Chances are, lots fans aren’t quite as stoked about tomorrow night’s UFC Fight Night 31 card, due to the fact Lyoto Machida will no longer battle Tim Kennedy in the main event. As you likely know, Machida’s middleweight debut went down at UFC FN 30 instead, as he stepped in for the injured Michael Bisping, and quickly blasted Mark Munoz.

Of course, stepping into the shoes of a former light-heavyweight champ, who is capable of buzzing audiences with highlight reel stoppages, isn’t exactly easy. The man who was assigned the task of battling Kennedy in Wednesday’s headliner was Rafael Natal, who has won three straight fights and is 4-1 in his last five. While “Sapao” isn’t a household MMA name like Machida, clearly the UFC wanted to reward the renowned grappler with a high profile opportunity. As Natal noted to MMA recently:

“We’re going to make a good show for the people, and we will see what they say after the fight,” Natal said. “UFC, Dana White and Joe Silva know what they’re doing to promote a fight, and if they made this the main event, they did it for a reason.”

Obviously, the bout is a massive opportunity for Natal , as a win over a widely respected middleweight like Kennedy would certainly turn some heads in the UFC.

“I’m going to beat Tim then I’m going to be in the top 10 for sure,” Natal said. “It’s going to be a very good fight for me, and it will be one of the best fights of the year.”

We’ll see how it all plays out soon enough. “Fight for the Troops III” will be hosted by Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1.

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