Davis' Power Doesn't Scare Granite-Chinned Kelly

Oct 14, 2008
When UFC 89 convenes this Saturday in Birmingham, England, Michael Bisping will not be the only British fighter looking to dodge explosive left crosses.

A little further down the lineup, Bisping’s Wolfslair Academy teammate Paul Kelly will have his hands full with Boston-based veteran Marcus Davis. Like Bisping’s opponent, Chris Leben, Davis wields a nap-inducing left hand.

A granite tough ground-and-pound artist, Kelly believes it’s the perfect time to challenge a southpaw, especially for fighters at the Wolfslair Academy.

“It’s crazy,” Kelly says. “None of our lads have really [fought] southpaws, and suddenly there are three of us fighting them at the same time. We all have a similar focus. Everything is back-to-front with [southpaws], but we’re getting it all worked out.”

Kelly, set to make his second appearance in the UFC, claims to have been unaffected by “Octagon jitters.” A professional for a little less than three years, the 24-year-old seems comfortable competing under the bright lights on his sport’s biggest stage.

“I’m cool,” Kelly says. “Mentally, I have never been the type of fighter who convinces himself he has to win. My outlook has always been to go in and have a good fight, and there’s no reason to change my mindset for this fight. It suits me, so why change it?”

Davis (14-4) has won 11 of his last 12 fights and presents a formidable challenge for anyone at 170 pounds. The 35-year-old carries with him two of the heaviest hands in the welterweight division. Kelly has worked with professional boxer Tony Quigley Jr. in an attempt to simulate what he will face at UFC 89.

“I’m in a good place right now,” Kelly says. “We’re a bit worried about Marcus’ power, but I’ve got a pretty solid chin. When I spar, people often say the same: ‘F--king hell. What’s in your head?’ I’m very confident in my ability to take a punch. Tony hits as hard as anyone I have ever sparred with.”

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Marcus Davis will be a
tough test for Kelly.
Wolfslair conditioning coach Lee Gwynne feels the pressure in the Kelly-Davis bout rests firmly on the American’s shoulders.

“Paul’s going in as an underdog, and he’s not really going in the fight with a lot to lose,” Gwynne says. “Marcus lost his last fight, while Paul won his. Davis is highly ranked, and a win over him will elevate Paul.”

In advance of his showdown with Davis, Kelly admits the rigors of his brutal training regimen have taken their toll on him physically.

“It’s so hard,” the Liverpool, England, slugger says with a sigh. “I can’t even feel how fit I am right now because I’m so tired. The day begins with a mile-and-a-half warm-up and then three five-minute sprints of one mile each flat out, then back for breakfast, then on to the Wolfslair [for sparring, grappling and conditioning], then home to sleep for a few a few hours.”

It does not end there.

“I’m also doing weights on Tuesday and Thursday, doing kettle bells and circuits,” Kelly says. “I’m so knackered there are times I hate everyone, but Lee Gwynne has been with me from the start. I couldn’t do it without him. He keeps me so disciplined.”

Gwynne’s attention to detail knows no bounds.

“Recently, I [got] home at 10:15 [p.m.], and he was waiting for me absolutely fuming,” Kelly says. “As punishment, they made me do two workout sets on my day off. He’s my mentor, on my case 100 percent, 24 hours a day.”

Gwynne likes what he sees in Kelly.

“Paul can best be described as an old diesel engine; it takes a while to get him warmed up, but he goes on forever once you get him motivated,” he says. “There are always a lot of tensions come fight time, and people get very touchy, but make no mistake, Paul’s looking forward to this fight, and he’s more than ready to do three five-minute rounds.”

Kelly also benefited from Ricco Rodriguez’s presence. The former UFC heavyweight champion worked alongside Kelly at the Wolfslair Academy, as he prepped for his Oct. 4 bout against Rob Broughton at Cage Gladiators IX. The atmosphere at the camp wowed Rodriguez.

“The level of hard work and dedication in the gym is phenomenal,” Rodriguez says. “Working out alongside these guys has really motivated me to stay home and focus.”

Kelly started out at as a middleweight, but he has settled in nicely at 170 pounds. Two weeks prior to his bout with Davis, he tipped the scales around 185.

“I don’t plan on being much heavier than that by fight time,” Kelly says. “My strength has always been through the roof, but I read [that Davis] is not doing too much in the way of weights for this fight, so he can focus more on speed and agility. I need to be prepared for that, too.”

Kelly has sharpened his wrestling skills, as well. The Wolfslair Academy brought in quality coaches to assist with his preparation, including International Fight League veteran and “The Ultimate Fighter” season seven cast member Gerald Harris. World-class Bulgarian wrestlers were also welcomed into the camp.

“I have always felt comfortable strength-wise with the wrestling,” Kelly says. “Everyone who has rolled with me tells me how strong I am; I have always felt stronger than anyone I have rolled with.”

Davis plied his trade as a hard-hitting boxer before becoming a full-time mixed martial artist. In recent fights, the American has demonstrated his versatility and progression with several impressive submission victories. Kelly does not plan to take anything for granted should their bout hit the floor.

“In top position, I have never been bridged, but even if I am on top imposing my will, I need to watch out for his submissions,” Kelly says. “He’s said a few bad things recently, like he’s going to punch holes in me. I’ve got full respect for Marcus.”

When asked what he expects come fight time, Kelly made only one guarantee.

“Don’t blink,” he says. “It’s going to be a good, action-packed fight. Marcus and I could be ‘Fight of the Night.’ I wouldn’t ever predict a fight outcome, but one thing I will predict is that I’ll leave my heart and soul in that cage.”
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