And on November 18, jiu-jitsu black belt Kelly will look to make it 3-0 when she takes on Sambo World Champion Molchanova live in North American primetime.
Unlike the elite BJJ players Kelly typically faces, the sambo stylist will bring a unique set of skills developed over years of training and competing at the highest levels of the Russian martial art.
Despite the uncommon challenges Molchanova will present, the Philadelphia-bred grappler is brimming with confidence – especially because it won’t be her first time facing a sambo specialist.
Kelly told ONEFC.com:
“I competed in sambo. I trained it a little bit at one point, but I competed in a sambo tournament. The first one I think was right after high school or during high school. I won, and I took first place in both tournaments that year and the year after.”
Of course, sambo is different from submission grappling in several key ways. In sambo, fighters wear wrestling shoes and a gi top, while points are scored for elements like takedowns.
Under the ONE Submission Grappling Global Rule Set, competitors are barefoot and in no-gi attire, while judges only score aggression and legitimate submission threats.
Drawing from her experience competing in both sambo and submission grappling, Kelly believes ONE’s rule set favors the jiu-jitsu athlete – and she’s also convinced that BJJ is the stronger discipline.
The 26-year-old said:
“For this match, she’s not going to have the gi, so I think it’ll be in my favor. But I think the rule set, too, is they’re very aggressive with takedowns, so I think they’re very favored in that aspect of the match.
‘Yeah, I have some experience, so when people are like, ‘Oh, you should do sambo, compete in that sport, too,’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, I did, but I won, too, so what now?’ But yeah, it’s fine, but jiu-jitsu is better.”
Kelly Plans To Tap Molchanova In Under Two Minutes
Naturally, Kelly has scouted her opponent.
She applauds the Russian for her sheer aggression, recognizing the Sambo World Champion’s fast starts and submission-hunting mindset.
The American said:
“I think she’s really good at charging for submissions. From the matches I’ve seen, she just goes right to it. She doesn’t give the other girl a chance to really defend herself, especially her armbars.”
Never one to mince words, though, Kelly’s praise for Molcanova stops there.
In fact, she believes the Russian lacks refined submission techniques, making it relatively simple to escape from an attempt:
“If she tries to give me an armbar, I have an answer for that, and I don’t think her finish mechanics are that great.”
According to Kelly, the ultra-aggressive, grip-it-and-rip-it approach that carried Molchanova to the top of the sambo world simply won’t cut it against BJJ experts like herself.
“I think for her art, she’s probably just good at ripping stuff. But she doesn’t really have the mechanics – the finishing mechanics – to really know how to really work a submission. Watching her try to do armbars, she just pulls on the arm. It looks tight, but, you know, if you go against someone that knows what they’re doing, they’re using different details on an armbar and finishing the right way.”
It’s clear that Kelly is unfazed by her matchup on November 18.
And while she’s training hard each day for this showdown with Molchanova, the American is expecting an easy night and another victory for BJJ over sambo.
“I’m going to say under two minutes. I’m just giving her an extra minute to be nice. Hopefully, she engages with me so it doesn’t drag out.”
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