It may take some time for reality to set in on Kevin Aguilar.
Opportunistic takedowns, effective counterpunching and a deep gas tank carried Aguilar to a split decision over Tony Kelley, as he claimed the vacant Legacy Fighting Championship featherweight title in the Legacy 57 headliner on Friday at the DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. Judges scored it 49-46 and 48-47 for Aguilar, 48-47 for Kelley.
A back-and-forth battle for much of its 25-minute duration, the fight took a turn in Aguilar’s favor in the fourth round. There, he had the previously unbeaten Kelley (3-1) reeling with right hands, a combination of fatigue and damage sending him stumbling around the cage. Aguilar (11-1) went on to execute a picturesque belly-to-back suplex before settling in half guard and applying his ground-and-pound.
Bleeding heavily from the nose, Kelley did all he could to take the outcome out of the judges’ hands during the final five minutes. He scored with stepping knees, staggered Aguilar with a clean right hook and briefly scrambled into top position after countering a takedown. Aguilar ultimately withstood his advances and walked away with a split verdict.
In the co-main event, former Legacy welterweight champion Derrick Krantz submitted Dave Burrow with a first-round rear-naked choke. Krantz (18-9) finished it 4:22 into round one, as the Bellator MMA alum won for the fourth time in five outings.
Burrow (14-8) never stood a chance. Krantz bullied his way into the clinch, struck for a pair of trip takedowns and passed guard with surprising ease. He advanced to full mount with a little more than a minute left in the first round, prompting Burrow to go belly down. Krantz then unleashed lefts and rights to the side of the head, cinched the choke and coaxed the tapout.
The 24-year-old Burrow has lost three of his last four fights.
Meanwhile, Octagon MMA rep Charles Byrd took out Quentin Henry with first-round punches in their middleweight showcase. Byrd (7-4) brought it to a close 2:50 into round one, as he recorded his third victory in four appearances.
Henry (10-4) had his chance, nearly finishing it with a kimura. Byrd freed his arm, escaped to his feet and executed a takedown. He softened Henry with ground-and-pound from half guard, climbed to full mount and later forced the Louisianan to surrender his back. From there, Byrd flattened out the 26-year-old and let loose with punches until referee Jordan Bass had seen enough.
The loss snapped Henry’s modest two-fight winning streak.
In other action, Joe Valadez (2-1) submitted David Bosnick (6-4) with a rear-naked choke 4:22 into round one of their lightweight tilt; Dan Ige (4-1) disposed of Craig Campbell (1-2) with punches 3:31 into the first round of their pairing at 145 pounds; and Bi Nguyen (1-0) captured a unanimous decision from Andy Nguyen (2-3) in a women’s atomweight clash, earning 29-28 marks from all three judges.