Niall Kennedy suffered the first defeat of his career at the MGM Springfield on Saturday.
The heavyweight took a step up in class facing 2004 American Olympic Team captain Devin Vargas out doors and live on UFC Fight Pass – and ultimately came out second best.
‘Boom Boom Baz’ was competitive throughout and looked to have his opponent in trouble in the third.
Kennedy looked to force the pace and was aggressive, but his 39-year-old opponent didn’t tire at any stage and showed flashes of class in nigh on every round.
Vargas, who has shared the ring with world title challengers Dominic Breazeale, Kevin Johnson and Andrzej Wawrzyk as well as reigning world champ Andy Ruiz, tested the chin of the Celtic Warrior Gym fighter in the fourth and seemed to hurt him again in the fifth.
Indeed, after pushing Kennedy back to the ropes for just the second time in the fight, Vargas let fly with some massive shots and with just four seconds left in the round the referee jumped in.
The always cautious Paschal Collins was unhappy with the stoppage, but Kennedy accepted defeat graciously in his post fight interview.
Both fighters loaded up in the first round. Kennedy was more aggressive than usual trying to force the issue.
He backed the American to the ropes, but Vargas was effective on the inside with some big uppercuts in particular catching the eye.
There was better defence in both head movement and guard from Kennedy in the second. He continued to try force the action, working the body well and looked to be attempting to drain Vargas.
The American flurried off the ropes late in the stanza, showing some of the skills that saw him become an Olympian and making it another hard round to score.
The Gorey fighter landed a well timed right hand on the Ohio fighter in the third and had his man hurt.
However, the former Andy Ruiz foe recovered well and Kennedy finished the round with a cut over his right eye.
Round 4 was another exciting round. Vargas started the better with some slick and even flash stuff. The lack of a Kennedy jab was notable, but he was pressing forward.
The Murphys fighter then took a short right and seemed hurt midway through the round, but he continued to try land big after being pushed back for the first time.
Vargas looked the fresher in the heat going into the fifth and started well showing good hand speed and timing.
The Garda was continuing to press forward, but his opponent started to time him better and added some spite to his shot.
Again halfway through the round he seemed to buzz the Paschal Collins-trained fighter and for the second time in the fight Kennedy found himself with his back against the ropes.
Vargas piled on the pressure. Some massive right hands tempted the referee to jump in. Kennedy’s response bought him some time, but two more big right hand bombs forced the man in the middle to wave the fight off just four seconds short of the bell to end the round.
The wins see’s Vargas improve to 21-5 with six knockouts while Kennedy drops to 12-1-1.