Brian Kelleher first broke into mainstream MMA with a feature win on Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight back in 2016. Similarly, his opponent at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night, Domingo Pilarte also earned his shot in the octagon through one of its feeder shows; Dana White’s Contender Series.
For Kelleher, it will be a return to bantamweight after going 2-2 at 145lbs. Although defeating big names such as bantamweight legend Renan Barao, the New Yorker, nicknamed “Boom” has yet to string together three in a row inside the UFC. However, he will look to start one off the back of Pilarte.
Domingo “Son of Fire” Pilarte, entered the promotion with a ton of hype. Losing only once before his UFC debut, he has made a name for himself by demonstrating a cocky but exciting style and a 75% finish rate. His luck would take a turn in 2019 however and he would lose his first UFC fight in a competitive bout, winning the final round and coming just short in the second. Afterward, Pilarte would find himself once again on the losing end, which was eventually ruled a no-contest due to a positive marijuana test done on his opponent, Journey Newson. On Saturday, Pilarte will look to both rebound from this and attain the biggest win of his career in Brian Kelleher.
Kelleher vs. Pilarte odds
Brian Kelleher will enter this bout as the betting favorite with odds of -170 against Pilarte who is listed as a decent underdog at most betting sites.
Kelleher vs. Pilarte breakdown
Brian Kelleher is a well-rounded fighter with fire in his hands and a dangerous ground game. Quick to the punch, Kelleher stands tall and moves light on his feet, but knows when to plant and throw in order to land with conviction. He likes to switch step in and throw the rear hand, which he does from both sides but primarily from the orthodox stance. He also has a smooth but stiff left hook, which when landed can put anyone out.
He can trade kicks from the outside but his most preferred technique is the front kick down the middle. Rather than a teep, this usually comes in the form of a snap front kick to either the chin or belly. This works particularly well with switch step tactics because both begin with raising the knee and exploding forward, keeping his opponent’s guessing as to which he is going for.
A brown belt under the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system, Kelleher can hang on the ground with most. He is best known for his guillotine choke which he looks for both actively and reactively. Against Ode’ Osbourne, Kelleher took the initiative, shot for the takedown, barred down the pressure, and forced Osbourne to push back to get to his feet, catching the guillotine on the transition. On the other side, he is also quick to snap onto the neck when his opponent looks to change levels.
Domingo Pilarte, compared to Kelleher, has much less a fast-twitch and traditional boxing style. He has a long frame and reach for bantamweight, he will even outreach Kellaher by 7.5 inches when they meet. This allows Pilarte to work from an extra step away, where he keeps his hand a bit low by average standards, moves smoothly and at a casual and relaxed pace.
This isn’t to say that he can’t turn up the pressure though, and we’ve seen him rally back from losing early rounds by picking up the pace especially in the clinch and in grappling scrambles. He often looks for kimuras from the bottom in order to sweep and take the back, a position particularly suited to him due to his long limbs, allowing him to easily grapevine, body triangle, or lockdown his opponent.
He also uses this in the clinch standing, if he can take his opponent’s back against the cage, look for him to vine the legs and drag his opponents down rather than exert unnecessary force in a slam or high impact takedown. Like Kelleher, he is also known for a specific submission, winning three of his four submissions by armbar.
Kelleher vs. Pilarte prediction
Although Pilarte will pose some dangerous threats for Kelleher, especially with the immense reach disparity, I think that Kelleher has the experience to pull it off. With a historically better start, I think Kelleher can put Pilarte up against the cage early, negating the range and working in the pocket and against the cage where Pilarte won’t have the space.
Prediction: Brian Kelleher by TKO
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.