UFC Fight Night 39: Nogueira vs. Nelson Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Roy Nelson are looking to remain within striking distance of a UFC championship. In the UFC Fight Night 39 main event, they will both attempt to rebound on Friday.
Nogueira has alternated wins and losses over the six years since he submitted Tim Sylvia to become the interim heavyweight champion. At 37 years old, Nogueira is running short on time to build momentum toward another shot at UFC gold.
After losing to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 143, Nelson bounced back with three straight opening-round knockouts. It briefly looked like he might be able to sneak into a title fight. Instead, "Big Country" turned in a poor showing against Stipe Miocic and followed that up with another loss when he recently faced Daniel Cormier.
Here is a closer look at how Nogueira and Nelson match up in all areas as this important heavyweight matchup approaches.
Roy Nelson has absorbed 180 significant strikes in his past two fights while landing only 40 on Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.
That is part of the "Big Country" game plan, though. He'll eat several shots to land one big right hand. In more fights than not, it works for him.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira used to be a fighter who could weather a storm until an opportunity for a submission arrived. However, nearly 15 years of fighting has taken a toll on the Brazilian.
Nogueira went 36 fights without being stopped, but he's now been knocked out twice in his past seven appearances. Heading into a fight with a powerful puncher like Roy Nelson, Nogueira's chin could be a problem.
He might throw shorter and more technical strikes than Nelson, but Nogueira's striking defense is almost as porous as Nelson's. Big Country can take Nogueira's best shots, not having been knocked out in over five years. Nogueira, on the other hand, is likely to go down when Nelson's right hand inevitably lands.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Roy Nelson haven't depended on wrestling for many of their recent wins.
In his past seven fights, Nogueira has scored only one takedown, and that came in a bout where he gave up two against Dave Herman. Nelson's only scored two takedowns in his past seven fights. Though, aside from a rough outing against Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier, "Big Country" only allowed one takedown during a fight with Stipe Miocic over that span.
Nelson's lack of production in the wrestling department has been due in part to his preference to stand. However, Nogueira has shown clear shortcomings in his takedown attempts as a fighter who regularly looks to take his opponents to the canvas.
"Minotauro" takedown attempts usually come from the clinch, where he'll secure underhooks and look for trips. However, when those trips are attempted and failed in the middle of the Octagon, Nogueira is left unbalanced and vulnerable to countertakedowns.
Nogueira was probably happy to go to the ground with Herman in this situation, even if it meant being on the bottom. However, Nelson would be more likely to defend the takedown and keep the fight standing, which Nogueira will want to avoid in this matchup.
Nelson's defensive wrestling isn't impenetrable, but it's strong enough to keep him standing against Nogueira. The former Pride FC champion will need to get creative or show marked improvement with his takedowns to get this fight where he wants it to go.
He's been submitted in two of his past three fights, but Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira remains one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division. Prior to his losses to dangerous submission artists Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum, Nogueira had never been submitted.
Owning a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Roy Nelson is no slouch on the ground. However, because he prefers to stand and swing his right hand, "Big Country" has rarely been tested against elite grapplers inside the Octagon.
Nelson's five career submissions came within his first six bouts and against low-level competition. Nogueira, meanwhile, has submitted Dan Henderson, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman, Mirko Filipovic and many others.
Though Nelson might be the better positional grappler, it is unlikely he'll be looking to take Nogueira down and work from the top. If this fight does go to the ground, it'll be Nelson looking to get back up and "Minotauro" hoping to finish.
Roy Nelson has found a way to become one of the best heavyweights in the world despite being better suited for the light heavyweight class.
Carrying that extra weight has led to conditioning issues at times, though. In his past six outings, "Big Country" has not won a fight that has gone past the first round, so his success often depends on landing his right hand early.
Inactive for the past 10 months, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira could run into conditioning issues of his own. A slow start could also be a possibility, and that would be exactly what Nelson needs to catch the Brazilian quickly.
"Minotauro" could tire Nelson out and force him into the later rounds, but Nogueira's potential rust following a long hiatus seems to be the bigger question heading into this matchup.
Neither Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira nor Roy Nelson seem to have enough left in the tank to make a serious run at the heavyweight championship. However, this matchup will at least keep the fire burning for one of the two fighters a while longer.
Although Nogueira may be the more technical boxer, he doesn't have the power to put a very tough Nelson away. With only three knockout wins in 47 career bouts, Nogueira will need to keep this fight on the ground early in order to avoid Nelson's power.
Having scored only one takedown in his past seven outings, "Minotauro" is going to have a difficult time dragging "Big Country" to the canvas. If he doesn't, Nelson only has to land once to end his two-loss skid.
Nelson defeats Nogueira by knockout in the first round.