The main event and co-main event for UFC 161 will feature combatants with different styles. In the co-main event, bruising heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Roy "Big Country" Nelson will battle to take the next step towards a title shot.
That bout will be followed by the main event: a light heavyweight clash between Rashad "Suga" Evans and Dan "Hendo" Henderson. Evans or Henderson could also put themselves in line for a run at the gold with a win
Though both fights could end explosively, there will be a good measure of strategy employed by each fighter. Here are all four men's keys to victory and a preview of both fights from UFC's YouTube Channel.
Suga vs. Hendo
What Suga Must Do to Win
Evans has proven throughout his career that he has excellent power as a striker. His KO wins over legends like Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz are what put him on the MMA map. However, Evans has also had his worst moments in the stand-up game.
Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida both embarrassed Evans in lopsided losses because of their superior striking.
The one thing that no opponent has ever been able to do to Evans is out-wrestle him. If he employs that tactic against Henderson, he'll be giving himself the best chance to win the fight. Evans' speed and explosiveness aren't what they used to be, and Hendo is still a dangerous man with heavy hands.
If Evans takes this fight to the mat, he will beat Henderson easily.
What Hendo Must Do to Win
Dragging Evans into a brawl is Henderson's best chance. He is no match for Suga on the ground, and as a 42-year-old veteran of 38 professional fights, Hendo knows this.
He needs Evans to stand and trade with him to have a shot at winning.
Hendo's punching power is still exceptional, and his chin is legendary. He's still yet to lose a fight by KO and we've rarely—if ever—seen him stunned. If this turns into a stand-up battle, Hendo will KO Evans in spectacular fashion.
If it goes to the ground, it'll be another one-sided decision loss for Hendo, ala his last fight with Machida.
Miocic vs. Big Country
What Big Country Must Do To Win
Everyone knows Big Country has mammoth punching power, but some may have forgotten how good of a submission artist he is. Nelson has finished 12 of his 19 wins via KO, but his five submission wins are more than respectable.
Usually, Big Country doesn't have to employ his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background or takedown defense to smash opponents, but he may need both against Miocic.
The latter has an impressive background in collegiate wrestling at Cleveland State. He is very strong with has takedowns, and this should be Nelson's primary concern. Big Country must exhibit strong takedown defense to establish control of the fight.
Snuffing Miocic's attempts will prolong the striking segments of the fight and allow Nelson to test his opponent's chin.
If he does get taken to the mat, he needs to work almost immediately to avoid giving up the dominant position to Miocic. While Nelson is a strong submissions artist, he does his best work from top position.
If Miocic is able to establish top position, it could be a long night for Big Country.
What Miocic Must Do to Win
The 30-year-old from Independence, Ohio is not just a wrestler. He has stopped seven of the 10 opponents he's faced professionally.
Because of his prowess as a striker, he may be inclined to try to out-box Big Country. This could be good or bad for Miocic because both men are big and powerful strikers. The first one to land a huge blow will have a major advantage and may even end the fight.
Because of the variable in this strategy, this approach doesn't give Miocic the best chance to win.
While Big Country doesn't have a plethora of weaknesses, a fighter with Miocic's wrestling background would be better off taking the fight to the mat.
If Miocic does that, he has a decent chance to win. If he stands and strikes, he'll likely become Nelson's 13th KO victim.
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