After going on an 11-1 stint (with that loss being to former contender Thales Leites) middleweight Tor “The Hammer” Troeng (16-4-1 MMA), 1-0 UFC) earned his way into The Ultimate Fighter house as part of the season 17 cast. While he didn’t make it past the first round, he still earned a spot on the UFC’s roster and has since gone 1-0 in the promotion. His opponent on the UFC Fight Night 28 card in Brazil is a UFC veteran of 3 years who goes by the name of Rafael “Sapo” Natal (16-4-1 MMA, 4-2-1 UFC) who is currently riding back to back wins inside the promotion.
While Troeng’s last fight was in his home country of Sweden, this up coming fight will be a huge change of atmosphere as this time his opponent Natal will be backed by the roaring Brazilian natives. Natal is a fourth degree black belt in Brazillian Jiu-jitsu under none other than former UFC fighter and Pan American champion Vinny Magalhaes. Unfortunately for Troeng half of his losses have come by way of submission, something Natal will surely look to exploit as it plays right into his strengths as a Jiu-jitsu specialist. However, Natal has showed in the past that he is more than ready to push forward with his striking even when at a disadvantage as we saw in his fight with Andrew Craig where he was winning the majority of the fight until a fight ending high kick.
“Sapo” has yet to earn himself a knockout victory inside the octagon and his most recent loss was the result of the high kick from Craig which could prove favorable for Troeng. “The Hammer” obtained that moniker for a reason, being a high power striker having knocked out twice the amount of opponents as Natal and his striking prowess was recognized on TUF despite losing by TKO on the show. Troeng has shown great ability to time his explosive flurries as well as a great ability to punish his opponents with ground and pound. While Troeng is very savvy with his trips, he should look to avoid grappling with Natal and use his crisper, more controlled striking.
The level of competition between the two fighters is close, though Natal’s is slightly more impressive – Natal has been successful against fighters like Travis Lutter and Michael Kuiper where as Troeng’s most notable win is over Adam Cella, the man known for being viciously knocked out by Uriah Hall’s spinning back kick. With Natal being in his home town and having much more experience inside the octagon, Natal will be much more confident and comfortable in this fight which can be very dangerous for Troeng if he doesn’t come prepared mentally.
Prediction: Rafael Natal def. Tor Troeng via submission in round 2.
While Troeng is quite a well rounded fighter with an advantage in striking over Natal, the octagon experience, the home town motivation, as well as being a confident fourth degree black belt will all play too much of a factor in this fight for Troeng to emerge victorious. “The Hammer” is largely unproven while Natal has faced many seasoned fighters and is a veteran inside the octagon, especially when compared to Troeng. The most notable opponent Troeng has faced was Thales Leites where he lost a second round submission, which is a likely outcome in this fight. While Troeng is feeling fresh in the first round, he will be able to defend against the take down as well as win the round by out striking him with his more polished combinations and counters. I believe the momentum slips away from Troeng in the second. Natal will be fresher, partly due to the hometown motivation, and be able to drag him to his area of expertise sinking in a submission late in the round.