Song Yadong — fighting out of Heilongjiang, China — and Casey Kenney — fighting out of Tucson, Ariz. — kicked off the UFC 265 pay-per-view (PPV) main card tonight (Sat., Aug. 7, 2021) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, each hoping to return to the win column at each others’ expense.
Yadong dropped a decision to Kyler Phillips earlier this year, while Kenney lost a razor-thin decision to former Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, that same night at UFC 259. It was an intriguing Bantamweight bout, a veritable pick ‘em with the bookies, that will see the winner get back on track and back in the 135-pound title chase sooner than later.
In the end, it was a very close fight, which Yadong took home via split decision.
Yadong got the action started with a body kick, while Kenney circled and launched a lazy spinning kick that caught nothing but air. Yadong charged in with a combination, but Kenney stepped aside and started to pressure his Chinese counterpart. Kenney Kenney angled for an ankle pick, but Yadong was hip to it and just stepped aside and fired off a shot upstairs. Yadong charged in with more combinations and Kenney laughed in response, but he wasn’t laughing after Yadong blasted him with another hard body shot. Yadong once again came crashing in for an exchange, but this time Kenney did a great job of avoiding and countering with a meaningful punch. Kenney launched a left high kick and Yadong used the opening to land a hard shot right down the middle. Kenney with the pressure late in the round, catching Yadong mid-kick with a hard shot that dropped him. It looked more of an off-balance Yadong than a Kenney knockdown. Yadong returned to his feet quickly and Kenney was all over him, perhaps thinking that he had his opponent hurt. But, Yadong was game, exchanging shot-for-shot with Kenney until the horn blared to end the opening frame.
Yadong came out of his corner with purpose, pressuring Kenney out of the gate early to start the second stanza. But, moments later, it was Kenney on the offensive, backing Yadong into the cage putting his punches together well. Yadong ripped a nice body shot, then a combination upstairs, that had Kenney on the defensive. Midway through the fight and Kenney was basically chasing Yadong around the cage, neither landing much of significance. Kenney finally shot in for a takedown, but Yadong was able to step out and escape the threat easily. The pair exchange body kicks, with Kenney scoring with a hard straight right hand down the center line. He followed it up with a big left hand moments later, with Yadong mushing him into the fence toward the end of the round to slow down the action.
Third and final frame and it was essentially a toss up — Kenney dictated the pace for most of the first 10 minutes, but Yadong did a great job of staying upright, countering and remaining busy. Yadong scored with a hard right hand early as Kenney pawed a jab, looking to get Yadong trapped along the cage. Stockton slap from Kenney had Yadong wanting more, drilling Kenney with a series of hard body kicks. He started to chase Kenney now, mixing up his kicks and punches masterfully down the stretch. Kenney scored with a head kick that looked more impressive than it actually was — Yadong just tossed his leg to the side, non-plussed. Yadong fired off another combination upstairs, with Kenney looking to sneak under and steal a late takedown … but, it didn’t work. Body kick from Yadong, with Kenney drilling him with a hard right counter. With one minute remaining, Kenney dove in for another takedown, but was once again denied. Yadong fired off hard kicks and punches down the stretch, raising his arms and goading Kenney into a brawl. Kenny didn’t really take the bait, settling for a late takedown that may or may not have earned him an important round.
It was a super close fight, but in the end it appeared to be Yadong’s counter striking and movement that ultimately earned him a hard-fought win. It’s unclear if the performance was impressive enough to get him back into the Top 15 — the 135-pound division is absolutely stacked.
But, a win’s a win, even if there are some who thought Kenney deserved the nod.
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