Rafael Natal just got his toughest UFC assignment yet. | Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
Rafael Natal will fill in for Lyoto Machida against Tim Kennedy in the main event of UFC Fight Night 31.
UFC officials announced the booking Tuesday evening. Machida was expected to make his middleweight debut at the Nov. 6 event, but the former light heavyweight champion was pulled from the show to replace an injured Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30.
Also known as “Fight for the Troops 3,” UFC Fight Night 31 takes place Nov. 6 at Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Ky., and will also see ex-Strikeforce lightweight title challenger Jorge Masvidal square off with surging Dagestani Rustam Khabilov.
Natal, 30, has won five of his last six bouts and rides a three-fight winning streak into his clash with Kennedy. “Sapo” was last seen on Sept. 4, when he picked up his third win of 2013 by outlasting a game but overmatched Tor Troeng at UFC Fight Night 28.
Kennedy put forth a dominant if not enthralling performance in his July 6 Octagon debut, cruising to a unanimous decision over Roger Gracie at UFC 162. The 34-year-old has won eight of his last 10 contests, with his only losses in that span coming to Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo Souza in Strikeforce title fights.