The co main event at UFC 143 will feature two heavyweights with serious questions being asked about where they stand in the division. Roy Nelson was the IFL heavyweight champion and The Ultimate Fighter heavyweights winner. He also possesses what Dana White once called the worst physique in all of professional sports. He will take on Fabricio Werdum, the first guy to halt Fedor Emelianenko's storied run, although some of the sheen was stripped from that when the next two guys did it as well.
Nelson's belly (which is still pretty big) combined with his less than stellar 3-2 record so far in the UFC, have led to questions about whether he is making the most of his potential. Fabricio Werdum has hovered around the upper regions of the heavyweight rankings for some time but needs to go on a consistent run of wins against high level opposition before he is near contention.
- Nelson halted a two fight skid (where he lost to Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir) when he beat Croatian legend Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 137 in October last year.
- Werdum comes off of a loss to heavyweight number one contender Alistair Overeem in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, before which he finished Fedor Emelianenko with a triangle choke.
On paper, this fight could be a cliche waiting to happen. When two Brazilian Ju Jutsu black belts collide the result is often a stand up war as... etc. Except that Roy Nelson only tends to use his BJJ skill set to flop his formidable belly onto people's faces as part of his gruesome mounted crucifix. With his belly shrinking bit by bit these days, that might not be an option. No, in spite of his grappling credential, Nelson is more of a stand up and brawl kind of fighter. He has huge power and a granite chin, which is pretty handy since his defense has more gaps than a six year olds teeth.
Fabricio Werdum is a BJJ specialist with power in his hands. Unlike Nelson, it feels like Werdum understands his limitations on the feet and is often happiest on the mat. He has big power in his hands too, with knockout wins on his resume. However, when he feels the tide turning in the stand up, he will look to take his opponent down, even pulling guard, to begin working submissions.
Head to head
Expect any of the standing portion of this fight to be some pretty wild, looping hay makers. The difference between the fighters is that half of those will be bouncing off of an oblivious Nelson's head and the other half could well be knocking Werdum down. I imagine Werdum will try to find a way to the ground in this fight, although that will be easier said than done. If it gets there, the ground battle will be pretty intriguing. Werdum has the clear edge since he has been regularly finding submissions in high level MMA bouts, but Nelson is no easy target.
In the end, I see Nelson being the one who can keep the fight where he wants it, on the feet. It will not be the prettiest bout on the card but will have some exciting moments.
Nelson by TKO.
I don't think this is going to be best technical fight you have ever seen, but there will be some fun twists and turns in the sloppy stand up and, should it come to pass, a BJJ battle could be intriguing.