Reality Sets in for Roy Nelson

Erik FontanezCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2009

UNCASVILLE, CT - MAY 16:  Roy Nelson (White Trunks) of the Lions Den celebrates after beating Brad Imes MilesTech Fighting System during their bout presented by the International Fighting League at the Mohegan Sun Arena May 16, 2008 in Uncasville, Connecticut.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Reality is setting in for Roy “Big Country” Nelson as he fights Brendan Schuab for The Ultimate Fighter crown at The Palms tonight in Las Vegas.

Heavily criticized for looking like he is far from in shape, Nelson will seek to silence his critics and prove that his stand up is stand out while his ground game is more than just laying down.

With all the attention garnered by Kimbo Slice making his UFC debut against Houston Alexander, Roy Nelson’s career path has played a low key role. As a former IFL heavyweight champion, Nelson has a mountain of experience. His stand up is a solid example of accuracy combined with brute punching power capable of knocking out an unknowing opponent. His hands, however, have not been the tale of his reality show tenure.

You can’t tell by looking at him, but Roy Nelson has a superior ground game. As a student of Renzo Gracie, one can only expect such a fighter to know exactly what he is doing when an MMA match goes to the canvas.

In his opening round fight with Kimbo Slice, Nelson wasted no time in taking advantage of the internet stars lack of ground experience. Many frowned at the technique used by Nelson to win that fight, neutralizing Kimbo’s upper body and lightly punching the exposed skull of his opponent, but I’ve identified it as a smart game plan.

Kimbo, cage tested or not, has thunderous hands. Knowing this, Roy Nelson chose to play the game to his advantage and not trade blows with a heavy handed Slice. Call it what you will, but, Roy Nelson knew he can win the fight on the ground easily and that is exactly what he did. Fighting smart is not always pretty.

From Kimbo to Justin Wren and James McSweeny, Roy Nelson now faces a defining point in his career. As little attention as it’s getting, his fight with Brenden Schaub will determine Nelson’s legitimacy as a top tier contender in the heavyweight division.

A loss to the former Buffalo Bills practice team member will, no doubt, tarnish Nelson’s career. A win, has all the upside one can imagine in the sport with a deal that includes six figures. This fight will either shoot Roy Nelson into the upper echelon or drop him into mixed martial arts oblivion where no one will take him serious. I can’t, however, see him losing this fight.

Brendan Schaub, although strong and athletic, has nowhere near the experience of Roy Nelson. Experienced fighters have lost before, but, only because they have been cocky and not followed their game plan (ex: Arlovski/Fedor). For all of his cockiness outside the octagon, Roy Nelson remains focused inside of it. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents, he exposes those weaknesses early and takes advantage of them.

I predict this will be the fate of Brendan Schaub as Roy Nelson will know exactly what his opponent does before his opponent does it. Contract pressure will crumble the young Brendan Schaub leaving, the veteran, Roy Nelson to stand alone and collect the winnings.

After tussling around in smaller shows for the past 5 years, Roy Nelson has the chance of a lifetime as he fights for a contract with the worlds leading MMA promotion in the UFC. Look to see Nelson take the final step in his long journey to the big stage tonight. His lack of an impressive physique will be dwarfed by the fact that he will become the 10th Ultimate Fighter. A task he accomplishes by pure focus and experience in the cage. This will be his new reality.