When compiling my hov-mma staff fight picks I always do two things. 1. Make better picks than everyone else and 2. Find myself talking up an underdog. Anyone who has read the staff pick 'em will know the former is true but the latter is worth a little more discussion.
A prediction every event or so usually goes something like "If fighter X can execute his gameplan perfectly he has a chance of beating his opponent, but it's a big if." Most of the time it doesn't happen. Hendo didn't land his H-Bomb on Rashad or Lyoto, Hunt couldn't knockout JDS, Vinny Magalhaes couldn't submit Phil Davis, nor could Frank Mir submit Daniel Cormier, nobody can stop GSP's takedown, the list goes on and on.
This weekend, though, it was different. Stipe Miocic went into the Octagon on Saturday night and executed his gameplan for Roy Nelson to perfection. Winning the fight in the only way he could ever possibly have won it. He used his movement, athleticism and hand speed to pick "Big Country" apart.
When fighting Nelson the first thing you have to do is avoid his Scud-missile of a right hand. Miocic did that all night. It's seems so easy for a fighter to say "all I have to do is circle away from his power hand" but against big hitters like Nelson it isn't seen that often. Miocic not only circled away from the power right hand but landed devastating combinations in the process. As the fight progressed Nelsons power dwindled but Miocic never let his guard down. He stuck to his plan for 15 minutes and came closer to finishing Nelson than both former champion Junior Dos Santos and contender Fabricio Werdum.
Roy Nelson not only possesses one of the best knockout punches in MMA but also has a dominant ground game. If he gets you down he can submit you or tie you up in his patented crucifix. On Saturday Miocic stuffed all of Nelsons takedowns, each looking more tired looking than the last. Miocic took away the plan B of his opponent. There was no plan C.
For Nelson it was a damaging loss to a fighter ranked outside the top ten who everyone was expecting him to beat. Getting the fight on less than two weeks notice he looked majorly out of shape (even more than usual) weighing in at 260 lbs on Friday and gassed quickly. Now entering free agency the loss will leave him in a notably weaker position during negotiations. A possible title contender before the fight, Nelson rolled the dice and now finds himself in a position where he can accept the UFC's offer, which president Dana White confirmed their would be, or test the waters in the open market with Bellator and World Series Of Fighting as possible suitors. Whoever ends up employing Roy Nelson will have to be prepared for a fighter who is supremely talented but who dances to his own tune and isn't exactly easy to deal with.
The display of Miocic, though, stole the show at UFC 161 and must rank as one of the best performances of the year. It was a coming of age and a moment to savour for the Croatian-American who redeemed himself after the first defeat of his career in his last bout against Stefan Struve. He not only nullified all of his opponents strengths but showed a vast improvement in his own game. He may have, on paper, been out matched in a multitude of areas but as I said in my prediction last Friday, don't rule Stipe out.