5 reasons to watch Kennedy vs Natal

Wednesday evening, the UFC arrives at Fort Campbell for UFC Fight for the Troops 3.

This “troops only” event is a way for the UFC to give back to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, and features a number of competitors who are current or former members of the military, including headliner Tim Kennedy and former women’s bantamweight title challenger Liz Carmouche.

Much like previous mid-week cards, Wednesday’s 13-fight event – the final nine bouts of which will air live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 5pm ET/2pm PT – may not boast the biggest names on the UFC roster, but it still promises to be an exciting collection of contests.

If a fistic break from the monotony of DVR’ed favorites and early season basketball isn’t enough to sell you on settling in to enjoy this card, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are five reasons to watch UFC Fight for the Troops 3.

A New Middleweight Contender Emerges

The 185-pound weight class in the UFC is undergoing a shift right now, with some of the old guard dropping out of contention (or off the roster) and new arrivals starting to announce their presence.

Fresh off Lyoto Machida’s impressive divisional debut in Manchester, England, the winner of Wednesday’s main event between US Army Green Beret Tim Kennedy and surging Brazilian Rafael “Sapo” Natal will take another step up the divisional ladder and find themselves on the fringes of contention.

A two-time title challenger in Strikeforce, Kennedy is one of the most well-rounded and conditioned athletes in the UFC, traits he showed in his debut win over multiple-time BJJ world champion Roger Gracie at UFC 162. The Team Jackson-Winkeljohn representative keeps an incredible pace, and has only lost twice in the last six years.

After coming away from his first two UFC appearances without a victory, Natal has put together an impressive 5-1 mark heading into his bout with Kennedy, including have won each of his last three outings. Always a threat on the ground, “Sapo” has shown continued development with his striking over his time in the Octagon, and could be a more difficult challenge for the favored Kennedy than many believe.

Carmouche, Davis Battle for Place in Championship Queue

Liz Carmouche has already faced Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight title, and she’d like a second chance against the unbeaten champion.

Alexis Davis believed she was getting close after winning five of her last six fights prior to making her UFC debut in June. With one win under her belt already, a second victory over an established opponent like Carmouche could bring the Canadian to the top of the list of contenders.

With Cat Zingano currently sidelined, former Strikeforce champ Sarah Kaufmann coming off a loss, and unbeaten Olympic medalist Sara McMann off the radar at the moment, no one in the division has clear dibs on being dubbed “next in line,” which makes this a pivotal contest.

Both are coming off victories and stylistically they match-up well – Carmouche is the more powerful, aggressive striker, while Davis holds the edge in the grappling department. The women have continuously impressed since arriving in the UFC (as we knew they would) and this one shouldn’t be any different.

The Return of Rustam Khabilov

Few fighters in recent memory had as memorable a UFC debut as Rustam Khabilov, who tossed Vinc Pichel around the cage with a series of throws, eventually knocking out the former Ultimate Fighter contestant with perfectly executed belly-to-back suplex.

Khabilov followed it up with a second consecutive win via suplex four months later, as Yancy Medeiros injured his thumb while bracing for impact as the Team Jackson-Winkelkjohn fighter launched him through the air.

Now the 16-1 Sambo specialist gets his first UFC litmus test in the form of Jorge Masvidal, the former Strikeforce title challenger who began his fighting career in the same Miami street fighting scene that gave the world Kimbo Slice.

The confident and technical American Top Team fighter is coming off a second-round stoppage win over Michael Chiesa, and will help determine whether Khabilov is a legitimate prospect in the lightweight division or simply someone that has excelled against weaker competition thus far.

Ultimate Fighter Winners at a Crossroads

Michael Chiesa and Colton Smith won Season 15 and Season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter, respectively, but have since struggled to find their footing in the deep UFC lightweight division. With each man coming off a loss, they square off here with the very real potential that a second consecutive defeat could be their final appearance in the Octagon.

Chiesa, who dealt with the death of his father while winning the lone live season in Ultimate Fighter history, already has a non-TUF victory under his belt, having submitted Anton Kuivanen at UFC 157 this past February. Last time out, he took a sizable step up in competition against the aforementioned Jorge Masvidal, ending up on the wrong side of the results.

This marks Smith’s second consecutive pairing with a fellow TUF winner. After his finals win over Mike Ricci, the active member of the U.S. Army squared off with Robert Whittaker at UFC 160, suffering a third-round TKO loss to the welterweight winner of “The Smashes,” and now he moves down to lightweight for the first time, looking to avoid a second consecutive defeat.

With a pink slip potentially hovering overhead for the losing fighter, expect both to come out aggressively, looking to do everything possible to ensure their place on the roster going forward, win or lose.

Krause and Green Can’t Disappoint

The final bout of the preliminary portion of the card earns a mention here because the tandem of James Krause and Bobby Green feels like one of those pairings that simply cannot disappoint.

“The UFC put us as the last fight before the main card, and I think they did that for a reason,” Krause suggested in a recent interview with UFC.com. “They know that me and Bobby are going to come out, and I think it’s going to be fireworks. Neither of us is afraid to try anything. We’re both solid everywhere. I don’t have fear of throwing any technique, and I feel like he’s the same way.”

Both are coming off impressive third-round finishes in the respective debuts in the Octagon – Krause against Sam Stout in June, and Green in a February bout against Jacob Volkmann that earned the former Strikeforce competitor a ton on praise from UFC President Dana White.

With fireworks expected before the main card even kicks off, UFC Fight for the Troops 3 is definitely must-see TV on Wednesday night.

UFC Fight for the Troops 3 takes place on Wednesday, November 6 at Fort Campbell in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and airs on Fox Sports 1 with preliminary card bouts beginning at 5pm ET, and the main card starting at 7pm ET.