Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson this February 16, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Record: Matt Mitrione 12-5 Roy Nelson 23-14
Odds: Matt Mitrione -185 Roy Nelson +170
History / Introduction to both fighters
Mitrione is fresh off a bizarre, amusing, near double KO-turned Mitrione KO of Fedor Emelianenko. He’s also 3-0 since unlatching himself from his UFC contract. What any of this means is anyone’s guess. The competition for him has been wanting, but here we are. Unlike most bouts involving two former UFC fighters on the decline, this one at least has history with Nelson marking his territory in 2012; winning the UFC’s world famous “six figure contract.”
Nelson is on the down slope of a once-entertaining career. His resume doesn’t really show it (strong strength of schedule and all), but that down slope is as vivid inside the cage as his his rotund frame. He doesn’t have to worry about Dana White criticizing his every move anymore, so that’s some additional weight lifted off his belly. That probably didn’t have an effect on his performance against Javy Ayala, but it was more of a classic Nelson performance for what it’s worth.
What’s at stake?
A lot for Bellator. Not much for everyone else—as in, I don’t think anybody really cares about title shot implications. On its own, I love the fight though.
Where do they want it?
Mitrione has always been a nimble mongoose of pugilism. It’s rare for a heavyweight, and his athleticism made him something of a late blooming prospect at one point—especially following his win over Gabriel Gonzaga. The thing about Mitrione is that his mechanics and rhythm never quite fused together. He has the mechanics for great counter punching, but not the rhythm for it. He has the rhythm for efficient pressure, but not the mechanics for it. And when he’s putting it all together, it’s not enough to overcome Travis Browne going Jason Voorhees on his eyeballs. He also has that C.B. Dollaway problem of being a good pressure grappler, but leaving a lot to be desired defensively. With all that said, Mitrione’s a constant, and legit threat thanks to his movement and swift, lacerating projectiles. In the language of baseball, he’s a five tools threat; well rounded but not so well rounded he’s flattened the rest of his offense.
I’m not sure that Nelson’s performance against Ayala was “inspiring”, but at least it looked like a mechanical return to form. In recent years, Nelson has turned in his Dan Henderson-influenced right hand seeking for something a little less telegraphed. He still searches for it like it’s El Dorado, but—perhaps sensing his power has waned a bit—he’s also more committed to working that bread and butter top control of his. There’s a lot less on the country breakfast menu these days, but he’s still the sodium and starch of ground and pound.
Insight from past fights
It’s funny, because the first fight tells us nothing IMO. Nelson was actually setting up his right hand in the first bout with jabs, and eventually caught Mitrione with an uppercut—then some vicious follow up right hands. I don’t see Nelson doing the same thing here. His punch pace has slowed over the years, not to mention that Mitrione has improved a lot since that first fight. Ayala didn’t do much to Nelson because Nelson kept it on the ground, but in their brief moments of striking, big Roy seemed fairly inert. That doesn’t bode well for Nelson.
Depends; did Mitrione finally win one of those D.T. Kirby’s Wing Eating Contests? I could see that slowing him down. Granted, that’s my experience with wings inside my barcalounger minus the professional athlete’s body and diet, but still...
David: I like Mitrione’s movement in this one. To me, the biggest factor here is that Mitrione is most at risk on the ground when it comes to submissions. Nelson doesn’t hunt for submissions in top control; he’s more interesting in softening up the opponent. This means he’ll have to contend with Mitrione on the feet every round, so we’re either looking at a potential KO by Mitrione (low probability), decision win for Nelson (high probability), or standard variety judges’ incompetence (mathematical certainty. In this scenario, I like the judges’ favoring Mitrione’s offense on the feet. Matt Mitrione by Split Decision.