UFC Fight Night 31: Fight for the Troops 3 Date: November 6, 2013 Arena: Fort Campbell City: Fort Campbell, K.Y. Middleweight bout: Rafael “Sapo” Natal (+310) vs Tim Kennedy (-370) Fight Breakdown: The main event for Fight for the Troops 3 will be a middleweight match-up between a striker and a grappler, when the Brazilian Rafael Natal takes on Tim Kennedy of the United States Special Forces. Natal is the underdog in this bout at +310 ($100 to win $310), while Kennedy is the favorite at -370 ($370 to win $100) at Several Bookmakerss. RAFAEL “SAPO” NATAL (17-4-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC) is coming off an impressive, Fight of the Night award winning performance against Tor Troeng at UFC Fight Night 28 just two months ago. He makes a quick turnaround, as he steps in on several weeks short notice for Lyoto Machida, who was moved to the Manchester card. Natal will step into the Octagon for the ninth time, as he looks to take on the US Army’s own Tim Kennedy. He will be at a homefield disadvantage, as Kennedy will be fighting in front of men and women who are serving for their country. “Sapo” is a talented grappler who works great takedowns. He is very slick on the mat and has a nice submission game,owning a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Vinny Magalhaes. While he is great on the mat, I can’t be complimentary towards his striking. He’s not very good on the feet, however, he is improving. He moves slow and keeps his hands down, especially when he is feeling tired and/or confident. In fact, that is precisely what cost him his fight against Andrew Craig, which is his only loss in seven fights. He was doing very well against Craig and nearly finished him, but he started getting tired and overly cocky. He thought he had the fight in the bag and was dropping his hands, so one of the head kicks Craig had been throwing eventually landed, and it put Napal out. His conditioning has improved since then, but it is still not very good. He will certainly be at a cardio disadvantage as well against Kennedy. TIM KENNEDY (16-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is looking to make his second appearance inside the Octagon, and he will be fighting in front of men and women he has served with and taught, so he is extremely motivated to deliver an impressionable performance. After going 30-1 fighting as an amateur, Kennedy went pro and has amassed an impressive 16-4 record, which includes notable wins over Roger Gracie, Jason Miller, Melvin Manhoef, and Robbie Lawler. He is certainly a finisher, as 13 of his 16 professional mixed martial arts career wins have come inside the distance; five by knockout, and eight by way of submission. Fighting out of Jackson-Winklejohn MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., Kennedy has excellent conditioning, and is a very well-rounded mixed martial artist. He is incredibly talented on the feet, and also very good on the mat. He’s an excellent striker with a great submission game who possesses a solid guillotine choke. While Kennedy owns a good submission game, his gameplan going into this bout should be to keep the fight on the feet, where he will have a clear advantage. Fight Prediction: I expect Kennedy to keep this fight on the feet and outstrike Natal, who has never been in a five round fight before, while Kennedy has. Kennedy’s superior striking and cardio will be his keys to victory in this bout, as I see him outstriking “Sapo” until he can no longer keep up and the ref is forced to step in… Gabe’s Pick: Tim Kennedy by TKO (3:43, round 2) Gabe’s Recommended Plays: Tim Kennedy -370, Kennedy inside distance +145, Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision -115, and keep an eye out for Kennedy -5.5 (-180). Big on all four.