A heavyweight battle will headline the UFC’s first event in Abu Dhabi since 2010. Roy Nelson will tangle with fellow veteran Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event of the April 11 card, and both top-15 heavyweights are badly in need of a victory. “Big Country” has dropped his last two fights, while Nogueira also tasted defeat in his last appearance in the Octagon.
Nelson has tumbled down the rankings after an impressive three-fight knockout string was derailed by decision losses to top-10 contender Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 and most recently Daniel Cormier at UFC 166. The only thing that Nelson showcased in those defeats was his ability to absorb punishment, as he produced very little offensively. His chin is legendary, but the Season 10 winner of The Ultimate Fighter hasn’t been able to deliver the one-punch knockout power he’s been known for since a first round stoppage of Cheick Kongo at UFC 159. Nelson’s power is formidable with four Knockout of the Night bonuses and six knockout victories since joining the organization.
As for Nogueira, the fight would be his first since sustaining an arm injury last June against top-contender Fabricio Werdum. Nogueira verbally tapped in the second round of that main event matchup due to an armbar. Both men were coaches on Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Unfortunately, Nogueira’s Octagon tenure has been marred by injury issues and he’s compiled a record of a pedestrian 5-4. “Big Nog” has a tremendous submission game with 21 of his 34 career victories coming via that route, but he does enjoy a good stand-up contest. The former UFC interim heavyweight champ will definitely get a willing partner in Nelson when it comes to trading punches and it would be a key crossroads battle for both 37-year-old competitors.
The winner will certainly get back in the mix for high-profile fights in the talent-thin heavyweight division, while the loser will have some serious soul searching to do in regards to continuing their fighting careers or not.