UFC Fight Night 31 predictions, preview and analysis

Esther Lin for Sho Sports

Tonight at "Fight for the Troops 3," the men and women of UFC give back to the men and women of the armed forces. Find out who gets dishonorably discharged from the Octagon after the five main card main fights go down on FOX Sports 1. UFC Fight Night 31 predictions below!

Fall in!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues to soldier on with a high-speed mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card designed to dazzle the men and women of the armed forces, who are currently stationed at the Ft. Campbell Army Base in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Well, not really.

UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for the Troops 3" will, however, generate some cold, hard cash for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which pretty much makes this event bulletproof from any and all criticism about the quality of match ups. After all, it airs on FOX Sports 1 and benefits a worthy charity.

So sit back, relax and enjoy a dose of Wednesday night fights.

Hoping to do his fellow servicemen (and women) proud is longtime combat veteran Tim Kennedy, soldier by day and MMA fighter by night. While he failed to electrify in his Octagon debut, he does prove to be a formidable challenge for middleweight opponent Rafael Natal.

That's not all.

Liz Carmouche looks to prove that she's the second-best bantamweight in the entire women's 135-pound division by disposing of Alexis Davis. If "Girl-Rilla" can capture the "Ally Gator," she may be just one or two fights away from a Ronda Rousey rematch.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, as we still have to get through tonight's "Troops" tussle.

Drums, please.

185 lbs.: Tim Kennedy (16-4) vs. Rafael "Sapo" Natal (17-4-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: For all his goofy videos and promises to assassinate foreign dictators, Tim Kennedy happens to be a pretty good fighter. Unfortunately, his performances do not warrant the type of fanfare you would expect from a UFC headliner.

That's because he's good, but not great.

Kennedy is a nuts-and-bolts fighter: Intelligent gameplans, impeccable defense and relentless cardio. He can be outstruck, as we saw in decision losses to Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold, but he will rarely -- if ever -- get outworked.

There is a reason why Melvin Manhoef couldn't knock him out.

It's the same reason why Roger Gracie could not submit him, which is why I expect Rafael Natal to come up short in tonight's headliner. "Sapo" has earned his spot by winning five in a row, but his competition has been so-so and his cardio can be suspect. Against a machine like Kennedy, that's going to cost him the fight.

In addition, Kennedy has never been submitted or knocked out (2001 cut notwithstanding).

This will be a spirited affair, as the Brazilian interloper tries his damnedest to play spoiler, while the U.S. Army Ranger tries to do right by his battle buddies. Expect a close first round, but as Natal begins to fade in the second half of the fight, Kennedy takes over and cruises to a decision.

Final prediction: Kennedy def. Natal via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Liz "Girl-Rilla" Carmouche (9-3) vs. Alexis "Ally Gator" Davis (14-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: Former Strikeforce contender Liz Carmouche is one of the toughest outs in the entire division. The key to beating her, as we've seen in previous fights, is survival. Even division champion Ronda Rousey was in all sorts of trouble against the "Girl-Rilla" back at UFC 157.

The leader of the "Lizbos" doesn't have eight finishes in nine wins by accident.

But Rousey -- along with ex-champions Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman -- were able to prevail in the end, thanks to a superior skill set. As with most professional fights, brute strength and wanton destruction can be negated by technical prowess, so long as the defender has the heart to live through it.

Herein lies the question heading into this fight.

Davis is a skilled grappler who already holds submission wins over storied veterans like Shayna Baszler and Hitomi Akano. Her Octagon debut against Rosi Sexton, however, was a bit underwhelming. She took home a unanimous decision win over "The Surgeon," but Sexton is a puffed up flyweight.

With no 125-pound division in UFC, it's either bantamweight or nothing.

Point being, Davis was tired by the second round and if you run out of gas against a tornado like Carmouche, you get crushed. "Ally Gator" attributed her shaky performance to UFC jitters and since it was her debut -- in her native Canada no less -- I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

It still may not be enough.

