CINCINNATI – It wasn’t always the prettiest affair, but Ed Herman earned a hard-fought decision win over Rafael Natal.

The middleweight bout closed out the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 40 event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. It aired on FOX Sports 2 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of the main card on FOX Sports 1.

Herman patiently walked forward to open the fight, but the explosive Natal rattled off thunderous leg kicks that quickly sent his opponent crashing to the floor. Herman was able to secure guard and avoid taking too much damage while Natal was on top, and “Short Fuse” eventually got back to his feet and scored a takedown of his own. Crushing elbows came through in the final minute as Herman made a bid for the opening frame with a late surge.

It was Herman who struck first in the second, landing an early left hand that briefly staggered Natal. Herman continued to walk forward before Natal scored a takedown to take the momentum. He didn’t do much with the position, and the two were brought to the feet. Herman scored an accidental shot to the groin in the clinch, but Natal waved it off, and they continued to grind away in the clinch.

Herman remained the aggressor in the third frame, walking forward and looking to throw power shots. natal was able to counter with several crisp left hands, but it was Herman’s work that sliced open his opponent, bringing a big flow of blood down the face. Both fighters continued to trade in a gritty affair, though Herman was the one walking forward for most of the action. The late work came in the clinch, and there were impressive moments for both fighters, and both athletes raised their hands at the end of the blue-collar affair.

In the end, it was Herman’s aggression that earned him the fight with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

Herman (22-10 MMA, 9-6 UFC) improves to 2-1 in his past three appearances. Natal (17-6-1 MMA, 5-4-1 UFC) has now suffered consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 40 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 40, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

Matt Erickson contributed to this report on-site in Cincinnati.

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