Last year wasn’t a good year for debuting fighters in the UFC as the unofficial record for the year was 56-82-2. In this feature, myself and a few other talented journalists will give our thoughts on each fight that has a debuting fighter competing. This will be a friendly competition that continue for each card that has a debuting fighter(s). First up, UFC 246.
To open up 2020 the UFC is going all-out with the return of “The Notorious” Conor McGregor against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. When it comes to debuting fighters the card will host two DWCS contract winners making their first UFC walk.
Ode Osbourne (8-2) Vs. Brian Kelleher (19-10)
Narrative: Osbourne is making his UFC debut at UFC 246 coming off an impressive win last Summer on the Contender Series. In his Contender Series bout Ode was a slight underdog at +160 but beat Armando Villarreal via armbar in the first round earning himself the UFC contract. “The Jamaican Sensation” is putting his four-fight win streak on the line and looks to be the next fighter to put Jamaica on the map. Looking to stop the momentum of Osbourne is a 29-fight veteran in Brian Kelleher. Kelleher started off his career hot with wins over Iuri Alcântara, Damian Stasiak, and Renan Barao. He’s hit a rough patch in his career losing and getting finished in his last two fights and not fighting at all in 2019. It very much seems like a must-win for Kelleher.
Shawn Bitter: Kelleher may be on a two-fight skid but those are to Montel Jackson and John Lineker. Osbourne hasn’t fought the best competition and against a guy like Kelleher it may be too much too soon. I really like Ode on the feet as I think he will be the much faster guy and all-around has more weapons. Standing, I think he can exploit his range with footwork, long stikes, and kickboxing as he has an eight-inch reach advantage. Kelleher could very well use his wrestling but Ode has some dangerous BJJ especially off his back.
Max Freedman: While Osborne’s DWCS win was impressive, it can’t be ignored he was behind in that fight. His record or strength of experience doesn’t set the world on fire either. In fact, his two losses came to fighters out of the same training Camp (Valle-Flow Striking). Kelleher has been in the sport for over a decade and has fought very high-level competition. Kelleher evens the score against Pura Vida BJJ with a one-sided decision win.
Kristen King: Trying to predict a winner between Brian Kelleher and Ode Osbourne was difficult, but I am leaning towards the latter to emerge victorious on Saturday night. Osbourne has a serious fight on his hands considering the fight style of Kelleher is something that can easily hand him his third professional loss. Osbourne struggles a bit when it comes to defending takedowns and Kelleher is relentless when he goes for them, so getting the fight to the ground and keeping it there could benefit Kelleher. Having said that, Osbourne is pretty good off his back and is not afraid to throw up submissions that can catch his opponent. Outside of the ground game, Osbourne is an explosive and powerful striker who can very well shut the lights out on Kelleher at any moment. Kelleher can hold his own in the striking department as well, but I think Osbourne gets the better of him during the exchanges. I see more ways for Osbourne to win this fight than I do Kelleher, so my pick is Osbourne.
Marcel Dorff: Ode Osbourne did very well earlier this year during the DWCS. He did earn a contract and we will finally see him making his UFC debut against Brian Kelleher. Osbourne trains at Pura Vida BJJ with Zak Ottow and Montel Jackson. He takes on the more experienced Brian Kelleher at UFC 246. Kelleher had some great performances so far in the Octagon but also some underwhelming outings. I think it will be a close fight. But I expect a slight advantage for the newcomer. Don’t forget he trains daily with the guys who defeated Kelleher recently. Osbourne UD.
Ryan Fortune: Osbourne and Kelleher is an exciting bantamweight match-up. Prospect Ode Osbourne faces veteran Brian Kelleher, in a fight where I’m picking Ode Osbourne to win inside the distance. Osbourne is a main training partner of Montel Jackson at Pura Vida BJJ/MMA, who was the last man to defeat Brian Kelleher (and he did so with relative ease, dropping Kelleher before submitting in the first round), so that is a thing that could come into Osbourne and his camp’s favor. Another thing in the favor of Osbourne is that he holds a big reach advantage over Kelleher, containing a 72” reach compared to Kelleher’s 64” reach. Though I believe Osbourne could do well on the feet, I think his better path of victory is catching Kelleher in a submission. Despite Kelleher having a solid ground game himself and being a submission threat with his Guillotine choke, he has lost via Submission six times in his career, including twice in the UFC. Osbourne is tricky off his back and I believe he has the ability to catch Kelleher in his guard, where Osbourne did catch his opponent in his Contender Series bout. Kelleher is also coming off a long layoff and has lost his two bouts (both via stoppage), so there is also cause for concern there. Although Kelleher is in a must-win situation against a younger prospect who hasn’t fought the level of competition that Kelleher has, I believe Osbourne gets the job done, early in the fight. Kelleher’s grit and determination doesn’t rule him out here, but I can’t pick him to win this fight.
Keith Shillan: While doing film study for the past season of the Dana White’s Contender Series, Ode Osbourne was one of the fighters that most impressed me. The self proclaimed “Picasso of MMA” is a school teacher by day and a sharpshooter striker by night. The Southpaw is a fast and accurate striker, who is aggressive but also remains in control of his shots. He does well to fire off combinations with his check right hook being his best strike. He loves to excite the crowd with spinning attacks and flying knees and dispatches heavy leg kicks though he ignores checking his opponent’s kicks. He makes the mistake of carrying his hands too low and by avoiding strikes by just pulling his head straight back. The Wisconsin native is a former NCAA wrestler but has been taken down by lesser opponents than his adversary on Saturday, Brian Kelleher. “The Jamaican Sensation” pummels his foes with hard ground and pound and is a submission threat from both top and bottom. He can spend too much time on bottom looking for a submission instead of scrambling to his feet. Osbourne is taking a major step up in competition by facing Kelleher. “Boom” is a crafty veteran, who makes up for his lack of athleticism and technique with grit, toughness, and a relentless pace. His experience will be very hard for Osbourne to overcome but I am still taking the débutant to handle his business. I believe he has an advantage on the feet and possibly even on the ground. Kelleher is no easy test for anybody but I think Osbourne is able to get past him and move to 1-0 in the Premier MMA organization.
Anthony Walker: I’ll take Kelleher over Osbourne at UFC 246. Osbourne has proven to be a good finisher and has some serious submissions. But Kelleher is a huge step up in competition and is no slouch in the finishing department himself. Plus he’s gone the stretch against tougher opponents. Unless he makes a quick mistake, he should get his hand raised