Gracie looked strong early on, and he was also significantly taller than Kennedy. The Brazilian worked the fight down after some work and maneuvered to his opponent's back. The acclaimed submission artist couldn't find a choke, however, and Kennedy escaped.
The slight underdog, Gracie, never recovered.
Kennedy would go on to control the second and third round, while Gracie seemed worn down by his early efforts. A barrage of strikes in the second round, courtesy of Kennedy, didn't help the Brazilian out either.
Now we have a better gauge as to where each fighter falls in the UFC middleweight division, as well as how far up the ranks they could go in the future. Here's what we learned from the contest Saturday night from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
What We Learned about Tim Kennedy
Kennedy, 33, fought for the Strikeforce middleweight title on a pair of occasions, nearly earning it once. But he did not look like a contender at UFC 162.
He did defend against submission threats early, which displayed just how difficult he is to submit. He also utilized his wrestling well. However, Kennedy was unable to deal much damage to Gracie, who tired rather quickly.
Also, it's hard to say just how good a win this is for Kennedy, considering Gracie has no quality wins in his career.
Still, a win is a win, and Kennedy is in a better spot than his opponent. But he's a long way from breaking into contention, and he's probably not even a top-15 middleweight at this point in time.
He'll be competitive against unranked guys, but that's probably it.
What We Learned about Roger Gracie
Simply, he's not going to be a factor in the UFC.
Gracie, 31, had one strong moment against Kennedy, taking his back in the opening round. After Kennedy escaped, however, Gracie seemed like a different fighter.
The Brazilian has incredible jiu-jitsu—make no mistake about that. But essentially his only route to victory is via submission.
It's difficult to succeed in the middleweight division—or any division for that matter—with jiu-jitsu as your only weapon. It's certainly not enough to defeat champion Anderson Silva.
Gracie will have to improve immensely on his stand-up if he wants to continue fighting in the UFC. He has length, which would allow him to utilize a nice jab and keep distance. But he needs to figure out how to use it.
Lastly, his cardio needs some work. Gracie appeared to have about one round's worth of energy. That won't fly in the UFC.
What's Next for Tim Kennedy
Kennedy probably doesn't advance much with this win, and his comments on fighter pay won't exactly do him any favors. Still, he is moving in the right direction.
Andrew Craig, who defeated Chris Leben earlier at UFC 162, would be a fine option for the Strikeforce veteran. Daniel Sarafian, Alan Belcher and Tim Boetsch are on the shortlist as well.
What's Next for Roger Gracie
Gracie didn't have the debut he needed, and his next outing will be an important one.
Chris Leben, who lost to Andrew Craig on the preliminary card of UFC 162, is one option. Chris Camozzi is another, but there's a very long list of middleweights in Gracie's range.
Of course, a matchup with fellow jiu-jitsu specialist Rousimar Palhares would be perfect.
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