Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 | 10:10 p.m.
The toughest decision Tim Kennedy ever made was stepping away from the Army to focus on his UFC career full-time.
The middleweight misses his service as a Special Forces sniper every day.
“My wife and I don’t argue, but probably the only thing we have points of contention about is me putting back on a uniform,” Kennedy said. “If a war kicked off, she’d probably just have to give in.”
For now, Kennedy must settle for entertaining his brothers in arms. He succeeded wildly in doing so Wednesday in Fort Campbell, Ky., in the main event of UFC: Fight for the Troops 3.
In front of nearly 5,000 soldiers chanting his name in an Army hangar, Kennedy knocked out Rafael Natal with an overhand left at 4:40 of the first round.
“I’m 100 percent overwhelmed,” Kennedy teared up as he addressed the crowd after the win. “Your guys’ job is a thousand times, infinitely harder than anything I could ever do in here. I don’t deserve to be here. I love you guys so much. I miss everything about this. You guys are my heroes.”
Kennedy salvaged the night for the UFC’s military-veteran contingent. The other three fighters on the card who recently served the country suffered losses.
It started with welterweight Neil Magny on the undercard, who dropped a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) to Seth Baczynski. In the co-main event, Alexis Davis upset former Marine helicopter electrician Liz Carmouche by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in a women’s bantamweight bout.
Fellow former Army Ranger and Kennedy training protégé Colton Smith got submitted with a rear-naked choke at 1:41 of the second round in a lightweight bout against Michael Chiesa.
Chiesa could commiserate with Smith. “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” champion recently lost the first fight of his career in front of his home crowd in Seattle, and felt Smith was in a similar position at Fight For The Troops.
“People don’t understand the pressure you have when you fight at home,” Chiesa said. “It felt nice to be on the other side of it.”
Jorge Masvidal was the fighter to defeat Chiesa, but he took a step back Wednesday. On a card celebrating America, a Russian might have earned the biggest victory.
Rustam Khabilov won his third straight to start his UFC career and work his way up the lightweight ranks with a unanimous-decision win (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over Masvidal. The highlight came when Khabilov knocked Masvidal down with a spin kick in the third round.
“This guy talked about me, bad speak,” Khabilov said. “I tell all my friends if I no win, I die.”
Kennedy echoed those sentiments. He said he severely injured his quadriceps a week before the card during a freak accident running on a track.
It was painful enough to pull out of a fight, but not one as special as this.
“If they had to roll me into the cage to fight Natal, I would have fought him,” Kennedy said. “In the cage, once they hoisted me up and lifted me into the cage, Natal would have had to shoot me and bludgeon me to death until I quit.”
Read below for the rest of the results from UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
Yoel Romero knocked out Ronny Markes at 1:39 of the third round with a straight left in a middleweight bout.
Bobby Green won a TKO over James Krause with a body kick at 3:50 of the first round in their lightweight bout. Some believed the kick landed below the belt and should have made the fight a no-contest, but UFC President Dana White was not among them.
Dennis Bermudez won every round on every judges’ scorecard to beat Steven Siler by unanimous decision in a featherweight bout.
Amanda Nunes made oddsmakers look foolish for installing her women’s bantamweight bout against Germaine de Randamie as a pick’em. Nunes knocked out de Randamie with elbows at 3:56 of the first round.
Lorenz Larkin defeated Chris Camozzi by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) in a middleweight bout.
Yancy Medeiros knocked out Yves Edwards at 2:47 of the first round. The longtime lightweight veteran Edwards may have reached the end of the road with his third straight defeat.
Derek Brunson submitted Brian Houston by rear-naked choke 48 seconds into their middleweight bout.