Roy Nelson has become a well recognized name in the UFC since his time on the Ultimate Fighter season 10. Coming off the show disliked by critics for his fight tactics and laughed at by those who found his heavy physique comical, Nelson proved his capabilities and heart as he progressed through in the promotion. Earning two straight stoppage victories, receiving one of the most brutal beatings from a future champion and knockout specialist, being outclassed by a former champion, handing a veteran a final loss in his career and being outclassed by another following that bout, Nelson has had a roller coaster ride in the UFC. Now 3-3 in the promotion Nelson needs a win to ensure his position in the UFC is safe and that he can again regain the momentum that he came into the promotion with. With the recent shake up and reshuffling of the UFC 146 card, a match-up with new opponent and fellow veteran Gabriel Gonzaga could have the potential to either do just that, or open the door for him on his way out.
While Nelson is still seen by some casual fans as the “fat guy” in the Heavyweight division, his physique in his last two outings appeared to point towards a new direction as he had visibly lost some weight and even appeared to have replaced some of the original fat with new muscle. Following his most recent bout where he received a loss via Unanimous Decision, Nelson began a Facebook campaign claiming that if he were to receive a certain amount of new followers, then he would take the suggestion of dropping down to compete in the 205lbs division serious and attempt the move, though after hitting his goal in garnering new followers with the campaign he was soon announced to be part of the upcoming all Heavyweight stacked main card for UFC 146. Following his loss to former champion Frank Mir, Dana White said he had talked to Nelson about possibly dropping down to 205lbs and really wanted to see him reach that goal, but following his recent loss to Werdum and leading into this event White has been openly second guessing whether Nelson even takes the sport serious enough to even attempt the drop in weight.
Should Nelson exit the octagon at this upcoming event with a win under his belt, it is strongly suggested that he make due on his promise to at least attempt the weight cut. Standing at just 6’ tall and with a reach of 73” Nelson is one of the more visibly undersized competitors in the Heavyweight division, and though he does pack the one punch knockout power that Heavyweights naturally do he is still outmuscled and outmatched against the upper echelon of the division. Some critics have considered him to even be undersized as a Light Heavyweight and should move all the way down to Middleweight, but weighing around 240lbs+ for his most recent bout could be too much of a stretch to even attempt a drop to the Middleweight division’s 185lbs limit without a lengthy camp focused mainly on the weight cut. Against opponents more his size Nelson could find some success in the 205lbs division, with plenty of knockout power and endurance already as a Heavyweight Nelson’s biggest challenge in the next division down could be speed. With the Light Heavyweight division acting as a gateway to the next division up, it serves as a halfway point for fighters who can utilize the speed of a Middleweight while packing the size and power of a Heavyweight.
With his back possibly against the wall in his upcoming bout Nelson will need to show how serious he takes his fight career in this new match-up with Gonzaga. With both competitors recognized as strong BJJ practitioners in the division, the stand-up game will be a key factor for both fighters when they engage in the octagon. With Nelson packing a threatening amount of power in a single punch and Gonzaga packing solid power of his with a variety of strikes, this could make for an even match-up for both fighters. Though the outcome of the bout is obviously a deciding factor on whether Nelson could still have a place on the UFC’s roster, the amount of preparation and his physique coming into the bout could do well to prove how he plans to continue in his career.
Will “Big Country” refuse to abandon the “big”, or will he look to advance and evolve?
Written by @MMAFanHQ