Roy Nelson Looking for Title Contention at UFC 143 vs. Fabricio Werdum

Roy Nelson (Matt Erickson/HeavyMMA)

TUF 10 heavyweight winner ready for anything against Werdum

The sport of mixed martial arts is filled with uncertainty and surprise. Often, the things that seem the easiest to pinpoint or categorize have a strange way of being turned on their sides, affecting the status quo and altering perceptions. If UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson has proved anything during his time in the sport’s largest organization, it is that looks can be deceiving.

While Nelson’s untypical aesthetics have remained a talking point throughout his career, the real paradox comes in the athletic talents he possesses. Nothing can be taken at face value when dealing with the former IFL heavyweight champion and Season 10 winner of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Nelson moves quicker than most fighters his size, and when you add in his one-shot put-away power and slick submission game, he has one of the most complete skill sets on the UFC heavyweight roster. But while other modern heavyweights continue to chisel into action-hero prototypes, Nelson has remained on the outskirts, doing things his own way. And for this, Roy Nelson is an agent of chaos.

Equipped with a mountain man beard and his trademark mullet wrapped into a “warbraid,” he will step into the Octagon on Saturday night in his home town of Las Vegas to face Fabricio Werdum in the co-main event of UFC 143. Fresh off his TKO win over MMA legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Nelson will be looking to build momentum toward the ultimate goal – a shot at the UFC heavyweight title.

“I think every fighter who comes into the UFC wants to become a champion,” Nelson told HeavyMMA. “Somewhere along the line, things change for some – and those original goals either get burned out or pushed aside. I’m a professional fighter, but I’m a competitor above all else and I want to be the very best at everything I do.

“Becoming the UFC heavyweight champion means you are the best in the world, and that has been goal since the first moment I stepped foot inside the Octagon. Now with the Strikeforce fighters coming over to the UFC, we are going to have all the best heavyweights under one roof. We are going to find out who the best heavyweight fighter on the planet is.”

The bout with Nelson will mark Werdum’s return to the UFC. Despite suffering a devastating knockout loss to a then-unknown Junior dos Santos, Werdum has gone on to defeat a handful of top-ranked heavyweights outside of the UFC. The biggest accomplishment on this run was one of MMA’s greatest upsets when he submitted former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko, putting an end to his 10-year unbeaten streak.

“Fabricio is a good fighter and I think he’s definitely among the top five in the world,” Nelson said. “He’s beaten a lot of really talented guys. Not only did he submit Fedor, but he’s beaten Alistair Overeem, as well. Even in their recent fight, he was winning the standup exchanges with a K-1 champion. I think if he hadn’t fought him timidly, the outcome would have been different because when he committed to striking with Alistair he was scoring at will.

“Werdum is talented in every area of the game. He’s an Abu Dhabi champion in (Brazilian jiu-jitsu), which means at some point he was the best in the world on the grappling scene. With that being said, my ground game is sharp, as well, and when you get two guys who have solid grappling skills, things usually turn into a striking match. When two fighters are forced to stand and exchange punches, it all comes down to who hits the hardest – and I have the advantage in that department. He might have faster hands than I do, but I hit a hell of a lot harder and we’ll see which one matters the most.

“Then again this is MMA so anything can happen. This fight could end up playing out entirely on the ground. Or I could pull off a flying armbar, flying triangle or rolling knee bar – with top-level jiu-jitsu there are so many different elements that can happen in a fight.”

For his part of the pre-fight promotion, Werdum has been outspoken about his intentions. When the fight was first signed, Werdum claimed he was coming in to score a knockout or get knocked out himself. His tune has changed during an interview this past week when he called Nelson a “fatty” and said he would use his agility to knock “Big Country” out. When asked his thoughts on the matter, Nelson responded in classic Roy fashion.

“I think the person doing the interview might have mistranslated his quote. Portuguese is a tough language to translate and where he said ‘Roy is a fatty and I’m going to knock him out,’ he might have said ‘Roy is bigger and is going to knock me out.’ Don’t get me wrong – I don’t translate Portuguese, either. But this very well could’ve been what he said.”

And so it goes with Roy Nelson. In a game where anything can happen and there isn’t much you can bank on, there are a few certainties Nelson brings to the table. On a list that includes a grizzled beard, wild mullet, a granite chin and a hammer right hand, he would like to add heavyweight title contender. A win over Fabricio Werdum makes that possible, and it doesn’t matter how it’s accomplished – Nelson is built to win and do so by any means necessary.

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