UFC 117: Silva vs Sonnen features American Roy Nelson taking on Brazilian Junior dos Santos in main card action to determine the next challenger in line for the UFC's heavyweight championship. Brock Lesnar is the current champ, and he's set to defend the belt at UFC 121, also in California later this year.
Nelson is fresh off winning the Ultimate Fighter season ten with destruction of Brendan Schaub and utter domination of Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve in March. In the past, Nelson has faced some tough competition in Andrei Arlovski, Ben Rothwell and more. Nelson has lost some of those fights, and some would argue dos Santos is his toughest opponent yet. and would also make the point that this means dos Santos is the clear cut favorite.
Not so much, considering Nelson looks like a new fighter these days. He's showing knockout power in his hands and is overall fighting smart. KO wins over Schaub and Struve aren't the most impressive KOs you could have on your record, but Roy Nelson with a standup is something to be intimidated by. He doesn't look like much, granted, but he has a deceptively deep gas tank and is one of the better BJJ practitioners in the UFC's heavyweight division.
Junior "Cigano" dos Santos is riding a wave of hype into this fight. He's coming off of two KO wins of his own, against far more credible opponents in Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga. Junior dos Santos is a boxer, and a very good one at that. His best chance against Nelson is to wait for the opportunity and then explode on him, as he's prone to do. Dos Santos might just be the best in the heavyweight division at capitalizing on an opponents mistake, and if Roy Nelson is anything, he's less than perfect.
Nobody thus far has been able to hold dos Santos down, but nobody thus far has the unique tools Nelson has at his disposal. A combination of BJJ, top control and boxing could be what it takes to give JDS the challenge that the UFC has put in front of him. There are so many variables to predicting this fight. Nelson surely has the tools to box with JDS - for a time. JDS' boxing has shown a propensity for leaving openings, which he tries to compensate for speed, which seems like a good thing but against someone with deceptively fast hands.. it could spell disaster.
Or maybe Nelson goes straight for a takedown and gets a TKO, or perhaps a unanimous decision. Maybe Roy stands for a little too long and finds his head bouncing off the mat a la Gabriel Gonzaga. Maybe dos Santos outpoints Roy for three rounds, gets him tired and grabs a decision win.
I've used the word 'deceptively' several times and will use it again. This is a deceptively close fight, if you're planning on betting on the event, stay away form this one. I would not be shocked by any outcome, but if I personally had to come up with a guess, I'd suggest that Junior dos Santos catches Roy coming on a takedown and then it's lights out for "Big Country".