BJJ black belt Danielle Kelly will be going up against a multiple time sambo world champion at ONE on Prime Video 4 this Saturday. The American will not just be representing her country in this submission grappling match she will also be representing her sport.

Her opponent, Mariia Molchanova, is a two time sambo world champion. Surprisingly it is a sport that Kelly trained and competed in as a teenager.

While the 26 year old is best known for her accomplishments in the world of BJJ she does have some experience of sambo. Kelly got an opportunity to compete in the sport while she was still in high school and didn’t fare too badly,

“I trained it a little bit at one point, I competed in a sambo tournament. The first one I think was right after high school or during high school and I took first place in both tournaments that year and the year after.”


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Making the transition

It sounds like the ease with which Kelly won those tournaments put her off further forays into the world of sambo,

“I have some experience so when people are like, ‘oh, you should do sambo, compete in that sport too,’ and it’s like, ‘I did, but I won so what now?’ Jiu-jitsu is better.”

Having transitioned between the two sports Kelly does at least have some insight into the adjustments Molchanova will need to make if she wants to replicate her sambo success in a new sport,

“For this match, she’s not going to have the gi, so I think (that) will be in my favour. But they (sambo fighters) are very aggressive with takedowns so I think that aspect of the match, the rule set, favours (her).”


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Very confident

Kelly was not able to secure the submission in her ONE Championship debut, going the distance with Mei Yamaguchi. She sounds very confident of finding the finish this Saturday,

“I’m going to say under two minutes. I’m just giving her an extra minute to be nice. Hopefully, she engages with me so it doesn’t drag out.”

Kelly thinks that her opponent will take an aggressive start but doesn’t believe Molchanova has the technical proficiency required to actually finish the fight,

“I think she’s really good at charging for submissions. From the matches I’ve seen, she just goes right to it. She doesn’t give the other girl a chance to really defend herself, especially her armbars (but) if she tries to give me an armbar I have an answer for that and I don’t think her finish mechanics are that great.”


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Highly experienced

Kelly is highly experienced in submission grappling and competed seven times last year. She has not been as active in 2022 but having picked up a $50,000 USD bonus for the draw with Yamaguchi she probably didn’t need to be.

But on Saturday she has an opportunity to prove that her style is more effective than sambo and she plans to expose the flaw’s in Molchanova submission game,

“I think for her art, she’s probably just good at ripping stuff. But she doesn’t really have the mechanics, the finishing mechanics, to really know how to really work a submission. Watching her try to do armbars, she just pulls on the arm. It looks tight, but, you know, if you go against someone that knows what they’re doing, they’re using different details on an armbar and finishing the right way.”

Kelly will be hoping to finish her fight ‘the right way’ at ONE on Prime Video 4 this Saturday. If she does then a shot at the inaugural atomweight submission grappling title surely awaits.