UFC 183 Fight Breakdown: Rafael Natal vs. Tom Watson

Rafael Natal One of the televised prelims at UFC 183 is a three-round middleweight bout between Rafael Natal and Tom Watson. According to the current betting lines available at Several Bookmakers, Natal is a -175 favorite (bet $175 to win $100) while Watson is a +155 underdog (bet $100 to win $155). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Natal at -155 and Watson at +115 and so far the public is backing Natal. This is a competitive fight but I lean towards Watson as the underdog to pick up the win. Here’s why. Natal (18-6-1) is 6-4-1 in the UFC with wins over Chris Camozzi, Tor Troeng, Joao Zeferino, Sean Spencer, Michael Kuiper, and Paul Bradley with losses to Tim Kennedy, Ed Herman, Andrew Craig and Rich Attonito and a draw to Jesse Bongfeldt. Natal is a talented grappler and his success in the UFC has relied on his ability to take his opponents down. He attempts a lot of takedowns and while he isn’t the best wrestler in the division, he has been fairly successful at getting his opponents to the mat. He doesn’t have amazing submission ability in MMA, but he does have a BJJ black belt and can absolutely finish opponents on the ground if he gets into a dominant position. The problem is his striking defence and his chin. He gets tagged in all of fights, and he’s been knocked out four times in his career. If a guy like Watson, who has knockout power, can connect with his chin he can absolutely finish him with strikes, so Natal will have to fight smart and use his wrestling to win this one, and the result of this bout likely resides with Watson’s takedown defence. Watson (17-7) is 2-3 in the UFC with wins over Sam Alvey and Stanislav Nedkov and losses to Brad Tavares, Nick Catone and Thales Leites. The 32-year-old Brit is a very skilled muay Thai striker and has knockout power in all of his limbs (eight career T/KO victories). He has very good leg kicks that he showed off in the Alvey and with a granite chin he is able to stay in the pocket and trade leather with the best of them. His problem is his wrestling. He has been taken down and controlled in all of his losses, and facing a guy like Natal if that happens again he will likely lose a decision. If Watson can stop the takedowns and keep this fight on the feet he will be at a huge advantage, but if he gets taken down he’ll be in big trouble. Picking this fight rests on whether or not you believe Natal can consistently keep Watson down for the full 15 minutes, and since I don’t, I think Watson has a good chance to win the fight. Natal might have some early success scoring takedowns on Watson, who has poor takedown defence, but Natal always gasses and as the fight goes on I think he will find it more and more difficult to take Watson down to the mat. And on the feet, while Natal is a capable striker, Watson is world better than him, and I think that’s where the Englishman has the biggest advantage in this bout. I think Watson can outstrike Natal and win a decision, and I also think he can knock Natal out. At plus money, I have to make a small value play here on Watson as the underdog because I think he has a better chance of winning than the odds are indicating, but his porous takedown defence makes a bigger bet risky and that’s why I’ll stay small on him.

Written by Adam Martin.

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