UFC 143 Results Recap: Rafael Natal Vs. Michael Kuiper

Rafael Natal scores a big takedown on Michael Kuiper at UFC 143. (Photo: Esther Lin / MMAFighting.com)

Rafael Natal needed an impressive performance at UFC 143 Saturday to stay relevant in the UFC's middleweight division and did just that, earning an entertaining unanimous decision victory over UFC newcomer Michael Kuiper in the evening's second fight.

Natal (14-3-1, 2-1-1 UFC) won his second straight and showed significant aggression in the fight's opening round, securing several takedowns and working for submissions. Kuiper (11-1, 0-1 UFC) didn't look completely comfortable working from his back, but did enough to survive.

Both men showed a lot of wear in the second as they struggled to keep up the fervent pace with some sloppy striking, but Natal got a takedown late to edge out a close round. Kuiper opened the window in the third round with a big right hand that dropped Natal to his knees and continued to ground and pound.

However, Natal's superior ground game took over and he held tight to Kuiper, eventually reversing position and getting to a standing position. He secured a big takedown with two minutes to go and used that same ground game to control Kuiper while going for head and arm choke submissions.

What was the high spot of the fight?

Kuiper's right hand in the third round that dropped Natal to his knees was visually pleasing, while Natal's takedown in the third was also a big move.

Where do these guys go from here?

Even with his second straight win, Natal hasn't done anything yet to earn himself bigger promotion. He's gone the distance in four straight fights and until he starts finishing opponents again, Natal will remain in the first or second spot in most cards. Expect a fight against another middle-of-the-road middleweight in May or June.

Kuiper will get another shot as he's just 22 years old and made a decent accounting of himself in his biggest fight to date. He does need to work on conditioning, which hurt him in this fight.

Watch it now, later or never?

With the glut of fights out there, there's no rush or necessity to watch Natal/Kuiper.

More Bloody Elbow coverage of UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit in the full entry.

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