UFC

Natal steps in to fight Kennedy

Tim Kennedy and Rafael Natal.
Why should you watch Kennedy vs Natal? Find out right here.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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After putting out a challenge to everyone in the UFC middleweight division, Tim Kennedy finally has an opponent for the UFC Fight for the Troops 3 main event. It’s Rafael Natal.

The 30-year-old Brazilian has accepted the opportunity for the biggest spotlight of his career, FOX Sports confirmed with UFC officials on Tuesday.

Despite the short notice, the bout will be contested as a five-rounder, the UFC confirmed.

Natal has quietly put together a strong stretch, earning wins in five of his last six octagon encounters, including a three-fight win streak that includes victories over Tor Troeng, Joao Zeferino and Sean Spencer.

Natal, who trains out of Team Renzo Gracie in New York, is 17-4-1 overall with eight submission finishes. That should make him a worthy style foil for Kennedy, who has a grappling heavy style with eight submission victories of his own.

The 34-year-old Kennedy (16-4) was left opponent-less last week after his original foe Lyoto Machida was plucked from the card to fill in for an injured Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz on Oct. 26.

Kennedy (16-4) won his octagon debut in July after being brought over from Strikeforce. He defeated Roger Gracie in a unanimous decision victory.

Meanwhile, Natal had been expecting to face Ed Herman at UFC 167, and now the UFC will be left to search for a new opponent for him, but at least for now, the more pressing issue is resolved, and with that, UFC Fight for the Troops 3 takes place on Nov. 6 from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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