Surrounded by a backdrop of black hawk helicopters, army trucks and soldiers, the UFC warriors went to battle this Saturday night at “UFC Fight For The Troops 3” from the unusual setting of the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky.
In the main event, former special forces member Tim Kennedy took on Brazilian up-and-comer Rafael Natal in the middleweight division. Natal was brought in to replace his countryman (and Kennedy's original opponent) Lyoto Machida after “The Dragon” was drafted to fight Mark Munoz in Manchester just last week. Kennedy was a heavy favourite entering the fight and displayed why just minutes into the first frame. It was a busy opening round from Natal as he looked lose with his constant switches of stance. The Brazilian was catching Kennedy at will as it looked like the Texan was taking some time to settle in. Then, with just twenty seconds left in the round, Kennedy struck with a leaping left-hook out of nowhere – knocking Natal out to the joy of his adoring crowed of fellow soldiers in attendance. The win moves Kennedy to 2-0 in the UFC after an impressive start to his Octagon career.
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In the co-main event another troop was in action as former marine Liz Carmouche battled Alexis Davis. The most noteworthy strike of the tight round one was undoubtedly the jab of Davis, with Carmouche relying on counters as her most effective attacks, as both women stood toe-to-toe. The second round played out in a similar fashion; although Carmouche began to increasingly find a home for her power punches as Davis attacked the legs with bludgeoning low kicks. Despite a late takedown for Davis it was all to play for going into the last round it. Carmouche seemed to be a little less mobile in that final round as the impressive Davis' cardio shone through in a dominant striking round. The judges gave Davis the deserved unanimous decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 30-27.)
In the middleweight division 2000 Olympic freestyle wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero took to the Octagon for the second time against 14-1 Brazilian stand-out Ronny Markes. It was a tentative first round with both men unwilling to feel each others power as the biggest move of the period was a brief takedown for Markes. The second round consisted of three minutes of shadow-boxing before Romero landed a hurtful kick to the liver of Markes. The kick knocked the Brazilian to the floor but Romero didn't pounce and the posturing continued into the final round. The third round had a little more action, though, as both men came out striking hard. Markes looked to be tiring and as the clock ticked down, Romero slammed a massive left hook into the face of the Brazilian which knocked him backwards onto the canvas. Referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in and stopped the fight giving Romero his sixth KO victory in his six career wins to date.
That was preceded by three lightweight fights in a row when firstly striker Jorge Masvidal took on sambo practitioner Rustam Khabilov. It was an even first round as Khabilov was willing to stand and trade with Masvidal early doors before the takedown attempts came late in the round form the Russian. Masvidal stuffed them all and took a new found confidence into the middle round. The jab of Masvidal was the money shot in the second as Khabilov began to struggle on the feet. Amazingly, Masvidal took the only takedown of the period late in the round. The last round was the most eventful. As both men jabbed at each other early on; Khabilov caught Masvidal with a thunderous spinning back kick to the head. Somehow it was only a knockdown and Masvidal immediately got back to his feet – but his race was run. Khabilov took over and dominated the fight from that point on - both on the feet and in the grappling. The judges gave Khabilov the unanimous decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) in a fight which could have gone either way.
Then TUF champions met as serviceman Colton Smith took on TUF: Live winner Michael Chiesa. The first round was a superb grappling battle with Smith securing the takedown early on before Chiesa brilliantly turned the tables and took the back of the game army man. Chiesa sunk in a tight rear naked choke which Smith eventually escaped and then reversed the roles – almost submitting Chiesa with the same hold before the pulsating opening round ended. In the second round, though, it was all over. As Smith pushed his opponent against the fence; Chiesa put him flying through the air with a slick judo throw and dropped Smith straight on his head. Chiesa took the back of his dazed opponent, slapped on the rear naked choke and forced Smith to tap-out with just under two minutes expired in the middle round.
The third of the trio of 155 fights was maybe the most noteworthy as King Bobby Green fought James Krause. The first round was played out totally on the feet with Krause pushing the pace and Green defending with the shoulder roll followed by counter punches as Krause moved out. Late in the round, though, a bizarre sequence of events occurred. Following a second illegal groin kick, Green was deducted a point by Big John McCarthy. Then, as the fighters reengaged, Green struck with another kick which floored Krause. It seemed, initially, as if it was a third low blow but Referee McCarthy deemed it legal and called the fight over – giving Bobby Green the oddest of TKO victories. On the replay it looked borderline and a rematch could be made the settle it once and for all.
Rangy Bantamweight George Roop was then aiming to extend his two-fight winning streak since returning to featherweight against knockout artist Cisco Rivera. The close first round was a tale of two disciplines. Standing up Rivera had the better of it; landing some hurtful blows to Roop including a huge uppercut late in the round. On the ground; Roop had the superior game and had Rivera on the deck for almost half of the opening period. The second round, though, wasn't nearly as close. Rivera came out meaning business as he opened up with his striking. The Californian staggered Roop with a huge left hook before dropping him to the ground with a barrage of combinations - forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to step in and end the fight ten seconds before the midpoint of the scheduled fifteen minutes.
Featherweights on the cusp of the top-10 were up next with TUF finalist Denis Bermudez taking on perennial upsetter Steven Siler. This time there was no upset. The TUF 14 team-Miller teammates went at it from the opening bell. Bermudez takedowns were followed by Siler submissions throughout the round, as first Siler sunk in a guillotine and was then close to securing a triangle. Roles were then reversed as a Siler takedown attempt was turned into a tight guillotine for Bermudez which almost finished the fight. Siler escaped just before the round ended. In the second round Bermudez controlled the fight more effectively following the takedown and shut down the submission game of Siler; blanketing “The Pit Elevated” fighter for the full five minutes. The final round was fought out largely on the feet as the rapid Bermudez showed his ever-improving striking game to frustrate Siler before taking him down late in to round to secure the impressive unanimous decision victory (30-27, 20-27, 30-27)
Rounding out the main preliminary action was the second female fight of the evening between Germaine De Randamie and Amanda Nunes. It was a fight Nunes dominated; taking down GDR almost immediately and getting into a full mount. From there Nunes unleashed a barrage of punches and elbows, many of which seemed to be blocked by De Randamie. Then, with a little less than four minutes on the clock gone, referee Herb Dean had seen enough and stepped in to stop the fight in what seemed a somewhat premature stoppage giving Nunes her second first round UFC stoppage in a row.
The four-fight early prelims kicked off with a stunning display from North Carolina's Derek Brunson who dropped Brian Houston with a huge left kick to the head before finishing him off with a rear naked choke just forth-eight seconds into the fight. That was followed by Neil Magny vs. Seth Baczynski in a fight which was dominated by the grappling of The Polish Pistola until the last minute of the third round when Magny poured on a late barrage that almost stopped the fight. It went to the judges and Baczynski took the unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). Then, veteran Yves Edwards was knocked out inside of three minutes when he was caught by a stunning left-hand uppercut by Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros before middleweight Chris Camozzi was battered and bloodied by the hard-hitting Lorenz Larkin who took the unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) after a wonderful stand-up brawl.