This Saturday UFC 143 is live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center from Las Vegas, Nevada. Clifford Starks (5-0) will try to keep his undefeated streak intact against the always dangerous “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (17-8). Renan Barao (27-1) and “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (12-3) prepare to engage in a bantamweight showdown with title implications sure to follow. Welterweight action goes down mid-card as “Kos” Josh Koscheck (16-5) meets with fellow wrestler Mike Pierce (10-3). Easily two of the top welterweights headline the card as “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5) and Nick Diaz (26-8) duke it out in order to seize the interim title. In the co-main event, “Big Country” Roy Nelson (16-5) will look to chain together another win as he takes on fellow heavyweight “Vai Cavalo” Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1). Werdum is looking to reestablish himself within the UFC ranks after his tenure in Strikeforce but with Nelson looking to do the same, these heavyweight juggernauts are likely to go all out to prevent their own plans from being snuffed.
At First Glance: The Strikeforce heavyweights have been assimilated into the UFC’s roster and if what “Big” Lavar Johnson (13-5) did this past Saturday proves anything, it is that the Strikeforce titans are no pushovers. That said, the second transplant making the jump is former UFC veteran and Jiu-Jitsu fighter extraordinaire Fabricio Werdum. The Strikeforce veteran might be coming off a lackluster loss but when four of his last five victories have been way of (T)KO and submission, he still stands as a dangerous threat within the cage. Roy Nelson has been riding the wave of mediocrity since his debut in the UFC but with a huge turnaround in his recent performance against “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-11-2), it seems the former IFL champ is focused on the task with his intentions to hit the top ranks. Unlike his past opponents, Nelson will have to contend with a fighter whose ground skills are just as apt as his own along with the striking to keep him game.
In Depth: The life and times of Roy Nelson have been hot and cold since his time in the UFC. After dropping two losses in a row to former and current champs, Frank Mir (16-5) and “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (14-1), Nelson tackled the issue of his signature rotund figure to aid the conditioning deficit that caused these losses. The results showed with flying colors when a slimmer Nelson stepped in and sent Mirko Filipovic into retirement via technical knockout at UFC 137 in October 2011. Immediately, the MMA community will pinpoint Werdum’s chances against “Big Country” on two aspects based off his last two performances. Most recently, Werdum dropped a Unanimous Decision to “Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (34-12) in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix where, while he out-struck the K-1 champion, he took the harder shots and vied to pull guard repeatedly. Of course there is also one of the most epic moments in MMA history where he became the first man to legitimately defeat “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (33-4) via Triangle-Armbar submission when he was able to lure the Russian into a ground war in which he ultimately came out the victor, a credit to his high level Jiu-Jitsu. Nelson boasts one-punch knockout power which could lead Werdum to seek pulling guard incessantly again as with Overeem but should the fight turn into a Jiu-Jitsu exhibition, “Vai Cavalo” could very well have the edge just as he did with Emelianenko.
Wild Card: Once again, it will be Nelson’s weight that has to come into play. Conditioning is an obvious consideration but this time it will be how well Nelson can utilize his loss in size. Nelson’s excess weight added leverage and covered more space in order to hold his opposition; with the slight loss, Nelson’s smaller than normal frame could call for a new approach to how he manages his Jiu-Jitsu. This is not to say that Werdum is spared from Nelson’s girth. “Big Country” might not be the biggest fighter he has fought but he certainly is a different frame than Werdum has faced recently. Jiu-Jitsu is an art that promotes that even the smaller guy can outwork a larger man but with Nelson, Werdum will have to cover more ground while in guard whilst battling with an equally dangerous practitioner.
The Verdict: If there had to be advantages given out, it would be fair to say Werdum’s comfort zone is on the mat looking for the submission while the stand-up department will go to Nelson. At this point is where the tiny details come into play. To Werdum’s dismay, Nelson is a solid grappler and for Nelson, Werdum’s striking is thoroughly improving. What stands out though is that Nelson holds one-pucnh knockout power over Werdum. Despite a significant reach advantage, unless Werdum can add variability to his striking and tire out Nelson from range, he will find himself at constant risk of a big right hand. On the mat, Werdum is world class, but it is unlikely that he can overcome “Big Country’s” size abilities on the floor from the bottom. This means he needs a clean takedown to get on top, which is not his specialty and again leaves an opening for the big right hand. Nelson via TKO (Strikes), Round 2