His fight against Stipe Miocic was the final fight on his current contract. He and UFC President Dana White never really seemed to click. And during a pre-fight interview, he made an inappropriate remark while discussing a potential fight against former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
In short, Nelson really needed a victory in order to continue building up his value ahead of free agency.
Miocic didn't let that happen.
The younger heavyweight brought an impressive game plan to the cage with him, avoiding Nelson's dreaded overhand right by circling away from it—the opposite of what Michael Bisping did against Dan Henderson at UFC 100.
Furthermore, Miocic did what Stefan Struve (who handed Miocic his first loss last September) and other heavyweights could not do against Nelson: use his seven-inch reach advantage.
While Nelson kept missing with his power strikes, Miocic landed combinations with ease, scoring straight rights and jabs seemingly at will, and he nearly finished off Nelson in the process.
But "Big Country" was too tough, surviving the 15 minutes of lopsided action. He wouldn't survive the judges, however, losing via unanimous decision. Here's what we learned.
What We Learned About Stipe Miocic
A loss to Struve last September sent Miocic tumbling down the heavyweight ranks. The once top prospect quickly became the heavy underdog in a fight against Nelson, who was on a three-fight winning streak.
Miocic hardly looked like an underdog by the end of the contest, however. His striking technique and footwork looked great, he had the exact game plan needed to avoid a knockout loss to the powerful veteran, and he fully utilized his physical gifts and athleticism to his advantage.
If there is a blueprint to beating Nelson, Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic are two men who can execute it better than anyone.
Out of all the good things Miocic did, his striking was easily the most impressive. He landed 106 significant strikes to Nelson's 23, capitalizing on his long reach to land combinations at a distance while also defending Nelson's powerful combos, as rare as they were in this fight.
Miocic may have entered this fight as a big underdog, but he left with the biggest victory of his career. The heavyweight division should take notice, because his striking and athleticism make him a dangerous opponent for everyone except the elite tier of heavyweights.
What's Next For Roy Nelson
I can only assume Nelson is asking himself that right now. That is, if the cobwebs have cleared after the brutal 15 minutes he spent in the cage against Miocic.
To be honest, his future with the UFC looks bleak. As stated previously, he made an unfortunate remark earlier in the week concerning Daniel Cormier, and Dana White has not been shy in expressing his negative feelings regarding Big Country.
Add those factors to the lopsided decision loss in Winnipeg, and he quickly went from a position of strength to a much less secure one. Though no one can be certain at this point, Nelson's UFC days are likely done, at least for now. And if he is looking to stick around with the promotion, he likely won't receive an attractive offer (assuming he receives one at all).
What's Next For Miocic
Miocic is just one fight removed from his TKO loss to Stefan Struve last September, but the manner in which he dominated Nelson in the UFC 161 co-main event makes that loss seem well off in the past.
Next, Miocic should be matched up with a Top 10 heavyweight. A fight against Mark Hunt or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would work, but a matchup against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva seems like the perfect opportunity for the rising contender.
What's Next For Nelson
If Nelson remains in the UFC, the obvious fight is Nelson vs. Hunt, featuring two men who love throwing bombs.
Otherwise, he could find a spot in Bellator, although its heavyweight division is extraordinarily weak. A stint in World Series of Fighting is another option, with a rematch against Andrei Arlovski being an intriguing prospect for the promotion.