UFC 161 Preview: Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Following his brutal knockout victory over Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 at April's end, Roy Nelson probably expected to enjoy some time away from the cage.
Instead, less than one month later, he found himself stepping in against Stipe Miocic in the co-main event of UFC 161 on Saturday. The card takes place at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, featuring a light heavyweight headliner between Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson.
Nelson enters the contest looking for his second win in seven weeks. A victory over Miocic would extend his winning streak to four. Meanwhile, Miocic, who is seven years younger than Nelson, looks to avoid dropping two fights in a row.
According to Bovada, Miocic is more than a 2-to-1 underdog in this contest, as Nelson sits at a healthy -270. But is the matchup really that lopsided? Take a look at our head-to-toe breakdown for this heavyweight clash.
All stats courtesy of FightMetric.com.
Roy Nelson's professional MMA career began with five submission wins in his first six fights. Since then, he's been all about the knockouts, especially in his UFC career.
"Big Country" has won six of nine fights in the UFC, and all of those wins have come via knockout or technical knockout. Five of them have come in the first round. Obviously, Nelson is more interested in getting the knockout than winning by any other means.
But how good is his striking?
He landed 38 percent of his strikes in 11 analyzed fights (including one EliteXC fight and one IFL fight) while posting a striking defense of 50 percent. Neither statistic is phenomenal, but the striking accuracy is quite low.
However, a low striking accuracy has not stopped Nelson from finding success. In his past three fights, his accuracy has risen but still only just passed the 43 percent mark in terms of significant strikes. Yet he still managed to earn back-to-back-to-back knockout stoppages. Nelson's vicious power has more than made up for the low accuracy in his past few contests.
Furthermore, Nelson has been able to find a way to beat fighters with decent or even good striking defense.
In his six UFC wins, his opponents have had a striking defense of 49 percent or better. Here's the list:
- Brendan Schaub: 57 percent
- Stefan Struve: 49 percent
- Mirko Filipovic: 64 percent
- Dave Herman: 50 percent
- Matt Mitrione: 68 percent
- Cheick Kongo: 54 percent
Again, all six of those fights ended by way of knockout.
Meanwhile, Miocic boasts a striking defense of 57 percent with a striking accuracy of 46 percent. The 46 percent accuracy is the second lowest that Nelson has faced in his UFC career, with Schaub's 38 percent taking the bottom spot. Meanwhile, the 57 percent striking defense ties Schaub for the fifth best of an opponent.
But what about Miocic's opponents?
Unfortunately, we have only a four-fight sample size, featuring three fighters with sub-.500 records. Miocic has obviously had weaker competition than Nelson.
Still, he has one thing going for him: his high level of activity. He lands 4.76 strikes per minute compared to the 4.51 he absorbs. Nelson, however, lands just 2.41 strikes per minute compared to the 4.75 he absorbs.
Keeping busy against Nelson is not necessarily in one's best interest, however. Big Country often baits his opponents into brawls, and if Miocic can't utilize his 80-inch reach to keep the fight at a distance, his work rate will work against him.
And another thing working against the underdog is that in nine UFC fights, Nelson has never been knocked out. Just watch his fight against Junior dos Santos, and it's clear that Nelson, even at 37 years of age, is probably not going to get knocked out in a three-round fight.
We've seen glimpses of promise in Miocic's striking during his four-fight UFC career, but I'm hardly sold on his ability to last 15 minutes against the powerful Nelson in a slugfest.
And Nelson has managed to overcome a reach disadvantage before—he fell 11.5 inches short in the reach department against Struve. He's also the more powerful striker.
Miocic will look to stay busier on the feet, but Nelson will land the more significant shots.
Advantage: Roy Nelson
When one examines Nelson's tendency to slug for the knockout, it's unsurprising his takedown accuracy is so low.
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights has a takedown accuracy of just 23 percent in his UFC career. He has been successful on just three of 13 attempts.
However, in wins, his takedown accuracy is much better, coming in at 60 percent. In his three losses, he is a combined 0-of-8 in the takedown department, including seven failed attempts against former champion Junior dos Santos.
Miocic has been a bit more successful on when it comes to takedown accuracy and takedown defense. He's been accurate on 58 percent of his attempts while defending 50 percent of attempts from his opponents.
