Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visited United States troops stationed at Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Ky., bringing with it UFC Fight Night 31, which aired live on FOX Sports 1 last night (Nov. 6, 2013).
The televised main card, as well as the online under card, offered little expectations-wise in the build up to "Fight for Troops 3," but when all was said and done it showed that a free night of fights is never really a bad thing.
In the main event, Tim Kennedy unleashed a big statement on the Middleweight division with a huge knockout win over Rafael Natal. The American waited for his opening and clocked the Brazilian, dropping him unconscious and declaring him the winner of the fight. It is the sweetest victory in the mixed martial arts (MMA) career of Kennedy, who won in front of his army peers and did it in the most impressive of ways.
Nonetheless, in a sport like MMA, each bout can have only one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the eight-walled cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on UFC Fight Night 31, including devastating finishes and a handful of inspiring performances. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser (and their runner ups) from the event in Kentucky.
Biggest Winner -- Tim Kennedy
In front of his fellow brothers and sisters in arms, this was a homecoming for the former U.S. Army Ranger, who brought the crowd to its feet after knocking out Natal in the very first round of his main event battle.
Winning the "Knockout of the Night" in the process was just a very emotional bonus.
Kennedy was able to neutralize his opponent's attacks early, eventually ending the fight in devastating fashion. It is Kennedy's third win in a row and he is undefeated thus far in UFC (2-0).
The former Strikeforce star can now anticipate a Top 10 challenge next. And hopefully he has earned a fight with either a legend of the sport or a former champion, both of which he has been asking for since his Octagon arrival.
After a clean knockout like the one over Natal and doing it in front of the most perfect of places, he deserves it.
Runner Up -- Michael Chiesa
After suffering a rear-naked choke scare and coming back to submit his opponent in similar fashion, Chiesa erased a submission loss by earning one of his own -- stopping Colton Smith by submission in the second round. It was Chiesa's seventh-straight submission victory in a row, not to mention victory over a fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 winner brings home the "Submission of the Night" bonus, tasting victory (again) inside the Octagon after suffering a loss to Jorge Masvidal in his most previous appearance.
It is still early for Chiesa to truly showcase his worth, but if he keeps winning in an action-packed Lightweight division, he can enjoy more meaningful success sooner rather than later. It was his most impressive victory thus far, showing improvements in his defense, as well as continuing his impressive run of seven submission victories.
Biggest Loser -- Rafael Natal
It is kind of obvious that Natal earns this tag.
The Brazilian lost by knockout against Kennedy, who was possibly 20 seconds short of losing the first round on points. A leaping left hook, however, ended Natal's night early and he now must go back to the drawing board after having his three-fight win streak snapped.
Kennedy did not give Natal much of a chance to trouble him, and apart from a few decent striking exchanges, "Sapo" was unable to get it going and eventually got caught.
Natal had a chance to get the biggest victory of his career by edging Kennedy in his first main event; however, he will take this as a learning experience that should not prove too costly if he is able to improve and string together a few more victories.
Natal loses just his third UFC bout out of nine, believe it or not.
Runner Up -- Jorge Masvidal
Masvidal may have fought to his best potential, and rarely gets finished anymore, yet apart from snapping a three-fight win streak this was his chance to rise from a mid-tier fighter and get the big win he needed against a top prospect of the sport.
But, "Gamebred" came up short in the "Fight of the Night."
That's because he simply could not shake off Rustam Khabilov, who drilled Masvidal with a brutal spinning-leg kick right in the neck, dropping the former YouTube street fighting star and tipping the balance in the Russian's favor.
Masvidal will continue to deliver entertaining fights and all hope is not lost with "Gamebred," who is only 28 years old and is still capable of going much further in this sport.
However, after a professional record of 25-7 and looking to build off an impressive submission win over the aforementioned Chiesa his last time out, Masvidal's true chance to shine was in Kentucky.
And those types of UFC opportunities are few and far between.
For complete UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3" results and fight coverage click here.