UFC FIGHT NIGHT 31: FIGHT FOR THE TROOPS 3 Date: November 6, 2013 Location: Fort Campbell, KY Venue: Fort Campbell Broadcast: FOX Sports 1, Facebook UFC Middleweight Tim Kennedy (-275) Profile: The special forces soldier and ex-Strikeforce mainstay, Tim Kennedy (16-4) moved to UFC earlier this year after hovering around the top of the Strikeforce middleweight division and challenging twice for that promotion’s middleweight belt. Kennedy has had some bad luck over the last few years, fighting only four times in a 24-month span, but with his impressive win over Roger Gracie at UFC 162, Kennedy proved he belonged in UFC, showing off his steady striking and unending gas tank. After a fight with Lyoto Machida fell through, Kennedy took to calling out everyone in the middleweight division, finally landing a bout against Rafael Natal at Fight for the Troops 3. Kennedy is well-rounded, durable and anything but flashy. Still, he usually gets the job done. UFC Middleweight Rafael Natal (+195) Profile: Rafael Natal (17-3-1) is one of the best to fight out of Renzo Gracie’s academy in New York. He’s a scary mix of everything that camp does right – amazing BJJ, solid kickboxing and a great fight IQ. Natal heads into the Kennedy fight a winner of five out of his last six and, with his early-UFC growing pains of beginning 1-2-1 long gone, he has more confidence than ever. Natal has beaten three fighters in the Octagon this year and if he can pull off a fourth win over Kennedy, he will vault into the top 15 of the division. Opening UFC Fight Night 31 Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas made Kennedy a sizeable -275 favorite (bet $275 to win $100) while Natal opened as a +195 underdog (bet $100 to win $195) at Several Bookmakers. Yes, this isn’t the sexiest main event in the world, but keep in mind this is a free TV card that is for the troops. Kennedy, a US Army veteran, is the star of this card and while he was originally set to fight Lyoto Machida in what would have been a blowout, now he’s taking on Natal in what should be an evenly-matched bout between two grapplers. And we all know when that happens, the fight often takes place on the feet and the fans are treated to a poor kickboxing bout. The difference this time is this fight is five rounds and Natal has no experience with championship fights, while Kennedy has fought five rounds before in Strikeforce. I would have to give Kennedy the edge based on that fact, as well as the fact his cardio is better. It’s not that Natal can’t win this fight — of course he can — but Kennedy has all the little edges in this match-up and that’s why he opened as a -285 favorite. Still, it’s an evenly-matched bout and it will likely hit the cards, where the judges are going to be the ones who decide who takes it home.