UFC Fight Night: Underrated and Overlooked
This Wednesday the 13th May, the UFC continue their prolific run of 3 shows in a week in Jacksonville, Florida. The first of two fight nights this week will be headlined by Anthony Smith taking on Glover Teixeira in a light heavyweight matchup. The winner of this fight could potentially move into the title mix again, especially if they end it emphatically.
This is backed up by the co-main event of the returning Ben Rothwell taking on Ovince St. Preux in his heavyweight debut. A fight that no doubt will provide fireworks in the blink and you’ll miss it, division.
While these two fights are interesting matchups, I, as usual, prefer to look down the card and see what potential scrap of the year might be on the card. This week my underrated and overlooked is Hunter Azure vs Brian Kelleher.
Set in the 135-pound limit, these two will no doubt bring the heat when they enter the cage Wednesday night.
Hunter Azure comes into this bout as an 8-0 prospect. At 28 years old, with only one UFC appearance to his name, he is a relative unknown to most fans. The former LFA bantamweight, however, is extremely well rounded. Azure has previously been a state wrestling champion, has defeated UFC vet Brad Katona in the striking game and also has a submission victory on his short record too.
Many would expect Azure to go to his wrestling, but it seems like this skill allows Azure to keep fights standing and use his boxing to win fights, as seen against Katona. Azure throws excellent combinations and uses hooks as his biggest weapon when in range. Azure also has great leg kicks, particularly to the calf area. This is evidenced in his fight with Chris Ocon on the contender series. After peppering Ocon for most of the fight with low kicks, eventually, Ocon’s leg would give out later on in the fight. Azure won the fight via decision.
Stood across from Azure on Wednesday will be Brian Kelleher. A 30 fight MMA veteran and 7 fight UFC veteran, Kelleher has no shortage of experience. Currently, Kelleher is 4-3 in the UFC, but it should be noted, he has lost to the likes of John Linekar, Marlon Vera and huge prospect Montel Jackson. Kelleher is certainly no slouch and his last fight, he dominated Ode Osbourne en route to a guillotine choke finish at 2 mins 49 secs of their bout. Brian also won a performance of the night bonus for this. In the past, Kelleher has beaten former bantamweight king Renan Barao and Iuri Alcantara. He is no joke, but his inconsistency has cost him.
Much like his foe, Kelleher is extremely well rounded. He has 7 KO/TKO, 8 Submission and 5 decision wins to his name. He likes to finish fights, but if he has to gut it out he will. Much like Azure, Kelleher uses his wrestling and ground game to nullify his opponents and play his own game. There is no doubt Kelleher has the talent to go to the top, he just needs a good run of wins to get his name in the mix. This is why the fight intrigues me so much.
These two fighters will, of course, be going at it on the feet and if it does hit the ground, we will find out who the better grappler is. What is most intriguing though about this contest is where each of the opponents will end up after it. Kelleher needs this win. At 33, his chances of reaching title contention ever are starting to fade, unless he can put it all together in a few good fights, starting with Azure.
Azure, on the other hand, is 28 and still not in his prime. This fight is a massive test to see where he sits in the already stacked 135 division. If he beats Kelleher, it shows to the rest of the division he is no joke and can hang in there with the best.
We are looking at a certain barn burner here and I see it going the distance. I think Kelleher will just edge it in a tight contest. However, both of these guys have the ability to put a stop to the fight earlier and it will be interesting to see the clash of similar styles come Wednesday night.