Canadian featherweight Jeremy (JBC) Kennedy dominates Pedro Carvalho at Bellator 291

DUBLIN — Canadian featherweight Jeremy (JBC) Kennedy moved a step closer to a title shot by winning a unanimous decision over Pedro (The Game) Carvalho in a dominant showing in the co-main event at Bellator 291 on Saturday.

The three judges scored it 30-27 for Kennedy.

The 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., who is now based out of Las Vegas, used his grappling to take Carvalho down and control him on the ground for three rounds.

In the main event at 3Arena, welterweight champion Yaroslav (Dynamo) Amosov of Ukraine used his superior striking to earn a unanimous, lopsided 50-45 decision over interim titleholder Logan (Storm) Storley of the U.S. in a title unification bout — Amosov's first since June 2021.

Amosov (27-0-0), who won a split decision over Storley (14-2-0) when they met at Bellator 252 in November 2020, put MMA on hold to enlist in Ukraine military following the Russian invasion. He plans to return to the war after the bout.

"Ukrainian people, I love you," said Amosov, a Ukraine flag over his shoulder. "I love you, my people."

"Thank you (to those) who help my country," he added. "Please don't forget what's happening."

Carvalho, a Dublin-based Portuguese fighter, is ranked third among Bellator 145-pound contenders while Kennedy, a veteran of both the UFC and PFL, is No. 5.

Both Kennedy and Carvalho saw the bout as a title eliminator with the No. 1 contender ranking on the line — and champion Patricio (Pitbull) Freire of Brazil waiting in the wings.

Hungary's Adam (The Kid) Borics, the current No. 1 contender, lost a decision to Freire at Bellator 286 in October. And No. 2 A.J McKee, a former featherweight titleholder, is taking part in Bellator's eight-man, US$1-million lightweight Grand Prix this year.

"I believe I've been the number 1 (contender) the whole time and I think this just proves it," said Kennedy.

Kennedy said while he had been feeling poorly ahead of the bout, he got the job done.

"Even on my worst day, I can 30-27 these guys. So that's the statement I'm making here," said Kennedy, who called out the champion. "Pitbull. That's the only fight. That's the fight right now, that title fight."

Kennedy (19-3-0 with one no-contest) took Carvalho down early, evading a guillotine choke and looking to score from above in half-guard. Carvalho (13-6-0) fought his way back to his feet with Kennedy attached to him at the fence like a limpet.

Kennedy dumped Carvalho again as the round ended.

Kennedy drove Carvalho into the fence early in the second round, looking for another takedown. Transitioning from a body lock, Kennedy got him down and took his back. Carvalho defended against the choke and got back up, only to go down again.

Carvalho came out aggressively in the third round, looking to take the Canadian down at the fence. But Kennedy managed to reverse position in the clinch and got him back down to the ground.

Kennedy initially called out Carvalho because the Portuguese was ranked ahead of him and he thought the matchup suited him. But it took a while to match the fighters.

Kennedy has now won four of his five Bellator fights and lost just one of his last eight bouts (6-1-0 with one no-contest) via decision to Borics at Bellator 256 in April 2021.

Carvalho defeated No. 6 Mads Burnell of Denmark at Bellator 285 in September but has now lost four of his last six, including a first-round KO at the hands of Freire at Bellator 252 in November 2020.

Carvalho, 27, trains at Conor McGregor's SBG Gym in Dublin.

Kennedy went 3-1-0 in the UFC, winning his first three fights before being stopped by Australia's Alexander (The Great) Volkanovski at UFC 221 in February 2018 in Perth, Australia. Volkanovski won the UFC featherweight title four fights later when he beat Max (Blessed) Holloway.

Kennedy had won all 11 pro fights before running into Volkanovski.

After the UFC, Kennedy went 2-1-0 with one no contest in the Professional Fighters League.

In 2019, Kennedy fought two men the same night on a PFL card with a win and loss only to see both opponents fail a drug test. After knocking out Brazil's Luis Rafael Laurentino in the PFL quarterfinals, Kennedy was submitted by American Daniel (The Pit) Pineda in the semifinals.

The loss to Pineda was eventually changed to a no contest.

Kennedy marks each victory by adding a stripe to a tattoo on his side.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press