In the second bout of UFC 123, a unique style matchup presents itself as Great Britain’s Paul Kelly takes on UFC newcomer T.J. O’Brien in an exciting lightweight matchup at The Palace of Auburn Hills tonight.
Kelly (13-3) is a veteran of the UFC, having fought for the promotion seven times with 4-3 record in the promotion. Kelly has had mixed results since dropping down to lightweight with a 2-2 record in his last four fights. Kelly’s fighting style is based on wrestling, but he’s adapted to include more traditional striking as well as blending in some submissions.
O’Brien (16-3) is making his UFC debut, and will present a plethora of problems for Kelly to deal with. His size (6’2″) and reach (72″) are very uncommon for lightweights, and judging from the weigh-in picture, he carries it well. While O’Brien will have the size and reach to frustrate Kelly, he’s more known for his submission skills, having won his 15 most recent fights via submission. His favorite sub appears to be the triangle choke (11 wins via triangle choke), which he’s able to utilize efficiently with his very long legs.
Kelly will want to get inside and swarm O’Brien with punches. Kelly’s strength could be a large factor in this fight, as O’Brien’s lanky build will likely be a detriment in the clinch. I doubt Kelly takes O’Brien down, but there will be the possibility for a submission there. All of O’Brien’s 3 career losses have been via submission. Another factor will be the tremendous step up in competition for the Iowa farmboy. In 2 of O’Brien’s 3 career losses, he’s wilted under the pressure of tough lightweights who have at one point competed in the WEC. I expect Kelly will do the same, but don’t be surprised if O’Brien pulls of a shocking upset here. Both fighters will be fighting for their UFC lives.
Prediction: Paul Kelly via TKO in the 2nd round