After facing her toughest opponent yet in ONE Championship, it has become clear that Danielle Kelly has separated herself from the atomweight submission grappling pack.
Kelly met former ONE women’s strawweight world title challenger Ayaka “Zombie” Miura in a 119-pound catchweight submission grappling bout at ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II on February 24th, where the Japanese judoka gave the Silver Fox BJJ affiliate her sternest test yet.
Over the course of the 10-minute contest, both ladies gave one another all they had, and Miura appeared to have the American BJJ standout caught in her infamous “Ayaka Lock” – a scarf-hold Americana that has led to six victories in MMA competition.
Having survived the Japanese athlete’s numerous attempts and catching Miura in dangerous predicaments of her own, it was Kelly who took home the unanimous decision victory.
“I’m proud of it. I’m literally 10-15 pounds lighter than her. I agreed to fight at catchweight with her, and she’s really good, really strong,” Kelly said.
“I’ve been drilling since my last match. I’ve been drilling a lot of armbar escapes and blocks like that. She would go for it, but I think the most annoying or painful thing was the squeeze on my neck or my head.
“My arm was pretty flexible, so every time, I just kept turning my elbow down. She would just kind of extend this or like in my elbow. Yeah, I think the only really annoying thing was my head was getting squeezed, and it was her hip and her arm on my head squeezing; that wasn’t fun. I felt that a lot. [But] arm was fine.”
The win marked the Philadelphia native’s second ONE Championship triumph following her quick-fire victory over sambo world champion Mariia Molchanova, making her the frontrunner for the soon-to-be inaugurated ONE atomweight submission grappling world title.
Kelly may be dreaming about gold, but a name from her past also sits fresh in her mind. That name is Jessa Khan.
The BJJ black belts last met in 2021, with Khan defeating the 27-year-old dynamo by decision. And now that the Cambodian-American has signed with ONE, the Philadelphia native hopes to run it back with 26 pounds of gold on the line.
Kelly feels she has improved tenfold since their first encounter and wants to right the wrongs that took place almost two years ago.
“I mentioned Jessa, just because I know she signed for ONE. I haven’t seen her compete yet for ONE Championship. So, I would like to see If we’re going to compete for the title,” she said.
“It’s really important. I want to prove myself that I’ve gotten better. I just want to prove myself, and I want that one back. Yeah, I don’t know. I really want that one back, that’s all I can say, and just prove that I belong here and now, I’m going to win that title.”