Rounding out the main card of Ultimate Fight Night 28 in Brazil are two rising middleweights both coming off of impressive wins. Rafael “Sapo” Natal fought Joao Zeferino on short notice and came out with a unanimous decision victory, while Tor “the Hammer” Troeng won his UFC debut with a RNC submission victory over Adam Cella.
Fighter Summary –
Tor Troeng (16-4 overall, 1-0 UFC)
Strengths: Well-rounded fighter, awesome name
Weaknesses: Submission defense, very new to the UFC
Rafael Natal (16-4 overall, 4-2 UFC with 1 draw)
Strengths: Good grappler, strong submission skills
Weaknesses: Susceptible to KO’s
Fight Breakdown – These are two big guys in the middleweight division. They both have knockout power in their hands, but neither guy is a Vitor Belfort or Anderson Silva when it comes to one punch or kick striking capability. Now throwing a multitude of strikes against the other guy in a clinch or on the ground and it’s a different story. We’re likely to see a whole lot of that: clinchwork, grappling for position against the cage, and breaking clinches with elbows and punches.
This fight is going to go everywhere throughout the course of the match. They’re relatively evenly matched and it’s hard to say who is going to have a clear advantage in any area. Natal has faced the better competition in his career so far, while this is only Troeng’s second fight in the UFC. It also happens to be in Natal’s native country of Brazil, so it will be interesting to see how Troeng performs in front of the famously passionate fans of Brazil.
They’re both capable of knocking guys out, and both are well versed in the ground game. Natal may have a slight advantage in terms of BJJ, but Troeng has won enough fights by submission that he doesn’t just “get lucky” with submissions. If Natal wants to take this thing to the ground, Troeng might be willing to oblige him, and vice versa. It’s not a clear-cut advantage for either guy and we could end up seeing some nice escapes and sprawls.
Troeng might have a slight advantage in terms of speed, and his striking might be a tad better despite his newness to the UFC. If Troeng starts to get the upper hand in the stand up, expect Natal to not hesitate in initiating clinches to take it to the ground. Natal is the type of guy that is dangerous if he swings for the fences, so Troeng would have to be careful in picking his spots and avoiding the big shots from Natal. Again, the same goes for Natal, Troeng has knocked out plenty of opponents in the past and it’s no fluke when he does.
Key to Victory: Homefield advantage
These two guys really do seem to be evenly matched on paper. Troeng may have a slight advantage in striking, while Natal could have the upper hand in BJJ. For Natal, it may come down to having the home crowd behind him. Even little things make a difference in fights, what you ate that morning, how you slept, and so on. Getting booed by the entire arena from your entrance to every successful move you make, while your opponent gets cheered whenever he/she does something right, it’s going to affect people in some way. Whether Troeng can use that to focus himself and fight his fight is a big question, but he is a veteran and probably won’t get rattled. For Natal however, it is safe to say he is going to get a big boost from his home country and fight with just a little more passion and urgency to put on a show for his native country. It could be the difference in this fight.
Why It Matters – These guys are in that second tier of middleweights, both trying to crack the top 10-15 and get a shot at someone with a big name.
Troeng is transitioning to the UFC from different organizations and as said, it’s only his second fight, following up an impressive debut. If he can string together some good wins, he’ll find himself matched up against bigger names in no time. Finishing Natal would be huge and would put some of the division on notice. Back to back wins, both by stoppage in your first two UFC fights is not an easy thing to do and very few people accomplish it. Troeng has a chance here.
Natal is obviously fighting in his home country, and the last thing he wants to do is lose in front of them, especially in devastating fashion. That puts a little extra pressure on him, but overall it’s still a big boon to have that support. This will be his second chance to win three in a row in the UFC and if he does it emphatically, he’s going to get someone high up the ladder. He would deserve an opportunity to show where he’s really at as a fighter, but first he would have to get through Troeng. It may not be pretty, but Natal is the favorite and he probably earns a hard fought decision.
Prediction – Natal
Tags: Rafael Natal, Tor Troeng, Ultimate Fight Night 28