The Ultimate Fighter season 16 is underway.
Coaches Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin are slated to duke it out on the finale in an attempt to make their claim for a UFC Heavyweight Championship title shot.
Carwin will remain in the main event despite recent minor knee injury.
The bout will headline The Ultimate Fighter Finale from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on December 15th.
Carwin returns to the Octagon for the first time in over a year; his last two outings were defeats at the hands of Brock Lesnar and current UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos.
His counterpart, Nelson, is coming off a knockout victory at UFC 146 over Dave Herman.
Here is how the two heavyweights size up against one another.
The power advantage is in the large hands of Carwin, but the overall better striker is Nelson.
"Big Country" is more mobile, quicker and puts together better combinations in his stand-up. He also mixes in leg kicks from time to time. Carwin has improved since making his MMA debut, but still ultimately relies on his devastating power.
But do not sleep on Nelson's power. The Las Vegas native is able to stop a fight with one shot as well.
Nelson also holds the advantage in the other side of the coin—defense. While he did take a lot of punishment against Fabricio Werdum and Junior dos Santos, he also covered up well when under heavy fire.
Carwin has yet to show off his standing defense.
Nelson is the more complete striker in this particular matchup.
Carwin, the former NCAA Division II Wrestling National Runner-Up, brings in solid wrestling, but the total grappling game would have to go to Nelson.
Even if Nelson is taken down by Carwin, his jiu-jitsu acumen allows him to win the positioning battle.
And should Nelson take top position, Carwin will be in a world of trouble, as Nelson is one of the better ground artists in the UFC's heavyweight division. On the ground it is all about positioning, and one that Nelson loves to seek out is the mounted crucifix.
If Carwin is able to put Nelson down, that will be the matchup to watch. How solid is Carwin from top position, and can he avoid being swept or letting Nelson back up?
It is possible we have that question answered if Carwin wants to utilize his wrestling.
The all-around grappling advantage does go to Nelson, based on his ability to win the positioning battle on the mat.
I could talk about Roy Nelson's jiu-jitsu game, but all I really need to say is that Carwin was submitted by Brock Lesnar.
Carwin may have been gassed out from trying to finish that fight in the first round, but he was still submitted by Lesnar. That allows a lot of questions to be posed about his submission defense. If Lesnar can slap on an arm triangle, then that opens a host of options for Nelson.
Carwin likes to use his wrestling against those who are not submission artists, but ultimately prefers to stand. He will likely want to keep this fight on the feet as well.
Nelson is a Renzo Gracie black belt, so he will certainly be head-and-shoulders above Carwin in the submission department for this fight.
The one intangible everyone loves to look at is cardio.
It is always a question of how in-shape a fighter will enter the fight. Carwin will have a hard time shaking that perception after the Lesnar defeat.
However, more worrying is the knee injury he has suffered. Even though it is thought to be mino,r one must ask how that will effect his training.
Nelson has routinely been in grinding three-round fights and proven himself.
Carwin has not.
As the seconds and minutes tick away, Nelson's chances get better against Carwin.
All 12 of Carwin's wins came in the first round, and both of his loses came after those initial five minutes. That is a telling sign.
Nelson will want to drag the fight deeper and deeper. Will Carwin be able to sustain the pace with his mass?
History tells us that it does not bode well for him.
Nelson has the edge in every category, but do not count out Carwin. The fight could end with one well-placed punched from Carwin's lunch pail-sized fists.
What is most likely to happen is Nelson surviving a first round filled with heavy strikes coming from the Coloradan and then finishing Carwin off in the second or third round.
Nelson holds the advantage on the feet and on the ground, and more importantly, in cardio. He can take his time to force Carwin in to making a mistake and pouncing on the opportunity.
That is what I envision happening this December.
Nelson will pick up his second consecutive victory and re-enter the discussion of heavyweight contenders.
Prediction: Nelson defeats Carwin via submission in the second round.