Rafael Natal had his back against the wall in his past UFC bout, and he came out victorious. He doesn’t feel safe, though.
With one win in his past three UFC fights, "Sapo" takes on Tom Watson at UFC 183 on Saturday night in Las Vegas looking for a big win, but he’s not entering the Octagon wondering about the future of his MMA career anymore.
"I try not to think about losing and getting cut," Natal told MMAFighting.com. "I thought a lot about it before my last fights, ‘what am I going to do if I get cut?’, but I try not to think about it anymore. I’m going there and I’m winning this fight."
Finished twice in 11 UFC fights, Natal changed a few things in his training camp for a middleweight clash with Watson, and says that only lucky shots can stop him.
"My last couple fights weren’t good. I know there were a lot of things wrong. I fixed it, I’m coming back better this time," he continued. "I know I beat (Chris) Camozzi, and I’m damn sure I beat (Ed) Herman as well. I know I didn’t fight well, I gassed in the later rounds, so I changed what I had to change for this fight to become the type of fighter I was before fighting Tim Kennedy.
"The whole team had fights scheduled, so my training camp was really intense for this fight. I trained hard on Dec/ 25, Jan. 1st. My camp was great. I spent a week in Texas, training with (Vinicius) Draculino. It was my best camp for a UFC fight."
Like Natal, Watson needs a win to feel secure. At 2-3 under the UFC banner, "Kong" defeated Sam Alvey via unanimous decision in his past appearance inside the Octagon in August, and Natal knows what to expect.
"We watched some of his fights. He’s a durable fighter, tough to finish," Natal said. "He wins most of his fights via decision despite the fact that he has a good stand up game. He’s aggressive, and a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. His wrestling is ok. That’s what I know about him."
Watson was submitted twice in his 24-fight career, and both of those losses happened in 2007. "Sapo" won’t be in a hurry to take him down, but wants to eventually test his opponent’s jiu-jitsu.
"It’s hard to find someone who I don’t think that jiu-jitsu is the best strategy for me to win. Every time I fight, the ground game is always the best option, and it won’t be different this time," he said. "If I have to stand and fight, my boxing and muay thai are sharp. I can trade with him, but the easiest way to win, my best weapon, is always the ground. I won’t waste energy going for takedowns like in my last fights, though. If I have to take this fight to the ground, I will by knocking him down."
UFC 183 takes place Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and features eight Brazilian fighters, and that’s why Natal expects to be the crowd favorite against Watson.
"The Brazilian crowd will be intense at the MGM in Las Vegas," he said. "I feel like I’m fighting in Brazil. When they announced this card, I knew a lot of Brazilians would be there. I asked the UFC to be part of this card. I’m fighting at home. Everybody loves Anderson Silva."