The UFC 265 main card on August 7 will be opened up by two up-and-coming bantamweights, who look to rebound from recent losses. American Judoka-wrestler Casey Kenney most recently found himself on the wrong end of a hard-fought decision to bantamweight legend Dominick Cruz. Former Sanda fighter, Yadong Song, on the other hand, coming off a tough battle with Kyler Phillips where he too, lost on the scorecards.
Prior to these losses, both men had surged through the 135-pound ranks, and whoever wins on Saturday will look to re-enter the top #15. Although young at only 23-years-old, Song boasts a wealth of experience, with a lifetime of Chinese martial arts under his belt and professionally debuting in MMA at only age 16.
Hailing from Portland, Indiana, Kenney is a multiple-time national Judo champion along with holding state gold in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Both fighters have worked their way to round out their MMA games and are some of the most promising fighters in the sport.
Song vs. Kenney betting odds
We’re just days away from this fight at UFC 265 and MyBookie has this one at near-even odds. Casey Kenney is the slight favorite but Song Yadong is also at minus odds.
Song vs. Kenney breakdown
The keys to victory in this fight for Casey Kenney should be his takedown, his jab, and his left kick.
While Song, as expected from a Team Alpha Male fighter, is quick to scramble to his feet, we have seen fighters in the past have success taking him down, especially later in the fight. With far greater experience in the grappling realm, this could be a very important tool for Kenney to mix things up and not allow Song to gain momentum.
Song is extremely powerful and has excellent timing, however one habit which has been exploited in the past, is he doesn’t jab his way into range. He will often shuffle his way in and look to land with power right off the bat, which leaves a small opening for Kenney to exploit, which is why his jab and reactive takedowns could play an important role.
From the outside, Kenney’s best weapon is his wicked left kick, both to the leg and the body. With little wind-up, Kenney has successfully timed this kick on his opponents in many fights, and they are by far his cleanest and most devastating shots. It is also the longest weapon between both of them, as Song much prefers to strike in the pocket. Therefore Kenney should look to use it to score and frustrate Song while they are at a greater distance. As a southpaw facing and orthodox, that left kick should be open.
For Song, he is a bit sharper, quicker, and more powerful than Kenney and much lighter on his feet. He often pressures forward and draws out his opponent’s attacks, but is quick enough to intercept with hard shots down the middle. Look for Song to take the center of the octagon and pick his punches more methodically.
His best option is in the pocket, Song not only has cleaner striking but he also has a wider variety of strikes. Kenney sometimes has a habit of dropping his face and swinging back when put under too much pressure, which is where Song poses the most danger. He has to be aware of Kenney’s left leg kick when he enters range but should look to time his counters and capitalize when Kenney feels overwhelmed.
Both fighters start strong, but Kenney has faded and Song has lost composure in their most recent outings. When Kenney found himself breathing heavily in the third against Cruz, he began throwing one shot at a time, loading up and telegraphing. When Song found himself losing by the third, he resigned himself to chasing his opponent rather than cutting off the octagon and punching wider than his usual and technical self.
When it gets to the third round, both fighters have the potential to falter, whoever is able to overcome this past obstacle will likely finish out stronger.
Song vs. Kenney prediction
I think this will be a closely contested fight. There are many areas in which Kenney can win, however, I think that Kenney is more likely to gas himself out in such a close match-up skills-wise, leaving him more vulnerable at times. In these moments, he leaves too much room to be countered and Song is just a bit more technical and quick. If Song can make his way back to his feet quickly when taken down, I see him picking up a victory in the third.
Prediction: Song Yadong wins via KO in round 3
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.