UFC Fight for the Troops: Kennedy Herds Natal into a Leaping Left

Jack Slack@@JackSlackMMALead MMA AnalystNovember 7, 2013

Tim Kennedy got the job done. He had trouble getting there and looked anything but a world beater, but a leaping left hook knockout is never a bad way to end a night of fights. Unless you happen to be Rafael Natal, of course.

The entire card proved entertaining and enjoyable, with some great technical moments and strategic showings. Criticism about the star power on this card might have been accurate, but names don't matter on a free card where quality fights do.

Today we'll make a recap of some of my favourite moments from the night.

Yancy Medeiros Starches Yves Edwards

Before talking about easily my favourite fight of the night, I want to take you on a tangent.

A few weeks ago the UFC announced the strange acquisition of Katsunori Kikuno. While he is past his best, I have always wanted to see how much trouble the Japanese lightweight could stir up with his brilliant snap kicks to the midsection.

To return to the here and now, Yancy Medeiros showed exactly how troubling the front snap kick to the gut can be in his brutalizing of Yves Edwards' body throughout their short and explosive bout. 

There are two ways in which one can effectively box a taller fighter. The first is to get in close by moving your head or checking their hands, the second is to stand at an exaggerated distance and force the taller fighter to give up his reach by lunging in.

Edwards was attempting to perform the second method and it worked when Medeiros stepped in with punches, but the ramrod snap kick to the midsection served to put Edwards behind and wind him while he failed to get off a good counter.

Edwards' head was always lower than Medeiros', he was the shorter man after all, but he often performs ducking head movements, whether that be as he leans towards the opponent or away from them. Medeiros' team had clearly done their homework as Medeiros attempted to punish Edwards for dropping his head each time they engaged. 

Medeiros' lead hand was unusually active on offense for an open guard (orthodox vs. southpaw) engagement. Typically the lead hand serves, for the most part, to check and counter the opponent's use of the lead hand in such bouts. Medeiros went on the offensive with it but it led to him being cracked with the southpaw Edwards' famous counter right hook each time he jabbed. 

Medeiros' team had obviously put together an answer to Edwards' favourite counter, however. Twice Medeiros stepped in with a jab, right straight and left uppercut while moving to the inside of Edwards' lead foot. On the second time, Medeiros caught Edwards clean as he ducked with the counter right hook and the fight was over.

The lead uppercut is a fantastically under-appreciated punch, in the right context. Madeiros' lead uppercut was perfect to catch the dipping Edwards, but even in this instance it opened up the left side of his head to Edwards' best punch in the process. 

Beautiful gif of that here.

Medeiros' angle on this technique was reminiscent of George Foreman's stepping left.

I had not seen much of Medeiros before, but scoring the knockout of the night in an inventive striking performance against a wily veteran is enough to ensure that I will not miss his next fight.

Rustam Khabilov outpoints Jorge Masvidal

Jorge Masvidal deserves serious appreciation for his counterwrestling ability. Where Rustam Khabilov's previous opponents have found themselves knowing that a suplex is coming and being unable to do anything about it, it was Khabilov who looked to be struggling to answer Masdival in the clinch.

What Khabilov did show was striking aptitude. His use of combinations, body punches and unorthodox techniques, such as the lead back elbow and wheel kick, worked wonderfully to keep Masvidal on the back foot.

The one thing which may be responsible for Masvidal not achieving great things in this sport is his tendency to lay back and go on the defensive when attacked. He does not tend to counterfight much, and when his opponent comes at him, he will back up, forearms raised, until they stop attacking him.

This double forearms guard allowed Khabilov to land a few good right hooks behind Masvidal's left hand, but also gave the appearance that Khabilov was in control, even though the fight was proving very even.

The unpredictable wheel kick which dropped Masvidal, and which he recovered from admirably, simply served to secure the final round and give Khabilov the decision.

Both parties looked good in this bout, and there is reason to look forward to the future of both men.

Tim Kennedy catches Rafael Natal circling

There isn't an awful lot to say about this fight because it was so brief and relatively uneventful up to the knockout. But as Kennedy is a favourite of the military crowd, it was certainly good for the fans that this fight went off as it did.

Natal looked to be confusing Kennedy early with the switching of stances and the use of low kicks. Kennedy struggled to check well and ended up falling over on the end of one.

Once the fight moved past the nervous stage, in which both fighters were throwing grazing techniques from long range, and moved into a more measured phase at a closer distance, Natal's fundamental flaws became more obvious.

Placing his back almost to the fence, Natal circled away towards Kennedy's left and only narrowly evaded Kennedy's first attempt to cut him off with a left hook.

Seconds later he landed with the same technique, and the match was done.

Brief Thoughts on the Danger of the Unknown

Both Kennedy and Natal made poor strategic decisions in the bout. Both men backed up into the fence at multiple points, and much of the fight was spent low kicking without set up in the centre of the cage.

Kennedy was right to be cautious, and it is understandable that he was thrown off and made to look quite average early on. Unknown opponents are far more dangerous to an elite fighter than the ones he has had time to study and prepare for.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou exploded into the top 10 of the light heavyweight division by starching Lil Nog and Ricardo Arona back to back simply because nobody knew anything about him except that he was a judoka. Nobody knew that Sokoudjou could punch and nobody knew that he would gas hideously if you kept a fight going for more than a round.

The examples go on and on. Fabricio Werdum opted to test out his improving stand up against an unknown Brazilian named Junior dos Santos. Houston Alexander shocked the world against a cocky Keith Jardine, then spent the rest of his career being thoroughly mediocre.

Kennedy looking out of sorts until he found his hook is understandable, and his knockout served to top off a good evening of fights. For those who would speculate about Kennedy's future, however, it is hard to see what he would have had for his original opponent, Lyoto Machida, if he struggled to keep Natal in front of him.

Pick up Jack's eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking from his blog, Fights Gone By.

Jack can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


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