Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 143 Preview: Roy Nelson vs. Fabricio Werdum

Hardcore fans of mixed martial arts are well aware that a fighter’s body type is, at best, a poor indicator of how good or how skilled that fighter is. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how Fabricio Werdum is feeling right now. In his last fight, Werdum took on Alistair Overeem, a man who could be confused with a statue if he stood still for a few moments. In this fight, Werdum will be taking on none other than “Big Country” himself, Roy Nelson. While I have no doubts that Werdum will take Nelson very seriously as an opponent, deep down in the most primal instincts of his brain, he has to be feeling a little more confident about himself in this fight.

Perhaps Werdum should be more confident anyway. Not because Overeem is a great fighter, and I’ve finally embraced the idea that Overeem is one of the world’s top heavyweights, but because Nelson is overrated. I’ve speculated before that people might be overreacting to the idea a lot of people have that a fighter built like Nelson can’t be very good, because while Nelson is clearly a skilled fighter, I have a hard time justifying his status as a top 25 heavyweight. Nelson is 3-4 in his last seven fights, with wins over a green Brendan Schaub (4-0 at the time with just one year of pro experience), a very shot Mirko Cro Cop, and a KO of Stefan Struve. There’s nothing wrong with those wins, but when Nelson also has losses to Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson, I just don’t think he should be in the top 15.

Of course, one could argue that Nelson should have been given the decision against Monson, and that Nelson may well have defeated Arlovski if not for a terrible standup by the referee in that fight. Perhaps, IF you assume that Nelson could have won both fights, you can argue for Nelson as a fringe top 15 fighter. But can you argue for Nelson to beat Fabricio Werdum?

There’s one thing Nelson clearly has as an advantage over Werdum – KO power. In fact, while Nelson is known as a fighter with a good ground game, he hasn’t finished a fight by submission since submitting Jerome Smith in July 2006. Since then, Nelson has been winning by knockout, like he did against Cro Cop, Struve, and Schaub. Werdum has a few wins by TKO, but if there’s a fighter who wins by KO on Saturday night, it will be “Big Country.”

After that, it’s hard to see where Nelson is better. Werdum has improved his striking throughout his career, and while he may never be a knockout artist, he did out-strike Alistair Overeem and Antonio Silva. Meanwhile, as good as Roy Nelson’s ground game may be, I guarantee it isn’t as good as Werdum’s, as Werdum is a legitimately world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. Not only does Werdum have the credentials, he’s translated those to MMA very successfully, as eight of Werdum’s 14 wins are by submission.

So Werdum has the edge on the ground, and he’s probably the better fighter in terms of striking volume as well. For Nelson to win, he’ll probably need to win by KO, and while that is a distinct possibility, does that have over a 50% chance of happening?


Both of these fighters are on my list of heavyweights I think will drop in ranking in 2012, but I think Nelson will be first. A lot of Nelson’s success depends on the threat of using “the moon” to stifle an opponent on the ground, and that’s not happening against Werdum. At best, this becomes a striking battle, and even in a striking battle, I have to give Fabricio Werdum the edge.


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