History in the making: Tim Kennedy 'lets the fans down' by submitting Melvin Manhoef in Columbus

Esther Lin

"My striking is my strong point, I think. So I'm gonna use it. I'm not gonna leave it behind. And if there's another opportunity, then I'll take him down. Ha. No, just joking. I'm only gonna strike, so we'll see what happens." --Melvin Manhoef, 24 hours before fighting Tim Kennedy in Columbus, Ohio.

How scary is Melvin Manhoef?

Let's forget about the fact that he has 25 knockouts in 27 mixed martial arts (MMA) wins. Put aside that 85 KG MAX World championship for It's Showtime, or his light heavyweight title under the Cage Rage banner. This man knocked out Mark Hunt in just 18 seconds.

Not just out, smelling salts out.

So you can understand why so many fight fans did a double-take when Strikeforce middleweight contender Tim Kennedy promised to stand-and-bang with the Dutch-Surinamese striker, ahead of their 185-pound showdown on the main card of "Feijao vs. Henderson" on March 5, 2011, inside the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

"Melvin is always dangerous," Kennedy told MMAmania.com a month before the fight. "He has one-punch KO power and those punches come in dozens. I'm confident standing with him. I just had a five-round fight for the title, which was 24 minutes on our feet. I will KO Melvin in the first round."

Considering how often the Army Ranger had been surrounded by battlefield strategists as a grunt in Iraq, it sounded -- uncharacteristically -- like a suicide mission.

To complicate matters, Kennedy was coming off a five-round loss to Ronaldo Souza for the vacant middleweight strap. While it was hardly a blowout, dropping his very next fight would have undoubtedly booted him from the division title chase for the foreseeable future.

Probably not the best place to end up, with such an uncertain future.

Perhaps it was out of frustration?

Kennedy was originally expected to throw hands against MMA's court jester, Jason Miller, but "Mayhem" withdrew from their rematch for undisclosed reasons. Luke Rockhold was kind enough to step in and take his place, but then suffered a leg injury and was forced to bail.

Manhoef took over, the bout was finalized, and this is what happened.

Fighters touch gloves and Manhoef opens with a front kick to gauge the distance. Kennedy returns with a halfhearted leg kick and immediately shoots for the single-leg takedown. "Marvelous" defends and hops around on one limb until he squirms free and scurries out of danger.

"THAT'S NIIIIIICE!" screams cageside color commentator Frank Shamrock, perhaps haunted by visions of a turtle on its back.

They spend the next 30 seconds bobbing and weaving before Manhoef goes in for the kill. He whiffs on a left hook and Kennedy powers in for a takedown but once again, gets rejected with extreme prejudice. "No Mercy" catches an incoming leg kick and sends his attacker in reverse with a combination that falls just inches from ground zero.

Manhoef uncorks a brutal kick to the thigh and Kennedy ends up on his ass.

He quickly jumps to his feet, then eats another.

Kennedy shoots for a takedown with no set up, but is able to use the cage for leverage and after a significant amount of struggling, dumps the kickboxer on the canvas. Manhoef starts eating punches and gives up his back, where he is quickly choked out.

And the crowd goes mild.

"I really did, honestly, want to knock him out," Kennedy told the media at the post-fight press conference. "I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to knock him out. I feel like I let the fans down, but we just never got there. Next time he would have got up, I would have been swinging for the fences."

Better safe than sorry.

After taking a unanimous decision over Robbie Lawler, Kennedy would go on to lose a decision to Luke Rockhold for the division title. Following a rebound win over Trevor Smith in the promotion's final event, the YouTube jokester would cross over to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and win his first two fights.

Number three is waiting for him this Wednesday (April 16, 2014) in Quebec City.

That's where he'll face bitter rival Michael Bisping in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" main event on FOX Sports 1. Beating "The Count" not only avenges this loss, it puts Kennedy in position for a run at the 185-pound title, along with a potential spot in the top five.

For more on his upcoming fight against Bisping click here.

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