UFC Middleweight Bout: Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal
Odds: ( -400 Kennedy / +300 Natal )
Betting Pick: Kennedy
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In the main event of UFC Fight Night 31, the third installment of the Fight for the Troops series, armed services veteran Tim Kennedy will look to do his fellow soldiers proud as he squares off against slick Brazilian grappler Rafael Natal. Both of these guys tend to do their best work on the ground, so this makes for an interesting style matchup. Kennedy is a dominant wrestler with good submissions and solid hands, while Natal is arguably the superior submission grappler but lacks Kennedy’s wrestling prowess.
Since making his UFC debut in September of 2010, Rafael “Sapo” Natal has put together a very impressive record with two losses, one draw, and five victories. He isn’t an immediate player in the UFC Middleweight title scene, but he is a dangerous opponent who provides a tough test for anyone in the division because of his slick, technical ground game. Against Kennedy, he just has to avoid being overconfident in his grappling. If Kennedy gets dominant positions, he is more than good enough to hold Natal off and capitalize on his superior position to score points.Natal has to find a way to dictate how the ground phase of this fight plays out or he is going to wind up on the wrong end of a decision.
Long-time Strikeforce veteran Tim Kennedy is looking to follow up an impressive Octagon debut against Roger Gracie with a third consecutive win. Kennedy is a tough, wily veteran who will probably never be a title contender, but is more than equipped to derail the title contention of other fighters. Kennedy has a very versatile style with no glaring holes, but his best tools are his wrestling and ground game. Kennedy was a major player outside of the UFC for a long time, so a chance to prove that he can compete on the biggest stage is likely to motivate him. Fighting in front of his fellow veterans will probably help, too. The key for Kennedy in this fight is to maintain his composure and play to his own strengths. He doesn’t want to get reckless trying to put on a show. If he concentrates on wrestling, boxing, and controlling position, he has what it takes to win this fight.
These two guys have similar styles, but ultimately I just feel like Kennedy is slightly better where it counts. Both guys rely on their ground games, but Kennedy is much more adept at gaining quality positions on the ground and more skilled at holding on to his advantages. This should be a competitive fight, but I think Kennedy should do enough to earn the unanimous decision victory.
Prediction: Tim Kennedy by Unanimous Decision.
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