Brutal knockout power has become Roy Nelson’s calling card. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
Roy Nelson (19-7, 6-3 UFC) vs. Stipe Miocic (9-1, 3-1 UFC)
The Matchup: With UFC 161 losing a pair of key main card bouts due to injury, the popular Nelson steps in to play the role of hero, as he looks to earn his fourth straight win inside the Octagon against Miocic, who was originally expected to face Soa Palelei in a preliminary bout.
Like Mark Hunt, Nelson has a devoted cult following that would love to see “Big Country” ascend to No. 1 contender status. Nelson has virtually erased all memory of lopsided losses to the likes of Fabricio Werdum and Junior dos Santos thanks to successive knockouts of Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo. While a similar result against Miocic might not net Nelson the title shot he desires, it could force the promotion to pair him with a top 5-level opponent.
Despite being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Nelson inspires the passion that he does thanks to his thudding right hand. All of his UFC triumphs have come via KO or TKO and all but one -- a third-round stoppage of Mirko Filipovic at UFC 137 -- ended inside of a round. Nelson is far less successful in bouts that go the distance, as he is 2-6 in his professional career and 0-3 in the Octagon.
Expect the Las Vegas resident to get to headhunting early against Miocic, who had his chin exposed somewhat in a second-round technical knockout loss to Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 5. Vicious right crosses and uppercuts led to Miocic’s demise against the towering Dutchman, and the Strong Style Fight Team member could encounter a similar fate if Nelson is able to find the range on his overhand right.
Thanks to an amateur boxing background, Miocic understands how to work the head and body with his hands, and he will need to use footwork and angles to keep Nelson guessing. Nelson is at a distinct reach disadvantage against most any heavyweight he faces, and it will be no different here, as Miocic has a seven-inch edge. However, the former International Fight League champion is adept at using one-two combinations to close the distance, where he can unload with power shots or attempt to work the fight to the ground from the clinch.
If Miocic can survive the opening round, the former Cleveland State University wrestler should try to wear down Nelson with takedowns and ground-and-pound in the later frames. Miocic has a solid right hand of his own, but it would be a risky decision to try and beat “Big Country” at his own game.
The Pick: Nelson has been dominant at this level of competition, and his ability to counter and throw punches in combination makes him even more dangerous. He takes this by knockout in round one.
Next Fight » Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan