Dan Kelly pulls off upset over former champion Rashad Evans by split decision

LAS VEGAS — Dan Kelly hasn’t been a favorite in any of his fights in the UFC yet he moved to 6-1 inside the Octagon after pulling off a split-decision win over former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.

Kelly may not look like the textbook definition of a chiseled fighter, but the Australian has managed to pick up win after win while clawing his way toward the middleweight rankings.

It was a tumultuous series of events that haunted Evans leading into his middleweight debut at UFC 209 after the New York State Athletic Commission wouldn’t allow him to compete last November due to an anomaly on his pre-fight medicals.

Evans finally stepped into the Octagon on Saturday night at 185 pounds, but he had his hands full with the four-time Olympian in Kelly, who had racked up an impressive 5-1 record in his UFC career heading into the bout.

While Evans has notoriously fast hands and a ton of knockout power, Kelly showed no fear striking with the former champion on the feet, landing several stinging straight punches throughout the first and second rounds.

Evans landed his best strike of the opening round when he uncorked a hellish body kick that smacked Kelly’s midsection so hard the sound reverberated throughout the T-Mobile Arena.

While Evans showed flashes of his wrestling during the fight, he couldn’t keep Kelly down as the former judoka did a good job staying out of trouble on the ground before working his way back to the feet.

Evans was more active in the third round as he started to connect with his jab but Kelly had still outlanded him by a wide margin according to the unofficial striking count shown throughout the fight.

As time ticked away in the final 30 seconds, Evans started to unload with his best punches of the fight with Kelly biting down on his mouthpiece and returning fire as the Las Vegas crowd roared in approval.

When it was over the judges were split with two scorecards reading 29-28 for Kelly with the third coming back 29-28 for Evans.

It was a back and forth battle through all 15 minutes, but Kelly gutted out the victory as he picks up the most notable win of his career while handing a potential Hall of Famer a loss in his middleweight debut.

The loss drops Evans to 0-3 in his last three fights and he was clearly not happy with the decision as he left the Octagon after such a long road to get back there following the recent events that kept him out of action.