Tim Kennedy scored the most significant and emotional win of his career at UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
With a crushing left hook, Kennedy sent Rafael Natal tumbling to the canvas in Round 1, sealing the most emphatic victory of his professional career.
An active serviceman in the United States Army, Kennedy's dramatic win garnered intense applause from his comrades in the building and perfectly capped off an evening of great fights.
What we'll remember about this fight
We'll remember the knockout above all in this one.
In the closing seconds of Round 1, Kennedy clocked Natal with a vicious left hook before adding a few follow-up punches for good measure. Natal stiffened into a human two-by-four, and the bout was over.
Aside from the fight itself, the emotional element of Kennedy performing in front of his peers provided a nice touch to the evening's festivities.
"You guys are my heroes. You guys are my idols," Kennedy said in the post-fight interview.
The feels were strong in this one, and Kennedy's finish adequately embodied the overall significance of this fight card.
What we learned about Kennedy
Tim Kennedy has serious knockout power. Who knew?
With his incredible grappling base (the man out-grappled Roger Gracie, after all), this revelation is scary for the rest of the middleweight division.
Prior to this knockout, Kennedy's last finish via strikes came in 2007 against Elias Rivera (who?). FoxSports.com writer Mike Chiappetta took this analysis a step further with this tweet:
Needless to say, nobody predicted a Kennedy knockout, and his brutal left hook showcased a much-needed evolution in his overall game.
What we learned about Natal
Four fights in one year is just too much.
After defeating Sean Spencer in January, Joao Zeferino in May and Tor Troeng in September, Natal looked to run his 2013 record to 4-0, but this feat proved too difficult against Kennedy.
Natal could not get going in this fight, and he met an untimely end at the hands of the American.
What's next for Kennedy
Kennedy was originally slated to face Lyoto Machida at this event, so it is clear that the UFC feels prepared to give him a high-profile fight.
The win over Natal puts Kennedy somewhere in the division's top 10, but where, exactly?
Personally, I think a fight with either Francis Carmont or Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza makes sense moving forward.
What's next for Natal
After a strong 2013 campaign, Natal takes a step back with the loss to Kennedy.
A lower-level middleweight is in order for his next bout, and there are plenty of options in the suddenly stacked 185-pound division.
Although Yoel Romero won at UFC Fight for the Troops 3, I like a future matchup between him and Natal to decide where each man stands in the middleweight ranks.
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