The Apex Centre in Las Vegas played host to the dominant UFC debut of the Gold Coast’s “King” Casey O’Neill.
The 23-year-old looked every bit of the “highly touted prospect” tag assigned to her, securing the sixth win of her professional career with the TKO of American Shana Dobson.
O’Neill immediately set a high pace for the fight by taking the centre of the octagon.
After taking Dobson down in the first minute, the fight quickly returned to the feet where each exchanged punches.
The Australian mixed striking with grapping however, pushing Dobson against the cage with strong clinch work.
What eventuated was a dominant remainder of the round in which the American had no answer for the O’Neill’s grappling.
By the time the first horn had sounded, O’Neill had secured a further two takedowns against the fence, the last of which led to a long stretch of top control time on the ground.
All three judges unanimously scoring the round 10-9 to the debutant.
If the first round was a statement made, then the second put an exclamation point on it.
The fast paced fight continued and O’Neill picked up where she left off, taking Dobson down for a fourth time.
This time, the American would not be afforded the luxury of getting back up however.
A series of transitions on the ground led to O’Neill securing the back of her opponent with hooks.
At this point, the seemingly impossible happened as the intensity of the fight went to another level.
The debutant landed a disproportionate number of strikes to that of Dobson – a whopping margin of 75 to four.
While the American scrambled and kept her hands up, O’Neill found a number of openings for elbows and punches while maintaining top control.
After a series of warnings to Dobson to fight back from referee Chris Tognoni, the official ultimately stopped the fight at the 3:41 mark of the round.
The seeds of a well thought out game plan in conjunction with coaches had come to bloom in the form of a TKO victory.
“I knew in stand-up we were gonna be pretty even and that my ground was gonna be far superior. So, we knew that the easiest way to get the win would be to take her down and finish her there,” a satisfied O’Neill told commentator Michael Bisping in the post-fight interview.
“Once I got the first one in the first round, I knew, like I could feel her hips on the ground weren’t as strong as mine. So in the second round Eddie was like, ‘let’s go straight to the ground, we can finish it there.”
An emotional scene ensued in the cage after the fight.
As Casey raised her arms in victory, she fought back tears in the realisation of a lifelong dream.
Scottish-born, but raised and nurtured in the gyms of Australia and Thailand, O’Neill let out a roar that bellowed out into an arena devoid of fans.
It was a sound that told all watching at home that years of hard work are starting to pay off.
More importantly, the echo of her scream signified to viewers that she has arrived in the UFC.
In a seemingly shallow pool of fighters at 125 pounds, where champion Valentina Shevchenko has separated herself from the pack, O’Neill’s presence may inject new life into the division.
2021 looks set to be a significant year in the career of the newcomer and such an impressive debut is a solid foundation from which she can start to climb the UFC’s flyweight ranks.