Fresh off a breakout year that saw her become the leading atomweight submission grappler on the ONE Championship roster, Danielle Kelly is ready to take another huge step forward and carve her name into the history books in 2023.
Kelly will open her campaign for the new year at ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II on Friday, February 24, as she’s slated to face third-degree judo black belt and Japanese MMA strawweight contender Ayaka “Zombie” Miura in a catchweight submission grappling matchup.
The 27-year-old Philadelphia native is now unbeaten in both of her promotional outings, having made a name for herself as the woman to beat in the atomweight submission grappling division.
Following a fantastic 10-minute battle with Mei Yamaguchi at ONE X last March, earning a US$50,000 performance bonus in doing so, Kelly returned to action in emphatic fashion at November’s ONE Fight Night 4: Abbasov vs. Lee against sambo expert Mariia Molchanova.
The American made short work of the Russian, choking out Molchanova within three minutes to pick up yet another US$50,000 bonus for her efforts.
As her first bout of 2023 draws nearer, glimmers of the ONE atomweight submission grappling world championship are shining bright in the eyes of Kelly.
With Mikey Musumeci and Kade Ruotolo already holding the promotion’s only active submission grappling belts, the Silver Fox BJJ representative has plans to join her fellow compatriots when her division’s title officially gets inaugurated.
“I want to win that women’s title for 115 [pounds], for sure,” she asserted.
In her way of reaching one step closer to history, though, is Miura.
A former ONE world title challenger with a sublime submission pedigree, the Japanese star holds six MMA victories alone with her vicious scarf-hold Americana. And with the grappling match being contested at 119 pounds, she will pose the sternest of tests to Kelly later this month.
It is a battle between the prodigy against the present, and the battling brunette has shifted her focus primarily onto managing what the “Zombie” brings to the dance.
Despite the prowess of the expert judoka who will be standing in front of her at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 24, Kelly’s recent momentum provides her with the confidence to predict another submission finish.
“I’ll be submitting her. I would like to get a choke. I think leg locks are starting to be overrated, but if I get a leg lock, then I’ll just go for it. But I don’t want to just have tunnel vision on it,” the Philadelphia grappler said.
“I’ve been working on my wrestling. I’m trying to get back to that because I used to wrestle a lot. I don’t want to be just a guard puller. So, if I go against her, I think it’d be a fun match because I know she’s a judo black belt. I think she does a lot of takedowns for MMA fights. So yeah, we’re figuring out her game.”