Kellar, James Jr. Set For Elite Matchup Early in Careers at Mamba Fight Night 8

The professional records don’t do this matchup justice.

Coquitlam’s Keanan Kellar (1-0) will square off with Portland’s Johnny James Jr. (1-0) in a middleweight contest Friday night at Mamba Fight Night 8 in Burnaby, B.C.

Despite coming in with just one professional fight each, Kellar and James Jr. are both coming off stellar amateur careers that saw them amass records of 5-1 and 4-3 respectively.

Keanan Kellar
Keanan Kellar throws a high kick in action against James Foster at Rise FC 4. (Photo by Joel Griffith)

With the skills they both possess and their experience as amateurs, Kellar, 24, said he believes this is the best fight on the entire card.

“I perceive this fight being an absolute battle. It’s definitely the best fight on the card, in my opinion, and it’s also the closest matchup on the card,” said Kellar in an interview with MMA Empire.

“Me and him are both young, very hungry kids, and we’re going to put on a show for everyone. It’s a battle of two styles, and I just think my style is way more dominant than his.”

With James Jr., 25, making the trip from Oregon and coming into Kellar’s home province, he said he knows he’s going into enemy territory.

And while the crowd being on Kellar’s side doesn’t phase him, he said he knows he needs to secure the finish if he wants to leave with the victory Friday night.

“I have to get the finish in my eyes. Going up against the hometown guy, we’ve had problems getting decisions in Canada, so it’s not something I want to leave to the judges,” said James Jr. in an interview with MMA Empire.

“The mindset is don’t leave it up to the judges, and go get that finish.”

Kellar Built For Pro

Kellar made his professional debut back in July, a second round TKO stoppage of James Foster at Rise FC 4.

Kellar said he felt fantastic in his first bout under professional rules, and believes the changes from amateur benefit his game more than it may benefit others.

“I love the professional rules a lot more. I find it gives my game a lot of additional advantages that some fighters it wouldn’t,” said Kellar.

“I can really utilize my elbows, especially on the ground. My elbows are going to be a really big weapon for me this fight because I’m going to try and use that to counter his close range boxing against me.”

While he did secure the TKO win over Foster in the end, Kellar said it wasn’t a fight he was too keen about because Foster is someone he likes and respects.

This time around, Kellar said he won’t have that same problem when it comes to James Jr.

“I hold a lot of resentment toward James Jr. and his team because they kind of wasted my time a few times last year. I was supposed to fight James Jr. once before and his teammate twice,” said Kellar.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any issue punching this guy in the face at all. I prefer to not like the person I’m fighting.”

James Jr. Well Prepared

Standing at five-foot-ten inches, James Jr. is set to be at a significant height disadvantage to the six-foot-five Kellar.

Compared to most opponents he’s faced, James Jr. said he made some slight adjustments in training in preparation for Kellar’s height and feels that work will pay off Friday night.

“The strategy has to change up. I can’t let him play at his range; I have to get in the pocket and be all the way in or all the way out,” said James Jr.

“The advantage for me will be takedowns. It should be a lot easier for me to cut that distance and get to his legs.”

James Jr.’s professional debut was back in April, a third round submission triumph over Nick Mills at CageSport 56.

James Jr. said he was pleased with the grappling aspect of his game in that fight, and said it’s something he’ll be looking to utilize more going forward.

“It’s good being able to control somebody for 15 minutes and apply pressure for 15 minutes,” said James Jr.

“I don’t think Keanan will be ready for what I’m going to bring.”

Kellar’s Shoutouts

“I’d just really think to thank my coaches Ken Tran and Nabil Salameh.” Follow Kellar on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM

James Jr.’s Shoutouts

“I’d like to thank Brandon Miller, Fabiano Scherner, and Andy Minsker.” Follow James Jr. on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM