For the third time in UFC history, the promotion will feature an event in cooperation with a U.S. military base for UFC: Fight for the Troops 3.
This fight card, which takes place in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, has had a number of changes, including headliner Lyoto Machida replaced by fellow Brazilian Rafael Natal.
Once again Jordan Cieciwa (@FitCityJordan) and I (@LynchOnSports) go head to head in our picks for this mid-week event. Last weekend at Bellator 106, my #TeamLynch went a decent 8-3, but a miserable 1-4 on the main card. #TeamJC went 7-4 but was had was better on the main card going 3-2. Let us know which side you're on this week. Either tweet #TeamLynch or #TeamJC. Also feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section below.
Tim Kennedy vs. Rafael Natal
James Lynch TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports)
Crowd favorite and U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Kennedy aims for his second UFC victory, when he is paired with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Natal.
The former Strikeforce title challenger is on a two-fight win streak, including a successful UFC debut against Roger Gracie. Looking for his third straight win, he'll face a stiff test in Natal, who has currently won five of his last six fights.
The Gracie Fusion fighter is coming off a "Fight of the Night" performance in a victory over Tor Troeng at UFC Fight Night 28 and looks for his first four-fight win streak inside the octagon.
It's no secret the Brazilian has the superior ground game, but will he be able to handle the wresting of Kennedy?
The 34-year old Jackson/Winklejohn product showed in his losses to Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza that he's extremely durable and difficult to finish.
With no submission losses on his resume, it's unlikely Natal will force the tap in this fight. Expect Kennedy to turn this into a dog fight in front of the military crowd and pull of a unanimous decision victory.
Kennedy via unanimous decision
Jordan Cieciwa – TSN 1290 Host (@FitCityJordan)
I will say about this fight, it's not an easy victory for Tim Kennedy.
Rafael Natal is an accomplished athlete with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If they wanted a main event to ensure the ex-US Army Staff Sergeant would win, this is not the one.
At 5' 1'', Tim Kennedy is no stranger to tough fights and some great stand up battles. He has been vocal about pay scales and time off in the industry. Other than that, there are few as focused as Kennedy.
He is always ready to go when he steps in the octagon. His opponent is riding a three-fight win streak. Rafael's last fight in September was an all-out war and fight of the night honors went to the battle with Tor Troeng.
It will be interesting to see if he has had enough time to recover and put in a solid camp.
That fight was 10 weeks ago. A full three round fight like that needs a good three or four weeks of rest. That leaves six weeks to prepare for Kennedy. That lack of rest a preparation is the reason I am giving the nod to Kennedy.
Kennedy via unanimous decision
Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
Port Colborne native Davis looks to pull off the upset on Wednesday, when she battles former women's title challenger Carmouche.
The 29-year old will be heading into enemy territory as "Girl-Rilla" is an Iraq military veteran and will no doubt have the crowd on her side. A winner of three-straight fights since her loss to fellow Canuck Sarah Kaufman last year, a win over the highly touted Carmouche would certainly propel her into the title picture.
Meanwhile the 29-year old San Diego native bounced back from her loss to Ronda Rousey, with an impressive victory over Jessica Andrade at UFC on FOX 8. Both fighters are well versed in all areas of this fight, with Carmouche having the advantage on the feet and Davis having the edge on the mat.
No doubt this will be competitive, but Carmouche should outwork the Canadian over three rounds, landing the better shots on route to a unanimous decision victory.
Carmouche via unanimous decision
I'd love to see a Canadian win a fight against a Marine at the "Fight for the Troops" I am pretty sure nothing more "un-American" than that could ever happen.
With that said, Liz Carmouche gave Ronda Rousey her first scare inside the cage, and she has had a very impressive career so far. Alexis Davis is an impressive fighter, but from what fans have seen from her this far, I don't think her striking or wrestling will match Carmouche.
Liz should be able to over power, and out gun Davis. This will be an exciting fight with a lot of pace. Davis always brings a solid fight and her time with Cesar Gracie team will be perfecting her ground game. Davis is a contender in the division, but it will be Carmouche's night.
Carmouche via unanimous decision
Ronny Markes vs. Yoel Romero
The 14-1 Brazilian Markes looks for his eighth straight victory when he battles Cuban Olympic medalist Romero. The 25-year old was originally scheduled to compete on the UFC on FUEL 10 card back in June, but a car accident a day before the fight as he was scheduled to face Derek Brunson.
