Rounding out our UFC 101 prelims' previews, UFC lightweights Aaron Riley and Shane Nelson will fight a take-two match-up that will hopefully end without controversy. Their previous bout at UFC 96 ended in some huge controversy, and Dana White and company decided to give the bout another try since it was felt throughout the community that Riley wasn't given an opportunity to recover from a downing shot by Nelson. In fact, it didn't even seem that Riley was finished whatsoever. MMAWeekly had a solid breakdown of what transpired:
Shane Nelson came into UFC 96 just one fight removed from his time on the "Ultimate Fighter", and looked good in the early going, dropping his opponent with a big shot that put Riley on the canvas.
As Riley kicked up to defend himself once on the ground, referee Rick Fike rushed in to stop the action, declaring Nelson the winner much to the dismay of the Ohio crowd who saw that the fight seemed far from over.
"It wasn't my call," said Nelson after the stoppage. "It was out of my hands if the ref stopped it. We can do it again."
Do it again, we will. Shane Nelson (12-3) is a native of Hilo, Hawaii and appeared on the 8th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He earned a spot in the house by defeating Charles Diaz via decision, but he was instantly ejected from the house after losing to eventual finalist Efrain Escudero in his preliminary fight. Most casual fans remember Nelson's antics alongside Junie Browning in the house, and those antics likely led to his early exit from the competition.
Interestingly enough, Nelson fought every single one of his 13 fights before The Ultimate Fighter in Hawaii, going 10-3 on the islands. His first fight outside of Hawaii took place at the TUF Finale against George Roop in which Nelson took a hard-fought split decision victory. His second bout in the Octagon was the quick stoppage win over Aaron Riley at UFC 96.
Nelson trains out of BJ Penn's MMA in Hilo, Hawaii. He's primarily known as a ground fighter, although it's evident that his skills aren't solid enough to be a real threat on the floor. He has an overall decent skill-set, but he's mostly had to resort to grinding out decision wins throughout his career. He's never been finished in 15 career fights, so his jiu-jitsu skills are probably good enough for him to recognize the submission techniques of other submission grapplers.
Aaron Riley (27-11-1) is a far more experienced veteran in the sport. He's a native of Tell City, Indiana, and he began his career back in 1997 in his state by fighting in HOOKnSHOOT. Fast forward nearly 12 years, Riley continues to fight at the highest level in the UFC. Interestingly enough, Riley is only 28 years of age with nearly 12 years of experience to his name.
Riley has experience against some of the best fighters in the world as he's taken on Yves Edwards, Spencer Fisher, Chris Lytle, Robbie Lawler, Michihiro Omigawa, and Eddie Alvarez. He's came out on the short end in most of those battles, but he did manage to defeat former UFC fighter Jorge Gurgel at UFC 91 in his third stint within the promotion.
Riley is primarily known for being a mixed bag when it comes to his skill set. He has a very well-rounded game that combines everything from wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and striking. He's a green belt in both Judo and Tae Kwon Do, so he's actively trying to improve his skills even after such a long time in the sport. Riley also has trained with some of the biggest camps in the business, and he has moved around quite a lot in order to continue rounding out his skills. American Top Team was on the list and now teaches and trains in MMA in the Washington D.C. area, but he's using the services of Greg Jackson for this match-up.
On paper, this fight comes down to exactly the same things we talked about in the first bout. Riley is a grinding fighter who will wear almost anyone down. He's known for having an absolute granite chin, and he's very well-rounded in all areas of the fight. That isn't to say that he hasn't been knocked out before, but Riley definitely has taken his fair share of shots that would knockout other fighters. Riley's experience is obviously a huge factor as well.
Nelson's inability to finish guys with one-punch power or by way of submission is probably going to be a huge crutch in this fight. Riley is finishable, but Nelson hasn't proven in the past that he can successfully finish opponents quickly. Riley could easily grind this win out via decision in an one-sided contest. Of course, he could catch Riley and somehow win via early stoppage again, but I doubt it.