UFC 159 Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey Saturday, April 27, 2013 Heavyweight Fight: Roy Nelson (-240) vs. Cheick Kongo (+200) Fight Breakdown: Pay per view cards are often good for guaranteeing some heavyweights will enter the Octagon. Nelson (18-7) is a winner of the Ultimate Fighter that we all seem to forget about. He was an IFL veteran before getting onto the heavyweight season of TUF, and then rattled off wins against a long list of UFC heavyweight stalwarts. His stifling grappling and ground and pound got him through several TUF opponents, including the notorious Kimbo Slice. But it’s been his hands (and his chin) that have defined his career since. Though he shows mixed success in the Octagon, Nelson has really only lost to champion/contender-caliber opponents (Dos Santos, Mir, Werdum) in his UFC career, and has logged impressive KO victories over a number of still-active division peers (Schaub, Struve, Cro Cop, Herman and Mitrione). His willingness to stand and trade with anyone and everyone has given us plenty of fight-time to analyze his statistical profile, and the results clearly align with how his fights play out. While he maintains an average overall pace of activity, he is primarily a counter striker, and an accurate one at that. Among heavyweights, he’s actually one of the more accurate power strikers, but his striking defense is among the worst in the division. That’s where his most differentiating characteristic comes in: his beard. Both literally and figuratively, Roy Nelson has one of the strongest beards in MMA. In a division defined by knockout power, Nelson eats tons of strikes and simply doesn’t go down. His losses may become lopsided, but at heavyweight, a slugger is still in it to the last bell. And he does all this at the age of 36, above the threshold for increased knockdown risk. Nelson is a unique man in a sport of extremes. Kongo (18-7-2) has entered the Octagon an amazing 17 times as a UFC heavyweight, a feat surpassed only by former champion Frank Mir. Kongo seems to be holding out for a UFC appearance in Paris, and is battling Father Time as well as the continual evolution of MMA and the new blood pouring into the UFC. His performance metrics show a superior striker who controls range, uses high volume, but still maintains good striking accuracy. His ground game is limited, reflecting his preference to stand and his background in kickboxing. Zeroing in on the key stat for heavyweights, Kongo shows up on the opposite end of the “chin strength” spectrum. While he has delivered impressive knockouts of his own, he’s been dropped more times (5) than standing knockdowns he’s scored on opponents (4). It’s a surprising stat given his long career and number of TKO wins. Corrected per strike, Kongo has a tendency to get knocked down more than any active UFC heavyweight. The Stats:
Fight Prediction: This fight should stay standing, and we’ll see two heavy hitters overcome an awkward feeling out process while the two test the large reach differential. This may come down to chin versus chin, while Kongo lands more frequent strikes from a distance, and Nelson waits to get inside to counter. Once shots land however, it should be Nelson’s that have a more devastating effect. If Kongo survives the first round, he’ll have some opportunity to use range and volume to outpoint Nelson, unless Nelson can gain top position on the mat to win rounds. Nelson’s advantages outweigh his lack of defense and cardio risk. Reed’s Pick: Nelson by (T)KO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Nelson winning this inside that distance (-133) or by (T)KO (+125) offers much better value than his overall straight line (-240). If this goes the distance, which is unlikely, Kongo actually has a better chance to pull off the decision. But he’ll have to survive 3-rounds of haymakers aimed at a very suspect chin that turns 38 years old in just two weeks. The most likely scenario is Nelson by stoppage due to strikes.