For those who always criticize heavyweights for sometimes being soft, slow, or dare I say boring, this past weekend’s UFC 146 all-heavyweight main card certainly delivered the goods as it highlighted the best of the best in the heavyweight division.
News is out that Cain Velasquez’s extraordinary performance against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva has landed him a rematch against reigning heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos. According to UFC president Dana White at the UFC 146 post event press conference, the champ’s next opponent will be Velasquez. The date of the fight will be announced later.
Someone else equally as impressive during the all heavyweight main card event was Roy Nelson (18-7-0) who managed to put away his opponent Dave Herman (21-4-0) within 51 seconds of their bout with a single right-handed power-punch knockout. Herman never saw it coming as he rolled and staggered to the canvas, clearly dazed.
Since his arrival onto the UFC scene, Nelson had been riding a 1-3 skid and was in desperate need of something impressive to get him back on track. Ranked among the top ten UFC heavyweights, Nelson has the ability to shock and awe when you least expect it. Nelson was able to take down the legend in Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovicat UFC 137 with a TKO (punches) victory, but struggled in other fights against Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir and Junior dos Santos.
Who will be Nelson’s next biggest challenge to date after his impressive win at UFC 146? These likely candidates come to mind: Shane Carwin, Cheick Kongo, Travis Browne, or the most likely Stipe Miocic.
Nelson has four victories in the UFC via knockout and three losses via decision leaving him at a bit of an unpredictable pecking order in the heavyweight division. Picking who he will fight next might not be so easy, considering a lot of the highly ranked fighters are out injured or currently scheduled to fight someone else.
Shane Carwin (12-2-0) is among the most highly acclaimed fighters in the UFC heavyweight division. He is currently out due to a back injury he sustained while fighting the now heavyweight champ, dos Santos at UFC 131.
Carwin is expected to re-emerge sometimes mid-2012. It would not be surprising if Nelson got the opportunity to fight Carwin on his first fight back in the UFC.
It would be a good measure of Carwin’s recovery and Nelson’s true prowess in the division. Plus it would be an interesting match-up as both fighters are known for their slugger, stand and bang techniques, though both could equally be as effective on the ground.
Another, more likely opponent for Nelson would be Cheick Kongo (27-7-2). Unfortunately, Kongo is currently scheduled to fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 149 in July of this year. The winner of that bout could very well be the next face Nelson sees in the Octagon.
Kongo recently lost a fight to Mark Hunt at UFC 144 and will be looking for an impressive victory over Nogueira. If he is successful he could be seeing Nelson next as neither has faced each other before and both are at a bit of a standstill in the heavyweight rankings. Stylistically they also match up well; both being predominantly strikers in the UFC.
Two other possible candidates to step up to “Big Country’s” plate would be up-and-comer Travis Browne (13-0-1) who has shown incredible skill in the cage or Stipe Miocic (9-0-0) whose UFC 146 performance also left mouths wide open.
Travis “Hapa” Browne first emerged onto the UFC in the eleventhseason of the Ultimate Fighter and fought against James McSweeney. Browne delivered an outstanding performance, winning via technical knockout at 4:32 of the very first round.
Since then Browne has been virtually unstoppable only having drawn to Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, in which the fight was so close, no conclusive victor could be determined. He has five wins that have lasted less than a minute, nine wins via TKO/KO, and has won “Knockout of the Night” honors for his bout against Stefan Struve at UFC 130.
Browne is schedule to fight Ben Rothwell at UFC on Fox 4 in August of this year so it would be unlikely that he would meet Nelson right away, unless maybe Rothwell opts out due to injury. The most likely opponent at this point could be Miocic.
Stipe Miocic delivered an amazing performance and UFC 146 as he took on Shane Del Rosario. It looked bleak for Miocic who was completely dominated by Del Rosario in round one, using high leg kicks and effective striking to rock Miocic more than once.
Miocic changed his tactics in the second round landing a single-leg takedown and raining in on Del Rosario with devastating elbows. Once he took his back, Miocic landed an elbow that opened a huge gash on Rosario. The fight ended via technical knockout at 3:14 of the second round.
Miocic is undefeated thus far in the Octagon and would be an interesting match-up against Nelson. Also the match-up makes most sense as most of the other higher ranked heavyweights are currently awaiting their already scheduled fights.
One thing is for sure Nelson needs to begin to show a higher success rate in the cage if he ever wants to see a title bout. Regardless of who he fights next, he will most likely be fighting someone with a pedigree and he needs to be ready to take on any challenge.