First it was supposed to be a rubber match with Jason Miller, but a fight with "Mayhem" never materialized. Then Luke Rockhold was signed but had to pull out due to injury. Finally, Strikeforce found Kennedy a different kind of opponent: Vaunted striker Melvin Manhoef.
The two will meet on the main card this Saturday from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Showtime.
"(My training's) been constant," Kennedy told Bloody Elbow Radio last week. "I was hoping I was going to be fighting March 5 and I was moving forward as if I were. The opponents changed, but I'll have a little over a month to train specifically for Melvin. I've been in training camp for three months. I'm in great shape, 100 percent healthy and changed up the game plan a little bit of course because Melvin is very different than both Jason and Luke, so I'm just moving forward."
Getting a fight has been a challenge for Kennedy. He hasn't fought since August when he dropped a unanimous decision to Ronaldo Souza in a fight for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title.
"About two months ago, I was like 'Oh, I'm trying to get a fight and no one wants to fight me' and everybody called me out that I was a liar and I was making it up," Kennedy said.
"Then a month later, people get a little peek into what's going on. You guys only know about a couple of names that fell through when in fact there was five or six names that didn't materialize for a fight. Strikeforce has always been good to me, they are good to me, but I want to fight. I left active duty to fight and that's exactly what I want to do. I want to knock dudes out."
The time off, though, often is looked at as a negative by both fighters and fans alike. Kennedy, though, has made the most of his downtime. With only one of his last eight fights going the distance before the "Jacare" fight, spending 25 minutes in the cage gave Kennedy and his coaches a lot of tape to find out what he needed to work on. Then came time to make the improvements.
"We got a lot of stuff to work on, which is cool when a coach can look at you and be like, 'Hey man, we gotta do this, we gotta do that,' and a lot of it is in the standup area," Kennedy said. "I've been working a lot with my footwork and my head movement, my overall explosive power, my combos and I think it's really come together. So that was really nice that I'm moving into fighting another striker where we can knock each other out or we could go to the ground. It's going to be a fun fight."
Kennedy is going to have a task on his hands with Manhoef, the noted K-1 veteran with a combined 60 knockouts to his credit between MMA and kickboxing. Manhoef's last 15 MMA wins have come by (T)KO with his last decision coming in 2005. A Manhoef MMA fight has never seen the third round in 33 fights and his last 11 fights have ended in the first round, including his only Strikeforce fight, a first-round knockout loss to Robbie Lawler in January 2010.
In that fight against Lawler, Manhoef brutalized Lawler's legs with kicks and had him on the proverbial ropes before leaving himself open for a right hook that Lawler connected on, sending Manhoef crashing to the canvas.
"Oooh, that guy does kick so hard, doesn't he," Kennedy said. "I don't want that guy to kick me. The way I fight, it's usually not a good idea to kick me. As I showed with Jacare, guys that want to stand up with me, I like to bang, so if you come in the middle and meet me and you're going to be to kicking my legs, I'm going to try to knock your head off. That's my favorite counter to a kick, to hit them as hard as I can. He kicks really hard, yeah, but I hit really hard, so it's going to be a tough give."
If Manhoef does have a weakness, it's on the ground, as five of his eight MMA losses have come by submission. Kennedy, though, seems intent on standing with Manhoef.
Kennedy even joked about a funny thought he had while training last week.
"I was training my wrestling and I was like, 'What would have to go wrong in this fight for me to end up on my back working on getting up from somebody in mount'," Kennedy quipped. "Of course I'm training it because you have to be prepared for every contingency, but some things would have to go pretty wrong for him to be on top."
After having what he would consider a less-than exciting fight with Jacare last time out, Kennedy is looking forward to stepping into the cage with someone he expects to have an entertaining fight with.
"It's going to be one exciting fight, I promise you that," Kennedy said. "He brings it every time, I bring it. This is my forecast, this is my call: I'm going to knock Melvin out. There's a lot of different ways to knock out a guy, but I'm going to knock Melvin out."
You can hear the entire interview with Tim Kennedy on last Tuesday's edition of Bloody Elbow Radio. Bloody Elbow Radio will be live this week at 4 p.m. ET Thursday and immediately following both "UFC on Versus 3" and "Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson."