In the realm of submission grappling, a sport often likened to an intricate dance that masterfully melds brute strength, deliberate strategy, and impeccable technique, a new prodigy has taken center stage. ONE Fight Night 14 was more than just an event; it was the ascension of Danielle Kelly, the new superstar of the grappling universe. With the gleaming ONE atomweight submission grappling world championship title now in her grasp, her demeanor subtly echoed a challenge. If Jessa Khan envisioned a chance for a third face-off, she would need to delve deeper, honing her craft and proving herself worthy once more.
History and rivalry had made their earlier meeting a memory hard to forget. Their initial skirmish saw a triumphant Khan, leaving Kelly contemplating her strategies. However, destiny has its own designs. Their paths intertwined once again, and this time, the narrative was starkly different. Kelly, showcasing the expertise of Silver Fox BJJ, was a vision of focus and determination. Her resolve: to rewrite history. With each move, each counter, Kelly demonstrated her supremacy over Khan, a stalwart from the respected Art of Jiu-Jitsu Academy. By the time the judges announced their unanimous decision, it was clear. Kelly was not only avenging her past, but she was also cementing her legacy as the pioneer women’s submission grappling world champion in the revered ONE Championship.
September 29th at the Singapore Indoor Stadium became a day earmarked in the annals of grappling history. Those in attendance bore witness to a classic. Two elite BJJ black belts, with a combined reservoir of skill, knowledge, and ambition, locked horns in an epic battle of attrition. Kelly’s strategy was evident from the outset. Employing her superior tactics, she quickly asserted dominance, pinning Khan, the 21-year-old IBJJF World Champion making her promotional debut, against the Circle Wall. But Khan, with her characteristic nimbleness, transitioned into a closed guard, setting the stage for what was to become an edge-of-the-seat 10-minute contest.
Mid-bout, Khan seized an opportunity, sweeping Kelly off her feet and momentarily dictating the bout’s pace. Yet, Kelly’s resilience and fighting spirit were undeterred. In a moment that would define the match, Kelly, spotting an opening, masterfully executed a combination kneebar and toehold, a move that shifted the balance irrevocably in her favor.
As the minutes waned, desperation filled Khan’s moves. Recognizing her precarious position on points, she attempted a series of aggressive maneuvers, concluding with a valiant leg lock effort. However, Kelly’s unwavering defense and sustained pressure thwarted Khan’s advances.
The echoes of her victory reverberated beyond the stadium. Kelly’s triumph was not just a personal vindication against Khan. It marked her dazzling hat-trick of wins within the iconic ONE Championship arena, unequivocally establishing her as the unparalleled Women’s Atomweight Submission Grappling World Champion.
Reliving the night’s defining moments, Kelly reflected, “I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but you know I beat her pretty good today. I mean, she and I had a back exchange at one point, but I almost shook her out at the last 10 seconds.” Her tenure in the ONE Championship has been a spectacle, a journey punctuated by landmark victories, showcasing her evolving artistry and unmatched tenacity.
While Kelly soared, Khan faced introspection. A night that promised so much delivered little for the grappler, who came with a glittering resume studded with prestigious championship gold medals.
As for Kelly, the grappling horizon seems infinite. Whether she chooses to continue her domination in the world of grappling or contemplates a foray into the MMA arena, opportunities are bound to seek her out.
One significant edge that Kelly wielded over Khan was her experience inside the cage. While traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu battles unfurl on open mats, Kelly, since her 2022 ONE Championship initiation, has grown accustomed to the confines of the cage. This unique perspective was evident in her strategy against Khan. Emphasizing her adaptability, Kelly remarked during the official ONE Fight Night 14 post-fight interview, “For this one I wanted it more and I used the tools I had to use and over the time of the match, I showed that I was the better grappler.”
Her landmark victory places Kelly in the esteemed company of grappling elites within ONE, joining names like Kade Ruotolo and Mikey Musumeci. While the future beckons, Kelly yearns for a brief respite, musing, “Right now I’m just gonna enjoy the moment, gonna explore Singapore more and go back to work. I haven’t taken a vacation, so that’s what I’m gonna go do first and then I’m right back to work. This is what I love to do.”