Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visits the soldiers and serving members of the United States Army this Weds. evening (Nov. 6, 2013) at Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with "Fight for the Troops 3," its fourth installment of fights set for the men and women of the armed forces.
Tim Kennedy and Rafael Natal square off in the main event, and both fighters will look to climb into the company's official top-10 ranking system, which could eventually get them noticed as a force at 185 pounds.
Kennedy will be looking for his second-straight victory inside the promotion, and "Sapo" will look to make it four-straight victories for the first time since 2007. It's obvious that this may not be the most intriguing or luxurious main event we have been offered this year, yet it should still be a fun scrap worth watching for free to see who gains the upper advantage in a tight middleweight division.
A women's bantamweight fight between Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis will serve as the evening's co-main event, and a solid performance from either of these athletes could pave the road for a title shot in the near future.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory might mean for these four UFC combatants.
After stirring the pot on UFC salaries and the average fighter's pay scale before a decent but unflattering performance over Roger Gracie, Tim Kennedy may have spoken too soon on the revolving subject. Now is his chance to avenge himself and prove that he is worth well more than what he receives.
The only disadvantage that he faces is that his opponent would gain a little more leverage in his career with a win, more so than Kennedy would over him. The Strikeforce import, who fought for that promotion's belt twice and was unsuccessful both times, has 16 wins to his name and even though his four losses do not seem astronomical, he cannot lose another bout at 34 years of age against someone like Rafael Natal.
It would simply cost him too much.
He would have gained a little more popularity and got the world buzzing if he would have been able to defeat his original opponent, Lyoto Machida, because of the name he brings. But instead, his focus has turned to Natal. A win over his current opponent will not guarantee him the same benefits, yet it would prove that Kennedy would be ready for a step up in competition or at least, a top-10 opponent in a reasonably sounding fight.
The win would presumably be emotional for Kennedy, who is a serving member of the United States Army and would like nothing more than to score a win in front of his peers.
If Kennedy feels like he is more than just a commodity who deserves a little more dough, respect, and would like stiffer challenges after campaigning for a fight against the legends of this sport, he needs a win over Natal in a massive way. If he walks out of Fort Campbell the winner, but fails to impress, it will be much of the same story for the 34-year-old American.
With all due respect to the Brazilian, the average fan could be unfamiliar with "Sapo." As they are with a number of fighters on the overpopulated roster, so it is nothing to be ashamed about for those who are still trying to get used to all these upcoming fighters who are on the rise as of late.
No matter how you feel about that, it does count for something. To fight for a title, you need to be exciting and the fans need to know who you are or at least, are anticipating seeing you in a championship bout. There have been previous examples where this may not apply, though it is the norm more often than not.
Natal needs to establish himself as a name, because most of us already know who he is as a fighter. The Belo Horizonte-born middleweight has a respectful record of 17-4-1 and he is currently on a three-fight winning streak. Even if he has looked impressive, he is missing a win over a well-known figure of the sport that would lead everyone to believe he is one of the top talents in the division.
In other words, like Kennedy, he would look forward to a top-10 opponent.
Kennedy serves as a perfect opponent for "Sapo." If Natal could break Kennedy's will en route to victory, it gives us a clearer indication of what to expect from him. Surely from there, his work will be cut out for him if he wants to continue his ascension in the ranks although, a win over the American is imperative for his career. If he cannot win on Wednesday, Natal may never recover from being a mid-card worker.
After almost catching Ronda Rousey with a rear-naked choke at UFC 157 in her promotional debut in which nobody thought she had a chance to win, she started to turn heads largely due to the fact that she was a massive underdog who had a chance of winning the title.
"Girl-Rilla" is 9-3 and those three losses came against Rousey, Marloes Coenen in a title fight in Strikeforce and against Sarah Kaufman. Carmouche still finds herself in the upper echelon of the women's bantamweight division and her destruction of Jessica Andrade at UFC on FOX 8 proved that she does not need to string together victories to be considered as a legitimate contender to the championship. Better yet, Carmouche will also be working her way to becoming an unexpected star.
Will she get an immediate shot if she runs through Davis? As unlikely as it seems, it would not be surprising. After Rousey and Miesha Tate duke it out at UFC 168, there is Cat Zingano who is recovering from injury, as well as the undefeated former Olympian Sara McMann, who also stands in her way. With the inclusion of Jessica Eye who moved to 11-1 recently, those are the frontrunners to the title. It all depends on how Carmouche could bring home the victory. If it is violent and exciting, there is no doubt her name will be at the top of the list.
It makes sense for Carmouche to fight either one of those competitors and if she wins that fight, a second title fight in the promotion should be staring her in the face.
Alexis Davis has a chance to fly in under the radar, steal the spotlight from Carmouche and have it shine down on her while she looks to tear down the obstacles she will be presented with as she works her way to women's bantamweight supremacy.
"Ally-Gator" has not had it easy in her six-year career.
The 29-year-old Canadian has already fought a number of prominent foes in her 19-fight tenure, notching wins over fellow UFC fighters Rosi Sexton, Amanda Nunes and Julie Kedzie, along with two battles each against Shayna Bazler, Tonya Evinger and Sarah Kaufman, whom she fought in her first professional fight.
It is apparent that Davis has been on the grand stage before, against tough opposition, although this is her most important fight yet. An impressive win over a skilled and well-respected opponent such as Carmouche will propel her to new heights and put her at the forefront of the division, with one or two fights left before she is earned the title shot she has been longing for.
Despite her impressive résumé, this would be her fourth-straight victory and the most accomplished win of her career and everything would get that much sweeter for the Invicta FC vet if she walks out of Kentucky the victor this midweek.
Each of these four fighters have much to gain and perhaps even more to lose.
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