UFC Fight For The Troops wasn’t the most star-studded card ZUFFA presented in 2013, but it was certainly a memorable one.
An excited crowd at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, made completely of soldiers watching the bouts free of charge, witnessed a solid night of MMA action tonight.
There were a few fights with possible title implications, like Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis, which saw Davis’ improved standup carry the day against the former bantamweight title challenger over three competitive rounds. Davis’ leg kicks were particularly effective.
There were a few interesting prospects on the show too. (If you can call a 36 year old man a prospect, that is.) Cuban Yoel Romero is a decorated Olympic wrestler who has shown great power in his brief MMA career, and his knockout victory over Ronny Markes was impressive. Romero stopped Markes cold with an overhand left after an entertaining, back-and-forth exchange throughout three rounds.
On the other end of the spectrum, Holland’s Germaine de Randamie is as decorated a women’s kickboxer as we’ve seen in the Octagon, and she lost quickly tonight. Brazilian grappler Amanda Nunes took her down, advanced to mount, and struck down with punches and elbows. De Randamie seemed to block most of Nunes’ strikes, but was warned to fight back — and the bout was stopped when she proved unable to do so.
An exciting, back-and-forth affair between Rustam Khabilov and Jorge Masvidal was another highlight. After absorbing two solid overhands from Khabilov, Masvidal struck well throughout the first two rounds. Khabilov scored a remarkable spinning wheel kick to get a knockdown in round three, and eventually secured a unanimous decision victory.
Most MMA fans will say the night belonged, however, to Tim Kennedy.
Only, he probably wouldn’t.
Kennedy would be predictably hyped beyond belief by UFC commentators, who at one point made a strange comparison between the former Green Beret and Mike Tyson. Still, it was quite a moment seeing his entrance and reception there among his fellow soldiers. It was nice to see.
His opponent, Rafael “Sapo” Natal, a Brazilian now based out of New York, was greeted by polite applause from the Fort Campbell crowd. That was nice, too.
Natal would dictate the early pace with his unorthodox standup attack, hitting hard leg kicks from both southpaw and conventional stances. But Kennedy waited his time and eventually found the mark with a leaping left hook — the trademark punch, incidentally, not of Tyson but another Cus D’Amato-trained champion, Floyd Patterson. The bout was waved off at 4:40 of round one.
Kennedy would address the crowd and describe himself as embarrassed by the attention. The soldiers in the crowd, he said, were the real heroes.
Funds were raised throughout the show to benefit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and National Intrepid Center of Excellence, to help US veterans with traumatic brain injuries and psychological health issues.
It was a memorable night at UFC Fight For The Troops. It was one where focus was ultimately placed on heroes from outside the MMA world. That, more than any action inside the cage, made it one to remember.