The fight turned out to be quite the war, leaving Brazilian fans very satisfied with their man "Sapo," who won a flashy unanimous decision. It was impressive, but far from easy, as Troeng showed incredible toughness to escape from several sticky situations.
In the end, this show of amazing ground skill was the best fight of the night, so let's take a look back at Natal's thrilling win.
The action started quick when Natal dropped Troeng with a grazing overhand right. "Sapo" quickly followed to the ground, looking to control Troeng and submit him with a guillotine.
Troeng pulled out a reversal, standing up to nail Natal with a powerful ground shot. A highly technical grappling display followed, with Natal using a variety of effective sweeps to gain advantage. Unwilling to give in, Troeng fought through and finished the opening round strong with top position.
When the second frame kicked off, Natal found a pinpoint straight right directly on the chin of Troeng, following up with a flurry of punches.
It looked like the fight might be stopped for a moment.
However, Troeng showed the toughness that it takes to fight in the Octagon, weathering the early storm despite being visibly tired. He continued this trend in the third round, going for a big double leg that Natal turned into yet another guillotine attempt. This one was tight for a moment, with the referee checking Troeng's arm. He persevered to get out of another submission attempt, but was swept by the swift technique of Natal.
Natal advanced position to take Troeng's back, and this rousing back-and-forth chess match came to a close, with Natal the victor by unanimous decision.
It's a disappointing loss for Troeng, who looked to build off the momentum he had from a submission win over Adam Cella at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 Finale. "Hammer" showed a ton of heart in coming back from being rocked twice, and he escaped some truly horrific positions on the ground. He shouldn't take too much of a hit for his gritty performance in hostile territory.
For the fans in the country where Brazilian Jiu-jitsu originated, this fight was perfect. The mastery on the ground was nothing short of spectacular, with attacks seeming to feed off one another.
The crowd was almost deafening in its loud chants of "Sapo," and Natal did nothing but deliver last night. The win puts him on a three-fight streak inside the octagon, and a bigger name will await the surging Middleweight.
His striking was strong in Belo Horizonte, which is a great sign for his overall evolution. Natal has been winning a good amount of decisions lately. Even though he didn't quite earn the stoppage last night, he showed he has the ability to do so. Not all fighters will exhibit the ability to come back from danger like Troeng did. Natal may be ready for a Top 15-ranked type of opponent sooner rather than later.
Overall, Rafael Natal vs. Tor Troeng was a great match, wholly deserving of its "Fight of the Night" status. In a night full of respectable finishes, this back and forth battle was the best all-around bout.
Rafael Natal and Tor Troeng put on a great show at UFC Fight Night 28. What's next for the talented Middleweights?