After a 12-month absence from the cage in 2019, Brian Kelleher somehow managed to stay active in 2020 despite the COVID-19 crisis, competing for the third time already this year Saturday.
But in his second bout since the pandemic scrambled the sports world, Selden’s Kelleher fell to Cody Stamann in a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) at UFC 250 in Las Vegas, ending his perfect start to the year. Kelleher landed a few heavy shots late, but couldn’t do enough to change the tide of the fight against Stamann in a featherweight bout.
Kelleher (21-11, 5-4 UFC) took the loss after a quick turnaround off his previous victory. After a victory in January, Kelleher was among those to get the call when the UFC first came back with three events over an eight-day stretch last month in Jacksonville, Florida. Despite fighting a weight class up, he stood out against Hunter Azure with a second-round knockout on May 13, coming out of the bout relatively unscathed. Kelleher was thrown into action again on short notice against Stamann, but failed to earn the first three-fight win streak in the UFC.
The UFC hosted the event at its recently-opened APEX facility with no fans in attendance because of the ongoing pandemic. It was the second straight event in the building. UFC 250 originally was scheduled for May 9 at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paolo, Brazil, but the arena was converted to a field hospital in April and the event was postponed until Saturday.
Michigan native Stamann (19-2-1, 5-1-1 UFC) competed despite the sudden death of his 18-year old brother on May 27, dedicating the bout to his memory in an interview with ESPN ahead of the fight. The 30-year-old broke down in tears at the fight’s conclusion.
“It’s been hard, it’s been real hard, been fighting tears all day. It’s just a hard time for me. Brian Kelleher, thanks so much for coming out and doing it tonight,” Stamann said in his post fight interview. “I have an amazing team, so many amazing people around me, I wouldn’t be here without them. They told me let’s go do this for you brother and we’ll mourn him after, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Kelleher and Stamann traded shots early in the first round with Stamann using his movement to control the cage. With two minutes left in the round, Kelleher briefly hit the canvas after a Stamann punch, but shook off any damage and continued to exchange blows.
Early in the second, Kelleher tried to change gears, engaging in the clinch and going for a takedown against the cage, however Stamann fought it off and went back on the offensive as Stamann’s feints had Kelleher often swinging often at nothing but air.
Kelleher worked for the big blow to change the direction of the fight when they came out in the third round. He went for a handful of spinning punches, and at first couldn’t connect with enough substance to impact the outcome. Midway through the round, he connected with a pair of punches that sent Stamann back a bit, landing more and more as the round progressed. He kept up his pace and scored a takedown as the clock closed, but didn’t convince the judges to award him a single frame.