You might not know it, but Brazilian prospect Rafael Natal is slowly creeping his way up the Middleweight division. Having five wins in his previous six outings, with three straight.' Sapo' believes he's edging into top ten ranking and Tim Kennedy is just in his way. Speaking to MMAJunkie.com about his main event fight against Kennedy at UFC Fight Night 31: Fight For The Troops 3, Natal had this to say.
"I'm going to beat Tim then I'm going to be in the top 10 for sure, it's going to be a very good fight for me, and it will be one of the best fights of the year."
While Natal may not be lacking confidence in the bout, he faces a stiff test in Kennedy. The Army Green Beret has only two losses in his last ten appearances were title bouts against former Strikeforce Middleweight champions Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold. His most recent was his UFC debut, a three round domination over Roger Gracie at UFC 162.
Natal comes into the bout as a late replacement for Lyoto Machida, who replaced an injured Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 30. If victorious in his bout against Kennedy the Brazilian will be an impressive 4-0 this year. His active fight schedule could prove very beneficial for Natal having to train full time for his fights this year.
"I have three wins in a row, four fights this year, and I'm very happy," Natal said. "I always make a fight a fight, and I'm going to do this one more than I'm going to rest, but I'm very happy to get one more fight this year."
Natal also had a few strong words for some of his critics who say he is undeserving of a Headline fight.
"We're going to make a good show for the people, and we will see what they say after the fight. UFC, Dana White and Joe Silva know what they're doing to promote a fight, and if they made this the main event, they did it for a reason."
While it is hard to disagree that Natal is unworthy of the main event spot, many casual fans of the sport may not realize UFC Fight Night 31 takes places in military base Fort Campbell and only active personnel are in attendance. All funds gained for the event will go to charitable causes.
Whether Natal is worthy of the main event or not the match looks to be a great fight, with both men looking to prove they are worthy of a number ten ranking. Will Natal continue on his unbeaten run this year? Or will Kennedy prove to be too much for the Brazilian?