The Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson bout airs Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 10 p.m. ET. If you haven't been bombarded with it to the point of overkill already, you can watch the promo video of what's being hyped as "the biggest fight in the history of The Ultimate Fighter!"
Last week I wrote I was rooting for "the guy who's looking at this as an opportunity" (Kimbo) and not "the one who assumes it's something he's already entitled to" (Nelson). This has been interpreted by some as meaning I anticipate a Kimbo victory. Allow me to clarify: "uh, no." I'm rooting for Kimbo because I'd like to see him pull off the upset victory...but the fight handicapper in me doesn't expect it.
I'm pulling for Kimbo in large part because I don't like Nelson's attitude. As IFL heavyweight champ, he was a big fish in a small pond. Yet instead of coming into The Ultimate Fighter like a guy on a job interview—which is what it is, Roy—he's acting like this is merely a tedious formality before his inevitable coronation as TUF 10 champ.
Yeah, many fight watchers have him as the favorite to win the show, and he's sure got the resume. Despite an unimpressive physique, Nelson is, as stated before, a heavyweight champ (who twice defended his title). He's earned a Gracie BJJ black belt and has competed in the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club. His two recent losses came at the hands of former champs Andre Arlovski (UFC) and Jeff Monson (ADCC)—much more serious competition than anything TUF is likely to deliver.
He's got a right to be proud of his accomplishments...but also cause to show some humility and demonstrate how much he wants his fight career to continue in the UFC. Despite the legitimacy of the opponents, two in a row is a losing streak an aging fighter without a contract should be anxious to snap.
He's 33, which is by no means too old to fight but is getting up there in terms of career longevity. He's got a moon face, a beer belly like a long-haul trucker, and a dumbass haircut: not exactly a UFC poster boy. In fact, Nelson has quoted UFC's Joe Silva as previously telling him to shed some fat and muscle up if he wanted to fight in the Octagon.
Success in the UFC is not all about the fights; it's also about the fans. A fan favorite is a bigger draw, will generate more sponsorship revenue, sell more merchandising, and generally make everybody more money. But Nelson, who was called on the carpet in last week's episode for being "un-coachable," is unapologetic. In interviews, he's proud of his independent attitude.
Who knows, maybe his "I Did It My Way" schtick will earn him the affection of blue-collar fans with chips on their shoulders and bellies as big as Big Country's. Personally, I think he's coming off like an insufferable egomaniac who will generate fan interest mainly in those hoping to see him get his comeuppance.
Kimbo, meanwhile, though far less experienced than Nelson, is coming into this house as inarguably the most famous of the competitors. Yet his attitude is the opposite: humble, cooperative, and hardworking. Fans want to see him fight and win. (Readers favor Kimbo almost three to one in last week's poll.)
Unfortunately, they're not likely to get their wish this time around. If Nelson were to come into the fight aggressively, I think he could finish Kimbo in the first round. He'll be looking at the big picture, though, anticipating his next fight, and can be expected to play it more cautiously. My prediction is he'll catch Kimbo on the ground in the second for a submission or ref stoppage.
In falling to the most experienced fighter in the house, Kimbo's intrigue will remain largely undiminished. Joe Silva will set him up with a prelim fight at the finale that's more his style. Or if another competitor has to be replaced due to injury or banishment, Kimbo will be at the top of the list.
Will Kimbo vs. Big Country be the "biggest fight in TUF history"? If by biggest you mean "most watched," then yes. The UFC continues to grow in popularity, and Kimbo's Internet notoriety will have even casual fans tuning in for what will almost certainly prove to be TUF's biggest audience yet.
Will it be the best or most notable fight in TUF history? Only for Kimbo haters and those who enjoy watching a fat man lie on top of someone. But that's just my opinion.
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