In the co-main event of UFC 161, Roy Nelson faces off against Stipe Miocic in a pivotal matchup in the heavyweight division. Nelson was last seen pummeling Cheick Kongo to earn a first round finish back in April. Miocic, on the other hand, was on the wrong end of a highlight reel knockout himself courtesy of Stefan Struve. These two guys are sure to deliver some fireworks before the highly anticipated Henderson vs. Evans main event.
Stipe Miocic (9-1 overall, 3-1 UFC)
Strengths: Striking power, warrior mentality
Weaknesses: Somewhat over-aggressive
Roy Nelson (19-7 overall, 6-3 UFC)
Strengths: Fearsome punching power, tough as nails
Weaknesses: Borderline one-dimensional, no backup plan
Fight Breakdown – If one of these guys doesn’t play it a little extra-safe in their fight, someone is going to get knocked out. Put a stamp on that. Miocic has three wins in the UFC, two by KO. In his nine career wins, seven have come by KO or TKO. All six of Roy Nelson’s wins in the UFC have been by KO or TKO. These guys look to finish, and finish hard. Put them together in the Octagon for 15 minutes and you have a recipe for destruction. This fight has got to be the favorite for Fight of the Night come Saturday.
It’s safe to say Nelson probably studies opponents on film and develops a game plan. He probably also has the same plan for everyone he ever fights: punch him in the face as hard as possible. That will be no different against Miocic, Nelson will come out and throw a few feeler punches and kicks, then start unloading his haymakers. That normally wouldn’t work for most guys, but what makes it work for Nelson is his durability and ability to eat shots and keep fighting. Nelson is almost impossible to finish. His three losses in the UFC all went to the scorecards, including a thrashing at the hands of Junior Dos Santos, arguably the heaviest hitter in the HW division.
So getting into a slugfest with Big Country is precisely what Miocic shouldn’t do. If Miocic plays it smart, he can win this fight by picking Nelson apart and staying the hell away from those famed, looping punches. Miocic will have a noticeable size advantage. He should look to take full advantage of that and make Nelson swing and miss. Controlling Nelson in the clinch and making things messy against the cage, with the occasional take down and ground and pound session would do the trick. That’s not exactly Miocic’s style and it probably won’t please fans, but it’s more likely to lead to a victory than deciding to trade punches with Nelson.
But Miocic is a banger too and has a lot of confidence that he can finish guys before they finish him. In some cases that works, but in his last fight against Stefan Struve it didn’t. Nelson’s belly may be made of jelly doughnuts and marshmallows, but his chin is all granite, iron and steel. Regardless of that, Miocic may look to test him and play the striking game, and that could very well lead to a victory if he can avoid getting caught flush with Nelson’s bombs.
This fight is likely going to give us the Knockout of the Night or Fight of the Night (or both). If they play to their strengths and decide to put on a show, these two will stand and bang and we could see a quick finish or an extended slugfest. Get the popcorn ready.
Why It Matters – Roy Nelson has a love/hate thing going on with Dana White and the UFC. He’s top three in the “looks most out of shape” rankings in the UFC, but he’s got a strong fan base and he puts on entertaining fights. And of course, he wins. He’s lost to three of the best in JDS, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum, but the HW division isn’t that deep currently, considering we’re about to see Cain Velasquez vs. JDS III and a lot of the other guys have taken recent losses. This fight itself is a consequence of that, Miocic is coming off of a loss himself and he’s not ranked in the top ten, yet he’s fighting a top ten guy on a three fight win streak in Nelson. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Nelson, but there aren’t a lot of guys to match him up with currently. So Nelson is taking this one to stay active and get another victory under his belt, and with another win or two, we could be looking at the improbable: Roy “Big Country” Nelson fighting for the heavyweight title.
Miocic is on the rise despite his last setback, impressing in his first three UFC fights. He can’t afford to get finished in this fight, whatever he does. He’s already lost to Struve in a bad way, and following that up with another disappointing performance is not the road to success. He looked very good before that Struve fight and Struve is not an easy win for anyone, so he’s got some leeway there. Miocic has the goods to crack the top ten, and with an impressive performance against Nelson, that will happen. However, Nelson is riding a huge wave of momentum right now and is tearing through middle-tier guys right now. Miocic is likely to be added to that list of victims.
Prediction – Nelson