Tim Kennedy has been shopping online for an opponent ever since his November 6th dance partner, Lyoto Machida, was removed from UFC Fight Night 31: UFC Fight for the Troops 3 card, and given to Mark Munoz, by way of replacement for the injured Michael Bisping and his October 26th bout with “The Filipino Wrecking Machine”, at UFN 30 in Manchester, England.
Upon the news of Machida’s reallocation to UFN 30, Kennedy immediately began trolling the Twitter accounts of various UFC middleweight fighters, in an effort to find a new opponent for his November 6th bout, but in doing so, Kennedy failed to get any takers.
Regarding his efforts, no one could accuse Kennedy of being shy or slothful. Tim made match offers to all of the following:
Rich Franklin, Cung Le, Gegard Mousasi, Chris Camozz, Wanderlei Silva, Nick Diaz, Costas Philippou, Shogun Rua and indeed, all “UFC fighters”. However, none of them rose to the occasion.
Not wanting to leave Kennedy out in the cold, the UFC has announced today, that one of the fighters on Kennedy’s “knock-knock” Twitter's list, Rafael "Sapo" Natal, has been selected as Lyoto Machida’s replacement for the fight and as such, will be facing off against Kennedy at UFN 31.
Natal is 5 – 2 & 1 (draw) in the UFC, is on a three fight winning streak and coming off of a dominant decision victory over Tor Troeng. He is a well-rounded fighter, whose strength is his formidable ground game. That said, since entering the UFC back in 2010, Natal has only managed one submission; his only stoppage.
On the down side of his record and importantly, given that he’s going up against a solid striker, 75% of Natal’s losses (3 of 4) have come by way of KO or TKO, and that given Kennedy’s last performance against ground specialist Roger Gracie, that doesn’t bode well for Natal. In the fight, Kennedy proved impossible for Gracie to do anything with in terms of getting the fight to the ground or keeping it there, and as such, was forced to stand with Kennedy. Although not a rousing performance, Tim easily won the fight.
For his part, Kennedy is a 16 & 4 (lifetime) fighter with only one fight and win in the UFC, and is himself, a well-rounded fighter. Further, Kennedy has proven himself capable of taking decisive wins either on the feet or the ground and resultantly, has an 81% finishing rate.
More importantly for Natal, Kennedy has never been submitted in a fight and matches Sapo in submission victories, with eight. He has, however, been knocked out once, but that was over 12 years ago and in his first professional fight; Scott Smith, TKO cut, 2001.
In speaking with MMAjunkie.com Kennedy said of Natal, "I love that I'm fighting a guy with beautiful bronze skin. He looks dashing regardless of what he's wearing, because of that I hate him. I will have to destroy a beautiful thing."
In considering their bout and how the series of events has played out, it would be reasonable to argue that Kennedy has garnered an easier fight or at least a better match-up, then he might have had with a 185 pound Lyoto Machida. Conversely, it could be reasoned that “The Dragon” was given a much more difficult bout in the way of Mark Munoz.
Either way, both bouts Kennedy / Natal and Machida / Munoz should be good fights and wonderfully, we get to see them for free. For me, I think I’ll be rooting for Kennedy in the one and pulling my hair out on the other. As I love and respect both Machida and Munoz, that’s a tough fight to pick if you’re a fan of both.