kicks. Like Phillips, Kenney moves well at distance, and Yadong would do well to cut off his escapes by firing kicks.
Key Wins: Nathaniel Wood (UFC 254), Ray Borg (UFC on ESPN 2), Louis Smolka (UFC on ESPN 9), Manny Bermudez (UFC 241)
Key Losses: Merab Dvalishvili (UFC Fight Night 167), Dominick Cruz (UFC 259)
Keys To Victory: Kenney can do it all. He finds a great deal of his success on the mat with grappling and submissions, but Kenney can hold his own in toe-to-toe exchanges, and he’s got some solid pop in his hands.
The recent and aforementioned Kyler Phillips bout should serve as a road map for Kenney. In that match up, Phillips took the first and second round on the strength of his strategy, remaining evasive until his own offensive opportunities emerged. “The Kung Fu Monkey” was forced to fight from a deficit, which further improved Phillips’ counter punching and reactive wrestling.
Kenney doesn’t have the unreal pure speed of Phillips, but that doesn’t mean he cannot draw Yadong into offense. Kenney has to be careful with his distance pokes — Yadong’s counters are no joke — but frustrating his foe is definitely a viable path to victory.
Whereas Phillips is all athleticism, Kenney is more of a grinder. As such, his attack should lean a bit more towards the wrestling, as constant takedowns and scrambles have slowed Yadong’s hands in the past.
There are no bad Bantamweight match ups.
Both men are suffering from the talent-rich nature of the 135-pound division. After climbing into the Top 15 via hard-fought win streaks, a single loss once again has them on the outside looking in. That’s the nature of the division, where there are so many young talents constantly trying to break through.
Fortunately, a win may be just enough to once again score a lower Top 15 ranking. On the flip side, however, defeat means consecutive losses for either man, requiring yet another multi-fight win streak to recover their previous position.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 265 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 265, Song Yadong and Casey Kenney will scrap it out. Which Bantamweight earns the victory?