UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill is a tribute to Zuffa's talented marketing team, the result of clever last-minute matchmaking and some inspired promotion.
Earlier this year, a potentially intriguing match-up between former light-heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and resurgent contender Thiago Silva was scrubbed.
Silva, back in the title picture after posting an impressive and dominating victory over Brandon "The Truth" Vera, was yanked from the schedule after his UFC 125 pre-fight urinalysis tested positive for banned substances.
If the absence of Jackson vs. Silva slowed down the UFC 130 hype machine, losing the highly-anticipated main event, a rubber match between 155-pound champion Frankie "The Answer" Edgar and No. 1 contender Gray "Bully" Maynard, threatened to bring it to a grinding halt.
Edgar and Maynard, arguably the two most evenly-matched fighters in the division, were expected to give fans their money's worth after thrilling fans on New Year's Day in a five-round slobberknocker that ended in (what else) a majority draw.
Fortunately, the UFC's roster is deep enough to furnish Saturday night's main card with plenty of talented fighters. The match-up I find the most compelling is the heavyweight pairing of former champ Frank Mir vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
What We Know
Originally known for his jiu-jitsu skills, Mir has made a name for himself in recent years as one of the UFC's more well-rounded big men.
He showcased ever-improving stand-up skills against Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo, but brutal stoppage losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin put his status as a bona fide contender in question.
Roy Nelson is in many ways the anti-Frank Mir; pudgy, irreverent and seemingly incapable of taking himself seriously.
While Nelson drew criticism on TUF for coasting through preliminary bouts, his stunning knock-out of Brendan Schaub in the season finale showcased the former IFL champion's skill.
Even as Nelson's egregious mullet and self-deprecating arena entrance (to the tune of Weird Al Yankovic's "Fat") provide comic relief, his stunning knock-outs of Schaub and Stefan Struve serve to remind fans and opponents that Nelson is an accomplished and dangerous veteran.
What Could Happen
There's little question Frank Mir enters this fight with an advantage in nearly every department...at least on paper.
A cerebral, analytical fighter known for tailoring opponent-specific game plans, Mir expects to capitalize on both a discernible size advantage as well as what he believes is superior stand-up technique.
Where Nelson shines is in the intangibles department. Undersized at heavyweight and sporting a giant pot belly, Nelson uses graceful footwork, poise under pressure and deceptive athleticism to turn the tables on opponents, a quality not unlike Fedor Emelianenko.
Nelson's most recent fight, a decisive loss to No. 1 contender Junior Dos Santos, was nonetheless a competitive brawl that not only showed Nelson's skill but also his toughness.
Mir may be bigger and in better shape, and he may even have a sound game plan for Nelson, but unfortunately the element of surprise always seems to favor Mir's opponents.
That trend doesn't bode well against an opponent like Nelson, who since entering the UFC has only exceeded expectations.
If recent history is any indication, we shouldn't be shocked to see Roy Nelson walk away with a "Knockout of the Night" bonus.