UFC Fight For The Troops, and what constitutes a headliner fight?

On Wednesday Tim Kennedy will square off against Rafael Natal in the headliner fight of the UFC Fight Night 31.

Some critics have called into question the fight’s legitimacy as a headliner fight. Kennedy has yet to prove a contender in the UFC while Natal is, well, who is Natal? Even Kennedy made headlines this week when he mistakenly confused him with the tennis player, Rafael Nadal.

A headliner fight is usually a great fight on paper. It is the fight meant to promote the card. It tends to be the easy-to-point-at best fight on the card (in this case, the FD is looking forward to Dennis Bermudez v. Steven Siler)

In this case, UFC Fight Night 31 was meant to have a great headliner. Originally, Lyoto Machida was to make his debut against Kennedy and instead, an injury fill-in put him against Mark Munoz – and being a high-profile fight, Machida took it. Smart move. To replace Machida, the UFC added Natal – the weak link in the fight.

The unfortunate part is that Natal is no scrub. In fact, he’s 3-0 this year in the UFC. In fact, he’s 5-2-1 in the promotion. The fact is, he’s never fought anyone remotely as high-profile as Kennedy and therein lies the rub. Kennedy has ties to the military and like Brian Stann it has inflated his profile. He is the logical fighter to headline a card that is free to US troops.

In this case, the UFC did not need a truly great fight (by whatever standards you measure that by) to headline this card – it only needed a fight that could promote it.

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