Casey Kenney on UFC Rio Rancho: Merab Dvalishvili ‘is a good fight to solidify where I belong’
This Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 25, Kenney (13-1-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is searching for his first finish under the promotion’s banner against Merab Dvalishvili in a concerted effort to increase his in-cage excitement.
“I started talking about (finishes) after my last fight,” Kenney told MMA Junkie. I’m going to stand in the middle there, and I’m going to throw down. Once he feels I can hit pretty hard, I think he’s going to take me down. Then, we have a full mixed martial arts battle on our hands. I think I’m going to be successful there.”
Since his most recent fight in August, Kenney graced the UFC’s official flyweight rankings. He’s currently slotted at No. 15. While he looked to fight a ranked opponent, Kenney settled for a “realistic” option in Dvalishvili (9-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC).
“After Borg and Bermudez, I was kind of in the back of my head hoping for a big name,” Kenney said. “You’ve got to shoot for the stars, right? This is a more realistic one to solidify where I’m at. They ranked me in the top 15 at No. 15, so I’m super grateful for that. I only have two fights in the bantamweight division. I think this is a good fight to solidify where I belong. From there, I’ll start working my way up into the top 10 or top five.”
Despite setting goals, Kenney isn’t overlooking Dvalishvili, who has a .500 record in the UFC, but Kenney thinks the Georgian could easily be undefeated had a couple of things gone differently.
“He’s a tough guy and is going to bring an exciting fight,” Kenney said. “I’ve been watching his fights, and I think he could easily be 4-0 in the UFC if a couple things go differently. That’s a big task within itself. He’s a high-energy guy, and he’s going to come forward. We’ll see. The main thing with him is stopping his takedowns, stopping his bodylock – that type of thing. It should be an interesting fight.”
The UFC’s 135-pound division is crowded territory. Kenney recognizes how stacked it is, so he isn’t rushing himself. Kenney aims to be a fight or two away from a title shot by the start of 2021.
“Obviously getting to the belt in such a stacked weight class in one year is going to be a tough task,” Kenney said. “We’ll more realistically keep working my way up. Maybe by 2021 we’ll be sitting one of two fights away from getting that title shot. (I have) to keep winning, keep working my way up the top 15 ladder. If you keep winning, good things will happen to you.”
UFC on ESPN+ 25 takes place Saturday at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M. The event streams on ESPN+.