UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson managed to big-belly himself into many MMA fans' hearts after his stint on TUF 10. He defeated internet superstar Kimbo Slice early in the tournament and followed up with a first round KO of former NFL player Brendan Schaub in the TUF 10 Finale. Since then he's gone 5-3 in the UFC with 4 first-round TKO wins. The only outlier was Mirko Filopovic who lasted until the 3rd round before getting knocked out.
Despite his impressive finishes, Nelson has always fallen short when he faces top competition. His three losses before UFC 161 came to some of the best big fighters the UFC had to offer - Junior Dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, and Frank Mir. On the other hand, the closest he came to a signature win was when he KO'd Cheick Kongo at UFC 159. While Kongo has long held the role of HW gatekeeper, he's fallen recently and the only man to get a title shot off of beating him was Frank Mir when he choked him out to face Shane Carwin for the interim title. It was a solid win for Nelson, but not spectacular.
Only weeks after the Kongo KO, Nelson took Saturday night's fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 161. With Miocic coming off a loss to Stefan Struve and originally set to face a less talented fighter in Soa Palelei, the odds rightfully favored Nelson. However, Miocic rose to the occasion and employed a simple, yet effective, gameplan to upset his foe. From the first round Stipe circled hard to his right to avoid Nelson's most devastating punch. He countered with solid straight punches and got away when he was in danger. It was a simple, but effective plan but he utilized it to the fullest to win the unanimous decision.
Coming off a knockout loss to someone Roy had himself knocked out, Stipe was rightfully the underdog in this fight. However, despite facing a big challenge on short notice, he showed how a good gameplan can upset a limited fighter. Since his UFC debut, Nelson has increasingly relied on the devastating power of his right hand. Miocic used solid combination striking to put Nelson on the defensive. He complemented that by wrapping up and controlling Roy against the fence when he needed to. Roy's formidable chin held up to Miocic's power shots, but that was only enough to last until the final bell
Stipe expertly illustrated that Nelson's success has been the result of a heavy-hitting fighter benefiting from favorable matchmaking. The only one of Big Country's recent opponents who hadn't shown to be rockable was Matt Mitrione, who stood directly in front of him for the final minute before being knocked out.
Roy Nelson is a relatively talented Heavyweight, but is severely limited by his own love for his hands and size disadvantage in the big man's division. He'll continue to beat the lower level at HW and will also continue to be an open target for anyone with the Fight IQ, talent, and discipline to counter his limited style.