Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight Roy Nelson captured The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) trophy by knocking out Brendan Schaub in the season 10 live finale, which took place way back in December of 2009. But mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were having a hard time taking "Big Country" seriously.
His prodigious girth -- along with the ire of his balding boss -- wasn't doing him any favors.
Sure, Nelson sent "The Hybrid" ass over tin cups to win the six-figure contract, but his belly-to-beard win over Kimbo Slice during the combat sports reality show wasn't exactly the stuff of legend, and prior to his Spike TV exploits, had lost consecutive fights to UFC castaways Andre Arlovski and Jeff Monson.
Fans wanted to see the second act.
So too, did the UFC brass. That's why Nelson was paired off against a towering young up-and-comer named Stefan Struve, who at just 22 years old, was already 4-1 inside the Octagon. In addition, "Skyscraper" was the winner of three straight with two violent finishes.
He was expected to provide a formidable challenge.
That's why Nelson, the former International Fight League (IFL) heavyweight champion, stormed out of the gate with a sense of urgency when they threw hands at the UFC Fight Night 21 event, contested inside the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Here's what happened.
Touch of gloves gets the action underway and Nelson lumbers in, pawing his left hand. Struve getting backed into the fence and fires off a leg kick. "Do not let his physique fool you," warns cageside color commentator Joe Rogan. "He's one of the most talented guys in the heavyweight division."
Struve feels his back hit the fence and scurries out of the red zone.
The action resumes in the middle of the cage and once again, Nelson is forcing "Skyscraper" to retreat. And, just like before, Struve uncorks a leg kick to halt the forward progress. Unfortunately, his attacker eats it like a jelly doughnut and cuts off the cage.
"'Big Country' gonna try to get inside and tee off," predicts play-by-play man Mike Goldberg.
Seconds later, Nelson drops a bomb and it detonates on Struve's chin. The Dutchman collapses against the cage and feebly covers up until referee Dan Miragliotta steps in to make the save. "That guy gets his ass into his punches," remarks Rogan.
That, and a whole lot more.
Nelson would go on to score another four wins by way of knockout or technical knockout. Unfortunately, he would also rack up five defeats by way of unanimous decision -- despite a high-level ground game -- thanks to an over-reliance on his deadly right hand.
But now it's time to start fresh.
"Big Country" will head to another country in an attempt to snap a two-fight losing streak in the main event of UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi, where he takes on fellow well-traveled veteran Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (details). A win and he's right back in the title hunt.
A loss and he's that guy with the lucky punch.