UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for the Troops 3" took place last night (Nov. 6, 2013) on FOX Sports 1 from Ft. Campbell in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in front of the men and women of the armed forces.
And it was a great night of fights.
With little promotion and intrigue for this event, fans were treated to spectacular knockouts, slick submissions and great back-and-forth battles.
In the main event, Tim Kennedy scored an emotional first-round knockout in front of his peers (watch video highlights here), finishing Rafael Natal in the first round. Kennedy now moves to 2-0 in the UFC and was the hero of this card.
For complete UFC Fight Night 31 results and play-by-play coverage, click here.
Before all the mixed martial arts (MMA) action unfolded inside the Octagon, there were promotional appearances to generate awareness for -- and interest in -- a trip to Ft. Campbell in front of the troops of the United States Army. Fighters said this and that, answering questions galore when all they really wanted to do is be left alone and not be bothered.
MMAmania.com does a pretty good job of passing along all the noteworthy pre- and post-fight comments for each event. But, as we've done before, let us look at the words that left the fighters' mouths before they stepped into the cage on Wednesday night.
"I love seeing guys physically and mentally break. Then I can start pouring it on. I am going to physically and mentally break Rafael Natal. He's dangerous, but all the things he does well, I'm really good at neutralizing."
Kennedy has never shied away from his true opinions and was not hateful in his pre-fight interviews in preparing for Brazilian submission ace, Natal. The American won in front of his fellow soldiers and had no time to make his opponent break, as Kennedy knocked him out clean with a left hand. The former U.S. army serviceman was the more dangerous fighter when it was all said and done, breaking "Sapo" with one punch.
"This is the biggest opportunity of my life, (and) of my career. Tim Kennedy is a tough guy. He's got a big name. It's a huge opportunity for me. I just turned 30 years old. I feel like I'm a new guy. I had three fights this year and I my body recovered pretty fast."
Natal was incredibly respectful in his pre-fight words and he earned the respect from the pro-Kennedy crowd. He may feel new at 30 years old, but he did have a three-fight winning streak snapped and will have to go back to the drawing board, in hopes that he can get a few more victories under his belt. "Sapo" is still young and has a hefty amount of time to take this as a learning experience and move forward.
"I don't prepare for my opponents. I just work on what I'm going to do. [Khabilov] has a great suplex, but who has he suplexed? Did he get an NCAA champion and suplex him? I don't see what the big hype is until you do it to someone actually worth doing it to. He just looks to clinch and take you down using his sambo. He's going to have to stay on his feet and we'll get to see how good his striking is."
Jorge Masvidal may not have gotten suplexed into oblivion, but he was on the receiving end of a brutal spinning-kick to the head in the third round and came up short against Rustam Khabilov. The outspoken Masvial had an opportunity to rise out of the lower-tier booking with his "Tales from The Grind" Internet showcase, which is a show that follows Masvidal in preparation for his fights. "Gamebred" certainly felt Khabilov's striking and he was not just taken down using sambo.
"It's in front of the troops; it's in front of my brothers and sisters in arms. This is in my backyard. This is going to be foreign to him. It's going to be like fighting in Brazil against a Brazilian. I'm fighting on a military base with my brothers and sisters in arms, people that I've served overseas with and trained with and been to schools with and served the last eight years with, so I'm extremely excited. I can't wait to put on a show for the fans."
It was not exactly a sting for Brazilians to hear Colton Smith's insults towards Michael Chiesa, but it certainly did not sit well with Chiesa. Both The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winners had their chance to finish the fight, though it was Chiesa who was able to submit Smith -- in front of his brothers and sisters in arms. This loss must obviously not sit well with Smith, who was excited to win in front of the troops in attendance.
"He's well-known, he's on a two-fight win streak, he just beat Brian Bowles. So I have to do what I have to do to win this fight. Hopefully they see that (if I win) in impressive fashion, they'll see me as a top bantamweight to get a title shot soon. My fists aren't enough, so I guess I have to start opening my mouth and calling guys out. Hopefully they see that and look at all my fights and know I have all that power that most guys don't have in the bantamweight division."
If you did not know who Francisco Rivera was before "Fight for the Troops 3," you surely do by now. The bantamweight stopped George Roop by way of strikes and dropped his opponent twice in the process. With a number of 135 pounders itching for their chance in line, Rivera may not get an immediate title shot. He did, however, get his name out there and establish himself as a threat for anyone who faces him next.
That's a wrap.
For complete UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for the Troops 3" coverage, check out our live story stream here.