Despite a lackluster record in UFC, many people still remember Keith Jardine's time in the promotion for a few basic reasons: his fights were always entertaining, his fights frequently won fight of the night, and he fought against the top names in his weight division while staying competitive with those fighters. But he's no longer with UFC because despite the great performances and the great fights, Jardine lost his final four fights in UFC and even with all but one of those fights being very close overall great fights, there does come a time when you have to either win or go.
Sound familiar to a certain UFC heavyweight? It should. With his latest loss, a bloody beating at the hands of Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson is now the Keith Jardine of UFC's heavyweight division.
The main reasons that Nelson has been able to gain a following speak to what fight fans expect out of a heavyweight, no matter if it's boxing or MMA: to knock people out and to take immense amounts of punishment. Nelson has proven to be able to do both very well, and it's both of these things that have been the key factors to Nelson's 3-3 record in UFC.
It is also because of these attributes that Nelson has already faced many of the major players in UFC's heavyweight division. Unfortunately, the results of those fights speak to Nelson's predicament at heavyweight: he has still not been able to get that big win that moves him to the next level. Nelson has had several chances to get that win on his record with his fights against Junior Dos Santos, Frank Mir, and even the Werdum fight. The Dos Santos fight was basically Nelson acting as a punching bag for the better part of three rounds against someone too quick for him. With the Mir fight, it was a matter of Nelson having no ground defense, so Mir simply wore him out by continuously taking him down. And the Werdum fight was a lighter version of the Dos Santos fight as Werdum didn't really try to finish Nelson on the ground (something Nelson had no problem with) and kept things standing choosing to pound away at Nelson while also absorbing some nice shots by Nelson along the way.
On the flip side, those beatings have shown that this guy has quite the chin and can take an enormous amount of punishment without going down. He can also knock people out. His first two UFC fights were knockout wins against Brendan Schaub and Stefan Struve respectively. Those fights introduced us to Roy Nelson's knockout power. And while it hasn't been a factor in Nelson's most important fights thus far in UFC, it's still there, just ask Mirko Cro Cop.
But Nelson is at a crossroad in his UFC career: he can get big fights because he's fun to watch & has something of a following, but he can't win those big fights. And without those big fight wins, he's destined to go no higher in the division than he has gone already.
It has to start with the weight. I commend Nelson for dropping in weight for the Werdum fight, but it didn't seem to do much for him. However, this fight (or beating) once again showed off Nelson's endurance and stamina in the face of grueling circumstances. So that leaves one thing out of what would otherwise be a good set of attributes: the speed to accentuate that weight loss and that stamina.
He lacks speed and that has been what has been killing him. He has fists made of rock, can take a ton of punishment, but also can't really move a whole lot come round three and the fight is still competitive. Becoming a quicker fighter does mean dropping more weight. He's tried to move up the ladder with his current methodology in training, but there needs to be a change. He has the tools to become a great heavyweight in this division, but he is too slow for the higher tier fighters in this division, that's all. He has the knockout power that many of them have and can take punishment arguably better than a lot of them. If he can add some velocity to that mix, we may have to start talking about Roy Nelson as something more than a one-punch heavyweight.
And for fight fans who may not buy my argument, there is a boxer from Los Angeles, California that you should know about. His name is Christobal Arreola. He was an overweight heavyweight with knockout power who lost the biggest fight of his career (a world title shot against Vitali Klitschko) and since then has been on a career rejuvenation that was fueled by a new resolve from in training, something Arreola noted as being a major problem of his for basically his whole career.
And this writer absolutely does not think a move down to the light heavyweight division, as Fabricio Werdum suggested for Nelson, is necessary. That would be a move that likely would make Nelson's issues with not being fast enough on his feet even worse.
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