Heavyweights take center stage at UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, April 12. Roy "Big Country" Nelson and Minotauro Nogueira will clash with relevancy in a division at stake for both.
Both men are coming off losses in their last bout. Big Country has lost his last two.
In a division with emerging talent, these two grizzled veterans are in a must-win situation. Aside from the main event, there are a few other mildly interesting scraps on the ledger.
Here's a look at the full fight card, viewing information and predictions for each bout. Deeper analysis for the top three bouts is located just beyond the table.
|11:50 p.m. ET||UFC Fight Pass|
|Alan Omer vs. Jim "The Beast" Alers||Featherweight||Alers by decision|
|Chris Camozzi vs. Andrew "Highlight" Craig||Middleweigth||Craig by decision|
|Thales Leites vs. Trevor "Hot Sauce" Smith||Middleweight||Leites by decision|
|Rani Yahya vs. Johnny "Brutal" Bedford||Bantamweight||Yahya by submission|
|Jared "The Big Show" Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk||Heavyweight||Rosholt by KO|
|Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush||Lightweight||Dariush by decision|
|John "Doomsday" Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare||Welterweight||LaFlare by decision|
|Clay "The Carpenter" Guida vs. Tatsuya "The Crusher" Kawajiri||Featherweight||Kawajiri by KO|
|Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson||Heavyweight||Nelson by KO|
Clay Guida's Descent Is in Full Swing
Guida is now a gatekeeper for new talent in the UFC. The 35-year-old Kawajiri is anything but new to the MMA scene, but this will be just his second fight in the UFC. He's won six fights in a row, including his UFC debut against Sean Soriano at UFC Fight Night in Singapore.
His last loss came at the hands of Gilbert Melendez in Tawajiri's lone Strikeforce appearance.
The Crusher is extraordinarily balanced. He has 12 knockouts and 10 submissions victories in his career. He has been susceptible to the knockout, but Guida has never been a major striker.
Lately, Guida is even less of a threat to finish an opponent. Though he's always scrappy, his KO loss to Chad Mendes at UFC 164 showed his vulnerability. Sure, Mendes is a dynamic striker. But that loss broke up the aura that was once associated with Guida.
It looks as if it'll be all down hill for him from here.
Ryan LaFlare's Cardio Will Push Him to Win
If John "Doomsday" Howard lands a heavy right hand on LaFlare, the latter will be in major trouble. The thing is, that probably won't happen.
Versatility is LaFlare's strong suit. Mark La Monica of Long Island Newsday writes:
"Opponents have yet to find much comfort in the cage against the undefeated welterweight who likes to push the pace, fight aggressively and use any of the disciplines of MMA necessary to win. That style continues to serve LaFlare well as he makes a name for himself in the UFC."
Howard is giving up five inches to LaFlare. Look for the latter to use his length to strike effectively from a distance. Both men are adept on the mat, but LaFlare is a little sharper.
If Howard does gain top position, LaFlare is good enough off his back to avoid major damage, and he is capable of escaping to reset the fight.
In the third round, LaFlare will be the fresher of the two. That will help him take a unanimous decision win over Doomsday.
Big Country Will KO Big Nog
In a battle of two "big" guys, Nelson's power and overall strength will be too much for Nogueira.
Nelson is pumped for an opportunity to fight a legend. Big Nog is the only man to hold both the UFC and PRIDE heavyweight titles.
Every loss he's ever had has come against men of stature in the sport (Frank Mir twice, Fedor Emelianenko twice, Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez, Josh Barnett and Dan Henderson).
Nelson realizes he's taken on a legend, and he is showing him tons of respect. Per Yahoo! Sports' Dave Doyle, Nelson said:
When I was breaking in, Nogueira was right up there with the best of the best, and he's still one of the biggest names. In some ways you have to treat this like just another fight. But yeah, the guys like Antonio and Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor [Emelianenko] were the guys I respected and admired, so it's an honor to be able to get a fight like this.
Don't take Nelson's admiration for complacency or weakness. When the fight begins, he'll be looking to pound Noguiera into the mat.
Big Nog is still a formidable submissions fighter, but Nelson is an accomplished wrestler. Thus the edge in grappling won't be that significant.
Stamina has been an issue for Nelson throughout his career, but against an older performer like Nogueira, it may not be as big of a deal.
Aside from that, Nelson has the huge edge in punching power. In his storied career, Nogueira has only stopped three opponents. Nelson has scored 12 KO wins, and a few of them have been spectacular.
Look for Nelson to add to his total with a statement-making second-round KO that should send Big Nog into retirement.
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