Strikeforce middleweight contender Tim Kennedy is the type of fighter that promoters drool over. In addition to being a tough, action-first fighter he has the unique pedigree of being a decorated active serviceman in the United States Army. As if that wasn’t enough, the fact that Kennedy was a sniper in the U.S. Army Special Forces should put him over the top when it comes to a promoter’s wish list of fighter attributes. Strikeforce apparently saw these traits and quickly made it a point to showcase the Austin, TX based fighter in a number of high profile cards.
To Kennedy’s credit he performed exceptionally well rattling off wins against the likes of Nick Thompson, Zak Cummings, and the gritty Trevor Prangley. In fact, in Kennedy’s first three fights under the Strikeforce banner, not one of his opponents made it to the final bell. By all accounts, Kennedy was on the fast track toward a title shot within the Strikeforce organization.
Kennedy’s coveted middleweight title shot came last August when he stepped into the cage to tackle the much ballyhooed grappling master Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight strap. Despite a valiant effort, “Jacare” proved why he is widely considered a rising star in the sport as he gutted out a hard-fought, but impressive, decision over Kennedy. Aiding in the bitterness of defeat for Kennedy was the fact that his loss came in front of his fellow Texans at Strikeforce: Houston.
“I don’t think it (my mindset) has changed (since my loss),” Kennedy explained on a conference call last week. “I always fight the same. I go out there and try to bring it to whoever I’m fighting. I think some style things about me have changed, how I move, the angle of my punches and how much standup I want to do, but overall my mindset hasn’t changed. It’s still in my core, I’m still tenacious, but I feel like I have a chip on my shoulder. I hadn’t lost a fight in a really long time and now I’m just anxious to go out and prove that I’m the best middleweight in the division. “
Kennedy’s chance for redemption will come this Saturday night when he takes on Melvin Manhoef at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH. The Kennedy-Manhoef bout will be part of the Showtime televised Strikeforce card. To listen to Kennedy explain it, Manhoef will present a list of problems.
“I think it’s going to be an all-around fight. I think people underestimate his wrestling,” explained Kennedy. “I think he’s had some bad showings on the ground but that doesn’t mean that he’s not good on the ground. I think he’s a lot more dangerous and explosive wrestler than people give him credit for. And I think I’m a lot better of a striker than people give me credit for. My last fight was 24 ½ minutes of me not looking fantastic, so for the past seventh months I’ve been training a ton on my feet. It’s MMA, it can go anywhere.”
Make no mistake about it Kennedy needs a win to reaffirm his position as a legitimate contender in the division. Not that a loss would be damning to his career, but a win would inarguably put Kennedy right back into the title hunt. This is a fact not lost on the 12-3 fighter.
“I think every fight is a must-win fight. Your next fight is always your biggest fight. I’m a very competitive person and I go bonkers every time I lose. I never want to lose, ever. Melvin is very dangerous and likes to finish guys and I’ve never been finished. So I think it’s a very important fight for me.”
Photo © Ranger Up/www.Rangerup.com