Tonight (Weds., Sept. 4, 2013), at UFC Fight Night 28 from Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has loaded the international mixed martial arts (MMA) card top to bottom with Brazilian talent.
Rafael Natal, a seven-fight Octagon veteran, is one of these homegrown products, taking on Sweden's Tor Troeng. While the betting odds would tell you Natal should be heavily favored, this is certainly a match up that could go either way, and one that has all the ingredients to be very exciting.
Natal, primarily a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert, is an odd fighter to break down. His ground work is excellent at times, but everything else about his game is inconsistent, to be quite honest. He shows flashes of very good striking technique, but he is also prone to making big mistakes on the feet and/or becoming extremely overconfident when he has no business doing so.
The most reliable part of Natal's game (other than his jiu-jitsu) would have to be his clinch game, where he is effective at doing damage and looking for takedowns. When he finds that his opponent is too difficult to take down with simple shots from far out, he moves into the clinch to attack with strikes that help him set up trips and throws.
From there, he is free to go to work on the mat, where he presses the issue of advancing position and inflicting damage.
Meanwhile, Troeng's striking is good, but not great; however, he does commit to exchanges at times and he is pretty effective offensively. His defense can be shoddy, but his chin is fairly reliable, as he has only suffered one (technical) knockout loss, which came to Josh Samman on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
Much like Natal, Troeng's clinch game is pretty offensive, able to dole out plenty of damage from close range. He also uses the clinch to set up takedowns, and from the top position he is a submission threat, but also drops heavy damage in the form of ground-and-pound. Splitting 12 finishes evenly among knockouts and submissions, it is obvious that Troeng's game is well rounded and pretty effective.
This Middleweight fight will be a great test for both fighters, one that should certainly provide an array of exciting exchanges. Natal's awkward approach to striking will necessitate offense from Troeng, and that is when I think we'll see both of these men at their best. On the mat, these men are both fairly even, with Natal holding a slight advantage in pure jiu-jitsu, but Troeng holding an advantage in his brutal ground-and-pound.
Ultimately, you will see two very similar fighters square off at UFC Fight Night 28 tonight in Brazil. They possess similar styles and skill sets, and this should bring the best out of both fighters. In a fight that many are expecting Natal to win easily, there is little doubt that it will be evenly contested throughout, producing fireworks -- and maybe even "Fight og the Night -- at "Teixeira vs. Bader."