Kotetsu “No Face” Boku had to battle through two early knockdowns at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS on Saturday, 5 August, but he was able to come back and TKO Eric Kelly to get his second consecutive victory.
A former ONE Lightweight World Champion, the Japanese competitor has found new life as a featherweight, and continues to thrive in his new weight class. With the win, he handed former contender Eric “The Natural” Kelly another heartbreaking loss via third-round TKO.
Boku started the bout looking to apply pressure with his heavy-handed boxing attack, but Kelly was undeterred. The Baguio City, Philippines native demonstrated great patience before firing back with a series of hard inside leg kicks to the thigh.
The 40-year-old “No Face” attempted to fool his nemesis with head movement and quick hands, but the Philippines-born featherweight was having none of it. In response, Kelly came back with a staggering right hand that came over the top of Boku’s punches, dropping him to the mat as the crowd inside of Macao’s Cotai Arena erupted with cheers following the near-finish.
Boku survived after regaining his composure on the ground, with Kelly visibly slowing down following a furious flurry of punches in an attempt to get the knockout.
Once they worked their way back to the feet, the Japanese veteran finally started landing some shots, but he ran out of time as the round came to a close. The confidence from those final exchanges put Boku back on the attack in the second, as Kelly countered with a takedown, who was trying to reestablish his rhythm.
Unfortunately, Kelly could not keep “No Face” down, but once he was back on the feet he landed another hard right hand that once again hurt Boku. Still, Boku was down, but far from out, climbing back to his feet again. This time, he started to unleash a barrage of punches, including one powerful body shot that put Kelly on the defensive.
The constant offense had Boku in control, with “The Natural” covering up after a very poorly-timed shot to try and put the match on the ground. From there, the Japanese mixed martial artist was relentless with punches and submission attempts, including a tight arm-triangle choke. Kelly escaped and returned to his feet, but he was desperate to get some oxygen in his lungs after an exhausting pace through the first two rounds.
With time running out in the final round, the Filipino made one last attempt to drag Boku to the ground with a sloppy single-leg takedown attempt, but to no avail. He was simply out of gas.
“No Face” took advantage of the position after rolling Kelly to his back, knowing this was his chance to finish the fight. He went on the offensive and methodically threw strike after unanswered strike from the back control position. The referee finally saw enough and called a stop to the contest at 3:27 into the third round.
Boku has looked outstanding since moving to the featherweight division, where he picked up his fifth win in six bouts with his record now standing at 26-11-2. It was a particularly tough defeat for Kelly, who now sits at 12-4 overall on a three-loss skid.