While a lot of people are focused on the hype that is surrounding the main event at UFC 117, there are several interesting subplots that are developing and gathering steam. I’m sure I could spend plenty of time discussing each one of them but for now I’d like to focus on one. In the heavyweight division “Big Country” Roy Nelson (15-4-0) will be facing off against “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (11-1-0) in a bout that will determine the next contender for the heavyweight belt. Many people are looking at this as another opportunity for Dos Santos to tee off on yet another opponent however this bout is quite possibly the most dangerous in his career.
The winner of arguably the least talented season of The Ultimate Fighter Roy Nelson has spent his days post TUF showing people why he was the favorite to win the season to begin with. Nelson hasn’t spent much time in the Octagon, but that’s mostly because both his bouts have ended in the first round with either a TKO or KO. His last few fights have forced people to look past his physique and to examine him more closely as a mixed martial artist.
Nelson is a cerebral fighter and has shown such in his planning and execution of recent fights. Before his recent TKO victory over Stefan Struve he was seen planning for the length of his oppenent and adapting training methods to prepare. As a result of this he was able to slip inside Struve’s reach and end the fight quickly with relative ease. We also saw Nelson execute a plan inside The Ultimate Fighter house that left him virtually unscathed and all of his opponents devastated in his wake. Although he has had his ups and downs in MMA with key losses to Jeff Monson and Andrei Arlovski he has found an intelligent way to be successful in the UFC with excellent planning and execution.
I’d say it’s a no-brainer that Nelson will probably plan to use his strikes to attempt to exploit Dos Santos on the ground. Although Dos Santos is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we have yet to see him rely on it or be forced to use it in the Octagon. I’m sure it’s of some interest to Nelson that Dos Santos only has one loss in his MMA career, and it’s a submission via armbar. This is by no means a “classic striker vs. grappler” match-up as Nelson has excellent standup and has demonstrated his willingness to exchange when necessary. However if Nelson hopes to be victorious his most direct course should be to utilize his underrated ground game to quickly neutalize Dos Santos.