Romero is coming off a "Knockout of the Night" performance against Clifford Starks at UFC on FOX 7 and looks for his sixth win in his last seven fights.
The 36-year old American Top Team fighter should be able to avoid the mat with his wrestling and use his exceptional standup to knockout the Nova Uniao fighter, sometime in the second round.
Romero via second round knockout
I'm excited to watch this fight. I'm actually expecting a fight of the night out of this one.
Ronny Markes has looked fantastic in his career to date. At 14-1 he has faced some top tier talent including Paulo Filho and Aaron Simpson. His opponent across the cage is Yoel Romero.
His flashy knee KO over Clifford Starks raised some eyebrows.
In my opinion it's not enough to make the case to beat Ronny Markes. I expect this to be a great fist fight with someone getting tagged early and in exciting style.
Markes via second round TKO
Rustam Khabilov vs. Jorge Masvidal
In a matchup that could very well take home "Fight of the Night" honors, 16-1 Russian Sambo specialist Khabilov battles former Strikeforce title challenger Masvidal.
The 26-year old Jackson/Winklejohn member has made quite the impression since his UFC debut last December. Through two fights, Khabilov has earned two first round finishes over Vinc Pichel and Yancy Mediros.
His superior Sambo background has served him well thus far in the octagon, bullying opponents and looking completely dominant while doing so. Facing a 32-fight veteran in Masvidal however, is a big step up in competition.
Currently riding a three-fight win streak, the American Top Team product Masvidal has faced his fair share of top talent including Gilbert Melendez, Paul Daley and Raphael Assuncao.
Despite the fact all of those were losses, none of those fighters were able to finish the gritty Miami native. Aside from having superior standup, the 28-year old also holds a two inch reach advantage that should serve him well if he is able to neutralize the Russians clinch game.
No doubt many pundits will be favoring the decorated Russian in this fight, but Masvidal will prove his critics wrong by pulling off the upset. Masvidal should be able to keep his opponent at bay, and pick away with his shots on route to a unanimous decision victory.
Masvidal via unanimous decision.
How do you bet against Jorge Masvidal in this contest? With 25 wins, 10 by knockout it's hard to give anyone else the nod. He's been in the cage with the champion and has looked excellent in all of his fights.
Rustam Khabilov has less than five minutes of cage time in two fights. He debuted in the UFC with an impressive slam/ground and pound win. The fact remains, his level of competition has not been the same as Masvidal.
Look for Jorge to use his total arsenal as a veteran to get this win. The reach advantage goes to Masvidal, and I'm sure he will use that to stay out of harm's way and secure a KO win.
Watch for a young, frustrated Khabilov to make a mistake early in the second and get knocked out.
Masvidal via second round KO
Michael Chiesa vs. Colton Smith
Two Ultimate Fighter winners open up the main card in the lightweight division, as active U.S. Army member Smith battles Team Alpha Male fighter Chiesa. The TUF 16 winner Smith is coming off hard fought loss to TUF: Smashes winner Robert Whittaker at UFC 160. As a result, Smith will be making his debut at lightweight on Wednesday night for a better result.
Similarly TUF 15 winner Chiesa is coming off his first pro defeat at UFC on FOX 8, when he was submitted by Jorge Masvidal in the second round. Both fighters have proved to be very durable, but Chiesa will have both a one inch height and five inch reach advantage.
In addition, Chiesa has fought half as many fights as Smith, who has only competed five times in the cage. While this fight will be competitive, expect Chiesa to catch Smith sometime in the third round and land in the submission for the win.
Chiesa via third round submission
I don't like Colton Smith. There I said it. The Ultimate Fighter winner gave a glove touch cheap shot to get into the house and that still has left a sour taste in my mouth.
It's the reason I'm excited to see Michael Chiesa step in and work his submission game. Chiesa had his first big test when he fought Jorge Masvidal; Masvidal won that fight with one second remaining in the second round. This match up favors Chiesa who finishes fights. He's got two decisions in nine wins. That's a fantastic record, and one that has me believing he's got a win coming in front of the troops.
Chiesa via second round submission
Lynch: Green, Roop, Bermudez, Nunes, Larkin, Edwards, Baczynski, Brunson
JC: Krause, Roop, Bermudez, Nunes, Camozzi, Edwards, Baczynski, Brunson
Also be sure to tune into the "Weigh-In" on TSN Radio 1290 Winnipeg every Saturday as myself, Jordan and "Big Marv" Timog go toe to toe discussing the hottest topics in MMA.