It was a night that meant a great deal to Army Ranger and UFC middleweight fighter Tim Kennedy. Kennedy wrote a terrific script in front of his fellow military brethren in Fort Campbell, Kentucky by knocking out Rafael Natal in the first round of their scheduled five-round affair. It was Kennedy’s first main event with the organization and he sent an emphatic message that he’s ready for top-10 opposition in the 185-pound weight class moving forward.
Natal was in for the biggest fight of his career after Kennedy’s original opponent Lyoto Machida was moved to UFC Fight Night 30 as an injury replacement. The Brazilian was hoping to make the most of the unexpected opportunity, but instead saw his three-fight win streak come to a crashing halt.
Natal actually landed a big left hand early on and some kicks, but his stick and move strategy started to become ineffective when Kennedy began landing some solid kicks to the body. The end came in stunning fashion, as Kennedy landed a brutal leaping left hook that crumpled Natal. A subsequent right hand with Natal on the canvas wasn’t really necessary. The end came at the 4:40 mark, and it was Kennedy’s sixth career knockout. It was his first KO since 2007 and earned him a Knockout of the Night bonus.
Kennedy is now 2-0 with the UFC, and this performance was certainly a lot more impressive than his grinding decision win at UFC 162 over Roger Gracie. Kennedy is an underrated commodity; he’s tremendously tough and has outstanding conditioning. He’s been competitive in five-round contests dating back to his Strikeforce days against Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Both of those fighters are ranked in the UFC’s top-10 rankings.
While Kennedy is known as a tremendous grinder, his explosive finish against Natal definitely raises his stock considerably. As for Natal, his chance to shine in a high-profile affair could not have gone any worse.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports