Australia’s newest MMA poster boy, Daniel Kelly (13-1) is on a dream run in the UFC middleweight division and the question on most Australian MMA fan’s lips is; What is next for the 39 year-old Aussie?
“We’ll see what they (UFC) offer me in the next week or so. As long as it’s a ranked guy. I don’t really mind,” stated Kelly after his split-decision victory over former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
Outside of the top six in the middleweight division, who along with Georges St-Pierre are all in the immediate title picture, the options for Kelly seem relatively open.
“Anderson Silva’s everyone’s dream fight,” said Kelly when asked about who he thinks he should fight next. Despite this, Kelly remained extremely non-committal when it came to naming a preferred opponent.
One of the potential names who Kelly could fight next is Vitor Belfort. Belfort was defeated via first round TKO at the hands of middleweight newcomer Kevin Gastelum at UFC Forteleza last weekend. This defeat was 39-year-old Belfort’s third in a row and with only one fight left on his current UFC deal, it seems that retirement is a real possibility for the future Hall of Famer. The opportunity to fight another standout like Belfort may be very tempting for the Aussie.
Another potential opponent would be number 13 ranked middleweight Uriah Hall. Like Belfort, Hall is another fighter on a three-fight losing streak and seems destined on his current run of form to fall out of the top 15 middleweight rankings. Perhaps it would be fitting for Kelly to gain entry into the top 15 by defeating a guy who is seemingly on his way out.
Other potential fights for the Aussie would be against big hitting American Tim Boetsch, a rematch with Sam Alvey or Brazilian ground-and-pound specialist Thales Leites. A win against any of these men would likely secure Kelly a spot in the rankings.
Kelly’s run of good form started when he defeated American Steve Montgomery in November 2015 at the infamous UFC 193 in Melbourne where Holly Holm shocked the world and knocked out the then untouchable Ronda Rousey.
After this win, Kelly went on to secure two more wins on home soil over Brazilian Antonio Carlos Junior at UFC Brisbane in March 2016 and American Chris Camozzi at UFC Melbourne in November 2016. Kelly then received an offer to fight in the fighting capital of the world, Las Vegas, against Rashad Evans.
Supporters of Kelly will hopefully find out soon who he will be facing next and where. The UFC Auckland card coming up in June seems to be a good fit, but whether the right opponent can be found for that time remains to be seen.
Sean McKernan is a Melbourne based writer for Fight News Australia.