One of Australia’s most decorated combat sports athletes Daniel Kelly (13-3) heads to Liverpool this weekend to once again test his mettle in the UFC. The four-time Olympian will be looking to halt a two-fight losing streak and reestablish himself in the upper echelons of the middleweight division.
Standing in Kelly’s way will be the well-rounded Englishman Tom Breese (10-1). Having tasted defeat for the first time in his last outing Breese decided to move up from welterweight to middleweight. This may not come as a huge surprise seeing as Breese stands at a whopping 6’3’’ and must have had to cut a debilitating amount of weight to make the welterweight limit.
While he is moving up a division Breese’s physical attributes are still imposing even amongst the bigger bodies at middleweight. Fighting from a southpaw stance Breese will use his long reach to gauge the distance. The Englishman’s lead right hand will stay extended out in front of him, parrying and pawing at his opponent before snapping forward with a crisp jab. On the front foot, Breese will look to throw 1-2 combinations and occasionally will lead with his rear left hand to the body of the head. Breese also likes to punish his opponent’s body with a whipping rear leg snap kick and rear leg round kick to either the legs, body, or head.
However, it is on the counter where Breese may be most dangerous. In his most recent fight with Sean Strickland, he had a lot of difficulty closing the distance and coming forwards with his hands, continually eating Strickland’s counters. Alternatively, if his opponent comes to him and throws first Breese will look to slip their punches and land devastating counters.
This tendency to fight while moving backwards often means that Breese is backing into the fence. In most of his fights in the UFC Breese has allowed his opponent to press forward into the clinch and secure either a body lock or over-under control against the cage. While his most recent fights suggest that Breese has worked on regaining control once he hits the cage, it is still an area that could be exploited by Kelly.
On the ground Breese displays what I’d like to refer to as the modern fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His ground game reflects the modern nature of sports Jiu-Jitsu with its particular emphasis on leg attacks, however, Breese very rarely if ever puts himself in a position to get hit when going for a leg and moreover almost always uses leg attacks to sweep his opponent and gain a dominant position. Against Keita Nakamura Breese used leg attacks to get out from under his opponents mount, either using the submission attempt to stand back up or secure side control.
If Kelly can patiently pressure Breese to the cage while avoiding his counter shots, he will be able to employ his highly technical judo game and bring the fight to the ground. From there Kelly will need to use his weight and solid Jiu-Jitsu to avoid any scrambles and leg-entanglements that Breese will be looking to create.
Catch all the action this Sunday from 1 pm on Fox Sports.
Jake Crane is a Melbourne based contributor for Fight News Australia.