Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie seemed like an odd fight at the outset; two good fighters from Strikeforce making their debut as new blood in the UFC's middleweight division. Pitting them against one another seemed to spoil some of that newness, rather than enhance it. The fight, eventually didn't disappoint, but it didn't do a lot for the two men either.
Gracie came out strong in the opening round, taking Kennedy down twice, establishing back control, and winning the battle of positional dominance. He looked good in the opening round, and victory seemed only a matter of time.
But the tenacity that Kennedy showed in avoiding subs ended up being the bigger story. In round two he continued to engage Gracie in the clinch, shucking off submission attempts to land his own strikes and controlling (if not exactly dominating) the standup.
The third round saw a fully gassed Roger Gracie fail to get any significant offense going, and Kennedy coasted out the fight by pecking away at Gracie on the feet. Tim Kennedy def. Roger Gracie via Unanimous Decision.
What was the high point?
The second round, when Kennedy really engaged Gracie on the ground and got a few licks in. That was a real high point for a fighter against one of the world's great Jiu Jitsu practitioners.
What was the low point?
Roger Gracie's limitations. They were on full display by the end of this fight. Kennedy is a good, but not great fighter and Roger proved that he doesn't have the tools to compete at that level. Could he develop them? Sure, but at the moment he's more feature attraction than fearsome fighter.
Where do they go from here?
Tim Kennedy showed up and made this fight his. It was a good win if he wants to establish himself in the top 15 of the division. I'd like to see him show his ability against an established UFC 185er at this point, so a fight between he and Alessio Sakara seems like it'd make for a fun contest.
For Roger Gracie this should have served as something of a wake up. He's got the size to physically dominate in this division, but if he can't keep his cardio going to grapple for a good 15 minutes he'll never be more than an interesting sideshow. Michael Kuiper or Stanislav Nedkov would provide good challenges to see if he can outperform lower tier middleweights.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it later. Kid Nate may have gone all lovey on this fight, but watching two fatigued fighters paw their way through the third kind of spoiled the fun for me. If you simply have to see Gracie perform, or love Kennedy, give it a watch now. For everyone else it was a not bad, but mostly forgettable tussle.