With the pressure of No.1 contendership weighing on his shoulders, Roy 'Big Country' Nelson will step into the cage on Saturday night to confront what is arguably the biggest test of his career in Junior dos Santos. Seemingly breezing through the tenth season of 'The Ultimate Fighter,' Nelson made more than just a name for himself with the casual fan. Between his victory over Kimbo Slice and requesting Burger King (double whopper, no pickle) as a post-fight victory snack, Roy has endeared himself to the masses with his 'every man' style and likability. Since appearing on TUF, 'Big Country' has laid waste to to his recent opponents with back to back first round stoppages over Brendan Schaub and Stefan Struve, it will be interesting to see if Nelson chooses to stand with one of the heavyweight division's most gifted strikers.
Although fighting an athletic heavyweight is nothing new to Roy, he makes it clear this fight will be entirely different. "I'm going out to face the best fighter the UFC has to offer, the No. 1 contender, and that's Junior dos Santos."
Junior dos Santos is one of the most dominant strikers on the UFC roster right now, but he has shown certain tendencies that I think could be exploited. For instance, constantly dropping his guard hand and opening exchanges with strikes to the body. When asked about whether or not he was concerned about it, Roy told SB Nation "No, I think he uses that to bait you in so he can capitalize on his speed." The sort of level change necessary to open such a strike could make up for the four inch height advantage Nelson forfeits to the 6'4 dos Santos. If JDS isn't careful, he could allow for just the kind of opening Nelson needs to get a good shot in.
Enjoying arguably the most dominant side control in the game, Nelson gives some insight into what makes his so successful. "Side control is just another position that you have to work on, just like your boxing and wrestling. The difference is that I use it to force you to move into a position that is in my favor."
Asked about inflicting unnecessary damage and conserving energy during a fight, we asked Roy if a burnout a la Shane Carwin vs. Brock Lesnar was a concern of his. "No, I like to hit people but when there isn't a need to hurt somebody you don't need to. I never really worry about burnout if you are in shape and if you are in control."
On whether or not his physique plays a role in his ability to take down his opponents. "I really don't know, I just figured you either know how to do a takedown or you don't."
On why he refuses to align with a premier camp, Nelson explains that he prefers the amenities of home. "There's nothing wrong with a big camp, I just like to be pushed by people who have my best interest" He told SB Nation. "I have Scott Junk from TUF 10, Jose Salgado, RJ Richter, and few other notable names."
When asked about being interested in fighting anyone in particular, Roy explains where his priorities lay. "Fighting for the belt is first, then who ever after that, whatever pays the most."
Finally regarding the mullet, and even a possible sponsorship opportunity with Burger King, Nelson explains that everything about him is premeditated. "I decided to embrace the mullet when people started to really like the big country theme, so I just went with it. It is all marketing," He told us. "The marketing department finally got the memo." As for Burger King? "I am always interested in a sponsor that wants to talk real topics, have integrity, professionalism and do business that makes sense."
I for one would love to see it happen. If Tony Stewart can do it, why not Roy? All joking aside, UFC 117's co-main event has all the potential to be one of the best fights of the year. When these two get together in Oakland on Saturday night, we finally get a chance to see which of these guys steps up to claim their spot as the next heavyweight contender.