Cody Garbrandt

Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt once again looks to climb the ranks of the division. After a step down in competition but an impressive win over Trevin Jones, Garbrandt finds himself opposite another crafty veteran in Brian Kelleher.

Kelleher last fought in June of 2022. He is 2-2 in his last four, including one of his career’s best performances against Kevin Croom. He also owns notable wins over former champion Renan Barao as well as Ode Osborne in the 135-pound division.

Garbrandt vs. Kelleher betting odds

Kelleher comes into the bout as the +180 favorite, meaning $180 is the profit per $100 wager if he comes out the victor.

  • Cody Garbrandt: -220
  • Brian Kelleher: +180

Garbrandt vs. Kelleher fight breakdown

Both Garbrandt and Kelleher share some similarities in their styles. They both stand usually in a conventional stance but will switch as they demonstrate high level and fluid footwork. Over their careers Kelleher would seem to be the more spread out among his striking attacks as a kickboxer while Garbrandt’s base is in pure boxing. However, in his most recent fight Cody Garbrandt demonstrated that his kicking game is one of the growing parts of a new mature game he is bringing at this point in his career. Under the tutelage of Dewy Cooper, expect to see more kickboxing from Garbrandt than in some of his earlier fights.

For Kelleher the biggest keys to victory is to be the bigger fighter and amplify his octagon presence. Kelleher has moved back and forth between 145 and 135 in his career and knows his power and strength can carry up a weight class. Contrastingly, Garbrandt although very obviously a true bantamweight, has fought as low as 125lbs. Garbrandt is the faster and more explosive fighter, so Kelleher has to be the forward moving fighter leading and not reacting to the feints of the quicker Garbrandt. he needs to cut off the cage and make Garbrandt carry his weight in any clinch situations. Kelleher has a great setup where he floats and boxes his way in, steps through with the lead power hook from the right side. This is an effective tool if he can get Garbrandt sleeping and circling off the his left. Kelleher is also very good at moving between this and the switch left cross once his opponents get a read on the right hook.

For Garbrandt, making the speed difference apparent is key. Both are very technically good, and both carry punching power. Garbrandt is the more athletic of the two. Using his jab, feints and kicks from the outside to draw out big reactions will give him the opportunities he needs to counter punch. Garbrandt also tends to go tot the body much more than Kelleher who has head hunted in the past. If he is able to get Kelleher swinging back, this also opens up the opportunities for reactive level changes.

Brian Kelleher
Brian Kelleher (Zuffa LLC)

Kelleher has traditionally shown good takedown defence, getting to whizzers and slowing down the sequences so that he can work his way off the cage. However, Garbrandt’s wrestling is much less pressure based as it is big explosive single moments. Hitting blast doubles when his opponents over commit to their punches is the primary means of takedown. If Garbrandt can consistently get to the hips this way, even if he cannot hold Kelleher down, it’s a veteran tactic to keep Kelleher guessing and earning points on the scorecard.

Kelleher is a good grappler, and the main issue Garbrandt will have to be wary of is his signature guillotine. On the other hand, both of Kelleher’s most recent losses have come by rear naked chokes, so if Garbrandt does get Kelleher down and he gives up his back trying to get back to his feet, look for Garbrandt to take advantage and sink in back control.

Garbrandt vs. Kelleher prediction

I believe Cody Garbrandt is being very smart with the fights he chooses right now. Not to say that Kelleher is not a very dangerous opponent, but Garbrandt is working his way back from a level that, on paper, he should be above.

Kelleher is a good test for anyone, and it will show the validity of Garbrandt’s additions later in his career, such as his improved kickboxing and veteran decision-making. I believe we see him mix in the wrestling more than he has before, and I believe the speed will make a major difference.

Pick: Cody Garbrandt to win (-220)

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