At UFC Fight Night 31, Tim Kennedy defeated Rafael Natal via a first-round knockout. It was the culmination of what has been a tumultuous past few months, as Kennedy's original opponent was switched, and his new foe presented an unforeseen challenge.
After dismantling Natal, Kennedy deserves to enter the middleweight title picture.
Kennedy was expected to face Lyoto Machida at Fight for the Troops. Per Brett Okamoto of ESPN, those plans changed when Michael Bisping was forced to pull out of a fight with Mark Munoz due to an eye injury.
UFC proceeded to replace Bisping with Machida, thus placing Kennedy's fight in a state of uncertainty. Natal accepted the short-notice opportunity to fight and was announced as Kennedy's opponent for the Nov. 6 show.
Kennedy displayed class when thanking Natal for taking the short-notice fight:
It was a tough situation for both fighters, but that doesn't take away from the impressive nature of Kennedy's win.
Kennedy was once a star in Strikeforce. Since joining UFC, he is 2-0 with both a decision and knockout victory. The 34-year-old knocked out Natal at Fight Night 31, and in his company debut, he defeated Roger Gracie in three rounds via unanimous decision.
If that's not impressive enough for you, he's doing all of this while serving as a full-time member of the United States Army.
The middleweight championship picture is cloudy behind champion Chris Weidman and No. 1 contender Anderson Silva. There are a number of strong contenders, including Machida, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for another name to emerge.
That's exactly why Dana White should reschedule the Kennedy vs. Machida match with a title shot on the line.
As previously stated, Kennedy and Machida were supposed to fight at the Nov. 6 show. Instead, they took on different opponents and emerged victorious.
More specifically, both Kennedy and Machida secured first-round knockouts.
With Weidman and Silva set to steal headlines for the next few months, the best option for UFC is to schedule a fight that can determine the next in line. There are other options, but this fight has already been hyped, and it would be senseless to ignore the potential significance this rematch would possess.
If not Machida, then Kennedy deserves a shot at another contender. He's certainly earned it.
Potential opponents for Kennedy include Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza and Michael Bisping. All are ranked in the top five in the middleweight division, per UFC.com, and each would present Kennedy with the opportunity to prove his legitimacy.
If this event proved anything, it's that Kennedy deserves that chance.