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Exclusive: Tim Kennedy prepared for high risk Strikeforce bout vs. Manhoef

Already a fast rising prospect in the sport, on Aug. 21 Tim Kennedy (12-3) nearly became the Strikeforce middleweight champion, battling Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-2) for five rounds before losing a close decision on the judges’ scorecards.

Six months later, Kennedy is just happy to have a chance to get back in the cage on March 5 in Columbus, Ohio, even though it’ll be a high risk, low reward bout against arguably the most dangerous striker in the sport, Melvin Manhoef (24-8).

“It’s very, very high risk and he’s very dangerous,” Kennedy told ProMMAnow.com. “By beating him, I don’t think I’m going to move up very much, if any at all, in the MMA rankings. But I’m a fighter and I’m supposed to fight, and I was having a hard time finding opponents.”

Proposed fights with a number of other Strikeforce competitors fell through. Kennedy was game, but for some reason finding an opponent willing to take him on was anything but easy.

“I know that I’m a bad matchup for a lot of guys; I’m decent on the ground, I’m decent on the feet, and I’m a decent wrestler,” Kennedy said. “So for a guy that’s not fair in most of those categories, I’m not an easy fight. I’m not as well known as I wish I was, but I definitely pose a threat and I’m difficult to beat. There were a couple of guys in the same boat I was, offered a low reward, high risk fight. Except I had to say yes.”

In case you aren’t familiar with Manhoef, his stand-up game is downright scary.

A successful K-1 kickboxer, Manhoef has also had a fair amount of success in MMA. He beat Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in 2006 under the Cage Rage promotion in one of the most brutal and entertaining fights in the sport’s history. Manhoef also holds the distinction of knocking out Mark Hunt, which is the baseball equivalent of hitting a 900-foot home run.

To summarize, striking with Manhoef is not a good idea. But every fight starts on the feet and Kennedy is putting together a game plan to counter Manhoef’s kickboxing skills.

“I think a lot of its elevation changes,” Kennedy said. “My movement is going to be very up and down, in and out … I’m not going toe-to-toe with him; that’s a bad idea.”

Manhoef isn’t only dangerous with his fists, either. Against Robbie Lawler, Manhoef punished Lawler’s front leg with kicks before losing the fight after eating a vicious counter punch.

As for his ground game, well … let’s just say Manhoef probably doesn’t have his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt quite yet. Five of his eight MMA losses have come by submission and Kennedy should have a significant advantage in the grappling department.

However, Kennedy isn’t taking Manhoef for granted in any aspect, even on the ground.

“I think he’s a lot more dangerous than just his hands and his kicks,” Kennedy said. “In the clinch, he’s a very formidable fighter, and I think his wrestling’s a lot better than people give him credit for. The people that beat him on the ground, with one exception, have been very gifted guys on the ground.”

Kennedy added, “I’m not taking any portion of his ability lightly.”

Although he’s coming off of a disappointing decision loss to Jacare, one where he negated the Brazilian’s world-class grappling skills, Kennedy did benefit from the experience of going five rounds with a top-level mixed martial artist. He and his coaches have been able to analyze the 25 minutes of tape from that match to help Kennedy learn and improve on some of his past mistakes.

“I have a ton of stuff that I took away from that fight,” Kennedy said. “All of my coaches, this is the first time in a long time they had that much footage of me … seeing me work, trying to get angles, struggle with timing and range. For the past few months, that’s what we’ve been improving.”

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Kennedy, an Army veteran that served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan and a recipient of the Bronze Star, asked to send a special thank you to all of the men and women in the armed forces. Kennedy also thanked all the MMA fans, his sponsors Ranger Up, Gerber, Soldiers’ Angels, and the Green Beret Foundation. For more information on Tim, you can check out his website, TimKennedyMMA.com. Special thanks to Kelly Crigger for arranging the interview.

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