I don't expect the stand-up to be much of a factor is this bout. Davis will be forced to work from her back and it's up to Carmouche to stay out of submissions, which I believe she does, en route to a fairly one-sided sweep on the judges' scorecards.

It's her fight to lose.

Final prediction: Carmouche def. Davis via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Ronny Markes (14-1) vs. Yoel "Soldier of God" Romero (5-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: When people talk about the best wrestlers in MMA, you often hear names like Ben Askren, Daniel Cormier and to a lesser extent, Georges St-Pierre and Chris Weidman. One name that's rarely mentioned is Yoel Romero, despite the fact the Cuban won a silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Probably because he's too busy putting dudes to sleep.

"Solider of God" (blech) has finished all five of his wins by way of knockout or technical knockout and is well prepared coming out of American Top Team (ATT). But you know the old saying about living and dying by the sword, a painful lesson he learned at the leather of Rafael Cavalcante.

Regrettably, that's all Markes can hope for.

The Brazilian has compiled an impressive record and remains perfect three fights into his UFC career; however, all three of those wins have gone to the scorecards and he was nearly upended by another terrific wrestler in Aaron Simpson. The chances of him out-muscling Romero are double-parked on the corner of slim and none.

That said, I won't rule him out.

Markes is 11 years younger with twice the amount of experience. If he can avoid getting murked by a first-round bumrush and drag his older foe into the later rounds, it's not outrageous to think he could take advantage of an empty gas tank and end it in three.

Not likely.

Final prediction: Romero def. Markes via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Rustam "Tiger" Khabilov (16-1) vs. Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal (25-7)

Nostradumbass predicts: I feel kinda bad for Jorge Masvidal. No "boo-hoo" bad, but rather in the sense that I know "Gamebred" wants to get inside the cage and put on a show, slugging it out from bell-to-bell with furious intentions.

Rustam Khabilov ain't got time for dat.

Instead. "Tiger" is going to rely on his experience as a Combat Sambo World Champion, rag-dolling his opponent from bell-to-bell. Masvidal is notoriously difficult to keep down, but it doesn't matter. It just gives Khabilov another chance to drag him back down.

Thumbs up if you've seen him do it before.

In addition, Masvidal hasn't knocked anyone out in over four years across a span of nine fights. He's the more polished striker, no question, but like the Diaz brothers, his success is measured by volume rather than power. On his back, he'll have neither.

Khabilov is too savvy to gift-wrap a submission and unless he completely empties his tank in the first round, it's hard not to imagine this becoming a tedious, one-sided affair that plays on a loop: Masvidal lands a nice combo, gets taken down and worked for the remainder of the round.

And the crowd boos accordingly.

Final prediction: Khabilov def. Masvidal via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Michael "Maverick" Chiesa (9-1) vs. Colton Smith (3-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Back in my day, winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) meant you were someone to watch out for. That doesn't seem to be the case these days, as Michael Chiesa (TUF 15) was strangled into submission by Jorge Masvidal, while Colton Smith (TUF 16) was pounded out by Robert Whittaker.

Tough out there in the real world, ain't it?

That means we don't have much to go on outside of their respective TUF appearances, since both were finished after claiming top honors at the TUF Live Finale. On paper, it's easy to build a case for Smith. Not only is he used to competing at welterweight against bigger opponents, he's got the United States Army in his corner.

And Chiesa has made a habit of getting himself into trouble.

But winning ugly is still winning. I wouldn't be surprised to see this contest play out on the ground, since neither fighter is an accomplished striker. If that's the case, I'm giving Smith the nod in takedowns, but since "Maverick" has more ways to win, I like his chances of playing spoiler.

I can envision Smith coming out guns blazing and controlling the fight early, but an overzealous attempt to end the contest on the ground forces his unconditional surrender.

Final prediction: Chiesa def. Smith via submission

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 31 fight card TONIGHT (Nov. 6, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims" at 3:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action also on FOX Sports 1, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.

For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 31 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Fight for the Troops 3."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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