UFC Fight Night 82's Roy Nelson has been a fan favorite for years now. When Big Country grounded and pounded his way to victory over Kimbo Slice, rubbed his belly and angered the always divisive Dana White on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, fans instantly gravitated to him for his uniqueness and everyman appeal.
That was six years ago.
In the time since, Nelson has faced future champions and fading greats. He hasn't come close to title contention since 2010, but he has nonetheless managed to remain one of the heavyweight division's most popular characters.
Unfortunately, that recognizability has made Nelson a good UFC enhancement talent. Pro wrestling fans would label him a "jobber to the stars," as he soundly beat the riffraff but consistently flopped against Top 10 names. That put him in a difficult position in a thin heavyweight division, as he settled into a "rebound opponent" role.
That led to five ugly losses in six fights and put Nelson's back to the wall entering Fight Night 82. Riding a three-fight losing streak, he was likely going to be released with a loss. His one hope for remaining in the UFC was defeating up-and-coming wrestler Jared Rosholt.
He managed to do just that...but may have hurt his brand in the process.
The first round was a prolonged feeling-out period. Rosholt was visibly reluctant to engage in a striking contest, fearing Nelson's signature right hand, while Big Country was content in maintaining the center of the cage. There was a brief moment of action when Rosholt appeared to tag Nelson along the fence, but neither fighter made a strong case to the judges.
The second round, however, was flat-out boring. Nelson and Rosholt were serenaded with boos from the get-go, but they remained satisfied with circling each other. While the first round had a spurt of action, the second was nothing but coasting.
Neither man felt comfortable heading into the third, but after an opening minute where they alternated cat-and-mouse roles, the third was more of the same. Nelson moved forward, Rosholt circled out, and little of consequence happened, as Hunter Alek Homistek of MMA Fighting pointed out:
27-27 draw. All 9-9 rounds. #UFCVegas— Hunter Alek Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) February 7, 2016
The decision was read to a chorus of heckling from the crowd, with the scorecards all breaking in Nelson's favor to the tune of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Here are some notes and thoughts from this fight:
- Nelson desperately needed that win. Desperately. While this one will quickly be forgotten, it still ends a three-fight losing streak and likely saves him from being released.
- While Rosholt hasn't wowed anyone in his career to this point, his 6-1 UFC record still stood out. This loss to an aging Nelson, however, locks him out of the Top 10 for the foreseeable future.
- That was actually Nelson's first decision win in the UFC and just the second time he has won a fight by something other than first-round knockout.