UFC 254’s Casey Kenney: I’m “a Level Above” Nathaniel Wood

Casey Kenney
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 04: Casey Kenney poses for a post fight portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on October 04, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Casey Kenney (15-2-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) will look to get the better of fellow bantamweight prospect Nathaniel Wood (17-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) in their UFC 254 showdown.

“I think it’s a great match-up,” Kenney told MMASucka. “Two up-and-coming guys who have the same record in the UFC. Both very well-rounded. But I’m looking to show him what kind of level I’m on, and I think that’s a level above him.”

Kenney predicts he’ll finish Wood at some point in the contest and snare his fifth Octagon win. He just doesn’t know if it’ll come in the first, second, or third round.

“If I catch him early, great. If not, I’m going to run him over,” he said. “All gas, no breaks for this one again. If he survives the late rounds, we’ll see how that goes.”

Kenney notes that Wood has won a lot of his fights by out-grappling his competition. However, Kenney feels he holds advantages in the speed and grappling departments.

“[Wood’s grappling] is good, but it’s not where my level is,” Kenney said. “I obviously showed where my striking is in my last fight. I’m just ready for everything, everywhere. I’m going to let the fight come to me and put him away whichever way he wants to go out.”

The bout marks a quick turnaround for Kenney, who defeated Heili Alateng on Oct. 3 at a Fight Island card. Kenney will return to Fight Island, Abu Dhabi three weeks after that bout.

Kenney had the option to stay on Fight Island after his unanimous decision over Alateng but opted to return home for a 10-day training camp. Had he stayed, it would’ve been another 20 days on the island.

“The safe zone they have us on is good for fight week, but to stay there for almost 30 days would be a little much for me,” Kenney said.

Of course, the safe zone is necessary due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. In normal times, Kenney said he would have loved to see more of Abu Dhabi or Dubai, but remaining healthy is part of the job.

It didn’t take long for the contest with Wood to materialize after Kenney’s win over Alateng.

“I remember every minute when I jumped out of there and said ‘I want to fight next weekend,’” Kenney recalls from his Oct. 3 fight. “Some people talk about it, and I’m definitely about that. Here we are. Obviously, the next weekend wasn’t really in the books, so three weeks is a quick enough turnaround for me.”

Kenney’s lone UFC blemish came to No. 13-ranked bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili, who has a fight booked against No. 12 Cody Stamann. Kenney holds promotional wins over former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg, Louis Smolka and Manny Bermudez, though.

Fellow prospect Wood also has one UFC loss: former two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson. But his victories include Andre Ewell and John Castaneda.

Kenney feels a win over Wood will get him one more win away from a top-15 opponent. But should the UFC offer a ranked foe, Kenney’s ready for the opportunity.

“My ultimate goal is to get to the title. Getting in those rankings; they don’t mean everything. That’s part of it. You get back in there, you get the fights that you want. And really, I think I’m ready for a top-15, top-10 guy.”

UFC 254 is scheduled for Oct. 24 on pay-per-view. The preliminary card will air on ESPN 2. The card is headlined by a UFC lightweight championship fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.

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