Even a change of scenery could not change the fortunes of Philippine mixed martial arts pioneer Eric “The Natural” Kelly as he was stopped by Korean legend and former ONE World Lightweight Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku in the third round, Saturday evening at the Cotai Arena in Macao.
After figuring in only one stoppage loss during his first 13 bouts, Kelly (12-4) suffered his third straight loss by way of either knockout or submission as the referee called a stop to the bout with 3:28 remaining in the bout.
The 35-year-old fighter out of Baguio City though had a strong start, displaying his crisp striking that endeared him to Filipino fans during the start of his career. One of the combination dropped Boku for the first time in his ONE career but Kelly could not close him out to start the bout.
Kelly, who was making his debut in ONE’s lightweight division, did not display the same aggression he had on the opening round, seemingly running out of steam. On the other hand, the 40-year-old Boku (26-11-2) was just getting started during the second stanza. The Korean methodically chipped down Kelly with an array of jabs and leg kicks to further slow down The Natural.
Trying to regain his momentum, Kelly went for numerous takedown attempts but every attempt he did was sprawled by ONE’s former lightweight kingpin.
A minute into the final round, Kelly went for the shoot but was stuff by Boku, who rained down hammer fists. Stuck, the MMA nomad could not defend himself properly causing the referee to stop the bout.