Preview: UFC 254 Prelims

Kenney vs. Wood

By Tom Feely Oct 21, 2020

Bantamweights

Casey Kenney (15-2-1) vs. Nathaniel Wood (17-4)

ODDS: Kenney (-170), Wood (+150)

This is some excellent last-minute matchmaking by the UFC, as this fight was thrown together on short notice and might be the most evenly matched bout on the card. Kenney made his name in the UFC as a neutralizing counterwrestler: His first two assignments inside the Octagon came against Ray Borg and Manny Bermudez, and Kenney impressively shut down everything the two submission artists tried to attempt. Merab Dvalishvili proved to be too strong and too aggressive for Kenney to handle, but the Indiana native has rebounded in impressive fashion. A win over Louis Smolka was a quick affair, but Kenney’s victory over Heili Alateng on Oct. 3 was shockingly dominant, as he battered “The Mongolian Knight” on the feet for all 15 minutes of their encounter. To Kenney’s credit, he immediately made it clear that he wanted a quick turnaround to keep his momentum going, and the UFC matched him with Wood just three weeks later. Wood rightfully came into the UFC with some hype in 2018, as “The Prospect” was regarded as one of England’s best young talents. On the regional scene, Wood was a scrapper who could do a bit of everything, but his first three UFC bouts saw him rely on his wrestling and submission game, which led to some dominant wins over Andre Ewell and Jose Alberto Quinonez. Wood’s 2020 has been a bit more of a mixed bag. He was doing well until he got shocked and finished by John Dodson in February, but in a showcase performance against John Castaneda, he reminded everyone why he is such an exciting fighter to watch. There is basically nothing separating these guys, right down to the career arc. Both were reliably well-rounded on the regional scene, relied on their wrestling and grappling early in the UFC, suffered losses on the same card and are coming off career-best performances. The pick is Wood via decision, if only because he is more proven as a harder hitter, but a bout in the UFC is rarely this much of a coin flip.

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