However, in his most recent outing against Struve, he was just 1-of-3 on his attempts. He eventually lost the fight on the feet, resulting in a technical knockout loss.
Also, there is a very small sample size to work with in terms with his takedown defense. Joey Beltran is the lone UFC fighter to attempt a takedown against Miocic, landing one of two attempts. That's somewhat unnerving considering Beltran's abysmal takedown offense; he has landed just 17 percent of his takedown attempts in the UFC.
According to just the percentages, Miocic appears to be better in both takedown offense and defense, but Nelson hasn't been taken down in more than two years.
Miocic gets the edge in this category, but it's a slight edge at best and probably not enough to sway the fight in his favor. The fact that Nelson hasn't taken down an opponent since he fought Mirko Filipovic in 2011 helps Miocic's case.
Advantage: Stipe Miocic
The submission aspect of this fight is fairly straightforward. Neither Nelson nor Miocic has displayed any sort of inclination to go for the tapout.
In four UFC fights, Miocic has attempted zero submissions. In nine UFC fights, Nelson has attempted just one, a Hail Mary attempt in the third round of his UFC 143 bout against Fabricio Werdum.
Miocic and Nelson would much rather throw bombs than grab limbs.
And their previous opponents were similar in that regard. Out of their combined 13 UFC opponents, none even attempted a submission against Nelson or Miocic.
Furthermore, Nelson has not won via submission since 2006, while Miocic's only submission was a tapout due to a leg kick.
No one really has an advantage in this category.
Strength of Competition
Strength of schedule is a category mostly used in determining ranks in collegiate sports. We know how it can affect the BCS or it can be the difference between a one seed and a two seed when March Madness rolls around.
But the strength of competition is also important in mixed martial arts, and in this matchup, it's a large reason why Nelson should be heavily favored.
Nelson's opponents during his UFC career have a combined UFC record of 65-34-1, which is good for a 65 percent winning percentage. The three opponents who have defeated him (Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir and Junior dos Santos) have a combined UFC record of 29-10, which comes just short of a 75 percent winning percentage.
Miocic's opponents have a much less impressive combined record in the UFC. Joey Beltran, Phil De Fries, Shane del Rosario and Stefan Struve have a combined 14 wins and 14 losses for a 50 percent winning percentage.
However, that percentage plummets when you remove Struve, the only one of them to defeat Miocic, as Struve is responsible for nine wins compared to just four losses. Let's take a look at the three men Miocic has defeated in the UFC and their win/loss records:
- Joey Beltran: 3-5 (1 NC)
- Phil De Fries: 2-3
- Shane del Rosario: 0-2
Those three have a combined record of 5-10, meaning each man averages just one win in every three fights.
On the other hand, the opponents who lost to Nelson combine for a record of 36-24-1, meaning each averages just about six wins per 10 outings.
After comparing track records, it is obvious why Nelson is the heavy favorite. He has faced far better competition and defeated Struve, who handed Miocic a loss last September. Nelson is more experienced than Miocic and has faced more quality opposition.
Advantage: Roy Nelson
At -270, Nelson is a heavy favorite against Miocic, whose original opponent, Soa Palelei, would have been a more appropriate fit. Miocic would have been the favorite in that fight.
Instead, he fights a nine-fight UFC veteran who has won six fights via knockout. Miocic has displayed his ability to wrestle but never against a heavyweight on Nelson's level. Meanwhile, Nelson has no desire to wrestle or grapple unless he's fighting Kimbo Slice in The Ultimate Fighter gym.
So that whole submission aspect? You can forget about it.
This fight is destined to be a battle on the feet. While Miocic stays busy, Nelson has the ability to withstand punishment in the striking game, regardless of the volume of strikes or the power behind them.
Lastly, the experience and strength of competition make Nelson the obvious pick in this fight. He has fought tougher opposition, both in his wins and losses, while Miocic has never defeated a fighter with a UFC record above .500.
As he has done in his last three fights, Nelson should manage to batter his opponent, earning his fourth consecutive victory in the process.
Prediction: Roy Nelson def. Stipe Miocic via technical knockout in Round 1