Matt Mitrione: The tournament favorite
Matt Mitrione (12-5) is out for revenge. Over five years after being knocked out by Roy "Big Country" Nelson in the UFC, Mitrione will get a second crack. He looks rejuvenated since leaving the UFC, winning all three of his Bellator bouts by way of knockout.
The tournament favorite, Mitrione, told MMAjunkie Radio that revenge is not a factor heading into this fight, but the heavy hands of Nelson that took him out in 2012 have to be in the back of his mind. That fight came early in the career of Matt Mitrione and he has only grown as a fighter since.
The former NFL player will have some athletic advantages in this fight. He is great at feinting punches and his movement could be difficult for Nelson to keep up with. While Roy Nelson is more athletic than he appears, he is obviously not known for his speed or endurance. As long as Mitrione can stay on his bike and use his movement to avoid the right hand and head kicks of Nelson. This will also create offensive angles for himself to wear down Nelson early on.
Roy Nelson: Bringing the belly to Bellator
Roy Nelson (23-14), the 41-year-old veteran will look to reproduce the result he earned against Mitrione in 2012. He has also won his only Bellator fight so far; a unanimous decision win over Javy Ayala. Prior to that victory, Nelson has not looked quite like himself, going 2-5 in his last seven fights. As an aging heavyweight, one must wonder is Nelson is on the decline.
Despite the current state of Nelson's career, it only takes one shot from him to end a fight. Of his 23 victories, 14 are knockouts. The right hand of Roy Nelson will sleep any man whose chin it lands on. Mitrione loves to bounce in and out of the pocket so if he mistimes his movement even slightly, Nelson's sledgehammer of a hand will be waiting for him.
It is easy to forget that Roy Nelson comes from a wrestling background and has a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, early in his career, Nelson earned five of his first six victories via submission. He has not had a submission victory since but one would think he will have the advantage over Mitrione if the fight ends up on the ground.
Matt Mitrione is the tournament favorite for a reason. Even though he is not a young guy at 39-years-old, he has still made huge improvements in his game. He got into the sport much later than others due to his football career and his exponential progress has been seen upon his entrance into the Bellator cage.
Nelson's biggest advantage seems to be on the ground but his ground game has seldom been seen in the past decade. "Big Country" is a great fighter but he is on the downside of his career and his chin is not the block of iron it used to be.
As long as Mitrione can move enough to avoid the hands of Nelson, he should wear "Big Country" down enough to go in for the kill in the second half of the fight.
Mitrione by TKO