Casey Kenney Sweeps Scorecards for Interim Legacy Fighting Alliance Flyweight Crown

Casey Kenney took the path of least resistance to Legacy Fighting Alliance gold.

The MMA Lab standout used well-timed takedowns, a crushing top game and punishing ground-and-pound to beat Brandon Royval by unanimous decision for the interim flyweight championship in the LFA 53 headliner on Friday at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix. Scores were 50-45, 50-44 and 50-45, all of them for Kenney (10-1-1, 3-0-1 LFA), who figures to meet reigning 125-pound champion Maikel Perez in a unification bout sometime in the first half of 2019.

After some give and take across the first five minutes, Kenney sidestepped the standup in favor of his more trusted skills. He secured takedowns in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds, often pairing them with oppressive control, ground-and-pound and the constant threat of a submission. Royval (8-4, 4-2 LFA) refused to give in to his advances but found himself virtually powerless in a majority of the exchanges. So ended his three-fight winning streak.

In the welterweight co-main event, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Kyle Stewart rode repeated takedowns, suffocating positional control and adequate ground-and-pound to a unanimous decision over Braden Smith. Stewart (11-1, 3-1 LFA) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 30-24 marks from the judges.

Smith (8-3, 1-2 LFA) was never a factor. Stewart delivered takedowns in all three rounds, piled up points with elbow-laced ground-and-pound and operated effectively from full guard, half guard and mount. Smith saw a brief window of opportunity open and close in the third round, where he freed himself from full mount and reversed into top position. Soon after, Stewart rose to his feet and shut down thoughts of a comeback.

With welterweight titleholder James Nakashima on his way to One Championship, the 29-year-old Stewart figures to be in line for a crack at the vacant throne.

Meanwhile, Siege MMA prospect, Kamuela Kirk submitted Kevin Croom with a triangle choke in the first round of their featherweight feature. Croom (18-11, 1-2 LFA) conceded defeat 3:54 into Round 1, as he was submitted for the fifth time in his career.

Kirk (8-2, 2-0 LFA) executed a takedown, applied his ground-and-pound and advanced to the back before hunting the rear-naked choke. Croom escaped but only for a brief moment. The James Krause protégé returned to his feet, shot an ill-advised takedown and wandered into the triangle choke. Kirk sold out on the maneuver and prompted the tapout after a brief struggle.

The 24-year-old Kirk has finished his last three opponents inside one round.

Elsewhere, crisp and accurate multi-strike bursts carried Jackson-Wink MMA export Andrew Tenneson to a unanimous decision over Joey Miolla in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Tenneson (7-1, 2-0 LFA): 30-27, 30-26 and 29-28.

Miolla (10-4, 1-2 LFA) was under duress from the start. Tenneson targeted his body and head, doing serious damage with liver kicks and repeated clinch knees upstairs. Only Miolla’s unbreakable resolve kept him upright for the duration. Tenneson put all his tools on display, including a beautiful double left hook in the second round that stunned his counterpart and forced him to retreat. Miolla landed a few counter right hands in the waning moments but had no real answer for the weaponry his counterpart brought to bear.

Tenneson has rattled off four consecutive victories.

In other action, Bellator MMA veteran LaRue Burley took a unanimous decision from Manny Villareal in a three-round catchweight affair at 165 pounds; Harvey Park picked up a unanimous decision over Leville Simpson in a three-round lightweight battle, despite fighting for two-plus rounds with what appeared to be a compound fracture to one of his fingers; Kevin Natividad banked a unanimous decision against Tom Ni in a three-round bantamweight confrontation; Ryan Shell put away Jimmy Scully with punches 1:43 into the first round of their catchweight pairing at 165 pounds; and Hunter Azure was awarded a unanimous verdict over A.J. Robb in a three-round bantamweight tilt.
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