UFC 117 Preview: Big Country Has a Lot on His Plate, Can He Handle JDS?

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UFC 117 Preview: Big Country Has a Lot on His Plate, Can He Handle JDS?

During UFC 117, Roy Nelson, TUF 10 winner and former International Fight League heavyweight champion, will face Junior dos Santos, the hard hitting Brazilian who has lost only once in his 12 MMA matches.

Nelson is the first American to ever fight dos Santos, which makes a big addition to the highly anticipated America vs. Brazil UFC 117 fight card where he will be joined by fellow Americans Clay Guida, Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch and Chael Sonnen.

Nelson and dos Santos are both known for their ability to suddenly end the match by knock out. In fact, both fighters have one thing in common: they have been the only fighters to eliminate 6'11" Stefan Struve in under one minute.

Nelson was the quicker one to do so, but that is very much like splitting hairs. More importantly, though, it goes to show just how affective at striking both fighters are.

Neither Nelson nor dos Santos initially seems eager to get to the ground, but if either one does, they are very capable and skilled.

Nelson focuses a lot on position and using his big gut as a leverage advantage while dos Santos is quick to look for a submission or immediately get back to a standing position where he typically holds a significant advantage.

Both fighters definitely have knockout power. Both have three knockouts on their records, and Nelson has ended 53 percent of his victories with punches while dos Santos has ended 63 percent of his wins with punches.

Both men have a similar submission percentage of wins, Nelson holding 26 percent and dos Santos holding 27 percent. In fact, both men started their MMA careers off in a similar way by initially looking for submissions and slowly growing to rely mainly on their boxing.

The consensus? On paper, these guys are very similar.

When considering the ground element, Nelson holds more experience. Nelson is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt contra dos Santos's BJJ brown belt.

He is masterful at executing the crucifix after gaining side control, and can really pose problems for any heavyweight if the fight goes to the ground. Dos Santos certainly has submission capability, but he rarely chooses to take the fight there as he really hasn't yet been bested on his feet.

Weight might work to Nelson's advantage as he will outweigh dos Santos about 25-30 lb coming into this match.

Virtually nobody can seem to get Nelson off of them when he works his crucifix, so dos Santos had better not let it get to that point if he hopes to have a decent chance of winning on the ground.

Also, it may go without holding much weight in the eyes of many, but Nelson is used to a lot more pressure than dos Santos has ever faced.

He was the International Fight League heavyweight champ and the man to set Kimbo Slice's mystique-doubt in the proverbial stone by downright dominating him on the ground for a TKO win.

In fact, Rashad Evans hand picked Nelson to fight Kimbo because he knew Nelson would never let any hype get to him. Not that Kimbo would have beaten anyone else, but the point is that Nelson is used to high profile fights and pressure.

The trouble is that Nelson may be too willing or too eager to stand and trade with dos Santos.

Although Nelson has knockout power, so does dos Santos, and being that Nelson's advantage will be on the ground, he will need to quickly look for the clinch and take it there because dos Santos has immense power when standing.

One thing that is incomprehensible is how many people initially count Nelson out altogether. Make no mistake, Nelson is experienced, well rounded and has great stamina—thus he cannot be merely counted out.

Even on paper, these fighters are very similar and even, and for people to count Nelson out based on his physique is foolish.

Based solely on paper, one could say dos Santos holds at least a slight advantage standing because 10 percent more of his victories have come about by way of punches, but again, that's just on paper, and this should not discount Nelson's KO power.

What this fight will more than likely boil down to is which fighter wants to have a shot at the championship more than the other.

Nelson has taken the fast track to being in the top three contenders, but he's earned it by handing out two knockouts in his first two UFC bouts.

 

Prediction

This is a tough fight to call, which is good because it means Joe Silva and Dana White are doing their job of giving us the best fights.

A lot of people are automatically counting Nelson out just as they did with Kimbo and the IFL.

They take one look at his gut and think he's not athletic or skilled enough to do the job, yet Nelson defended his IFL heavyweight title twice and has made a big impact by winning TUF 10 and tearing through his first couple of UFC fights.

That's not to say that dos Santos is at a disadvantage. On the ground, I would say Nelson does hold the advantage, but if anything, dos Santos holds the advantage standing.

Success in the clinch will likely determine who wins this fight.

If Nelson can't clinch dos Santos, I'd say dos Santos has a slight advantage standing. If Nelson can effectively clinch him and get dos Santos on his back, he would be very dangerous and likely gain good positioning and possibly work a crucifix.

Being that they are roughly statistically even, Nelson is more well balanced and experienced—so I'm betting that this experience will help Nelson.

I should state, though, that this may indeed be a fight that goes to decision.

These two are so similarly capable that it is near worthy of a coin toss, but there's little doubt that dos Santos probably holds the power advantage while standing whereas Nelson holds a skill and weight advantage on the ground.

This is a tough call, but Nelson has surprised me too many times to count his skill and power out.

That being said, I believe Nelson will use his superior experience to succeed in effectively clinching dos Santos and taking the fight to the ground.

From there I believe Nelson will either win by TKO in round two or three or by decision—though admittedly this fight is almost too close to call. Dos Santos is nobody to toy around with standing, and Nelson may get caught if he's not careful.

Nevertheless, I think Big Country will be facing Lesnar or Velasquez (i.e., Lesnar) for the heavyweight championship.

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