Tim Kennedy is clearly the focal point of the UFC’s Fight for the Troops 3 event in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The talented middleweight is in his first main event with the organization. Kennedy’s pedigree as an Army Ranger made him an easy choice to be featured on this card. He was initially slated to tangle with Lyoto Machida, but “The Dragon” was moved to UFC Fight Night 30 as an injury replacement. The call eventually went to Rafael Natal to face Kennedy in what shapes up as the biggest opportunity of the Brazilian fighter’s career. “Sapo” was thrilled to unexpectedly receive main event status as he was supposed to fight Ed Herman at UFC 167.
There’s no better time for Natal to get this high-profile matchup as he has been on quite the run of success. He’s reeled off three straight victories inside the Octagon. Natal’s most recent win was a Fight of the Night honor in a wild three round decision over Tor Troeng.
Natal is a strong jiu-jitsu player and does possess some power even though his striking can get a little wild at times. He’s clearly the B side to this main event matchup, but a victory over Kennedy would be the biggest of his career. It would have him knocking on the door of the top-10 in the 185-pound division and put him in a solid position for another major fight. A loss and it would likely send him back to the prelims.
This fight has the makings of a grinding type of affair as both men have produced eight submission victories during their careers. Kennedy has clearly been in with better competition as he’s faced the likes of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Luke Rockhold dating back to his Strikeforce career. Both of those fighters are currently ranked in the UFC top-10 middleweight rankings. Kennedy is no stranger to five round contests and his conditioning is always top-notch. Those intangibles could be the difference in this one.
Natal knows this could be his only chance to shine on a big stage in the UFC while Kennedy will be shooting for a second straight Octagon triumph after he was successful at UFC 162 against Roger Gracie. In that fight, Kennedy outworked and out-hustled his opponent and completely shut down Gracie’s vaunted submission skills. The 34-year old is looking to move on to bigger things, and a loss against Natal would be a serious career setback. Kennedy will definitely have the crowd behind him as he performs in front of his military brethren, but Natal is well aware of what pulling an upset would mean for his career.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports