Boxing

Nelson could be star after 'TUF' win

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Roy "Big Country" Nelson doesn't have the best looking body in MMA, but he showcased a dangerous striking game by knocking out Brendan Schaub to claim the title of "The Ultimate Fighter" on Saturday night at the TUF 10 finale. The first-round win was easily Nelson's most impressive victory in recent memory and it earned him some well-deserved praise from UFC President Dana White. Nelson also pocketed an extra $25,000 for his efforts as he claimed the "Knockout of the Night" bonus.
The favorite to win from Day 1, Nelson did what he needed to do through each stage of the show and he saved his best performance for last. It should be interesting to see where Nelson stands amongst the UFC's top heavyweights and we will find out soon enough. "Big Country" could fare well against less-seasoned fighters like Patrick Barry, Mostapha al Turk and Stefan Struve, but he could also be a tough test for veterans such as Cheick Kongo and Heath Herring. The sky is the limit for Nelson, who seems to have matured since his first day in the "TUF" house. At first stubborn about a new training regimen, Nelson has now hinted at moving to New Mexico to train with Greg Jackson on a full-time basis. If he makes the move, Nelson will only become more dangerous inside the octagon. Meanwhile, Schaub displayed solid striking and lots of power by pushing Nelson back early on and escaping a near-crucifix position on the ground. The 26-year-old former NFL player still appears somewhat green and needs to continue to polish his MMA game before he can make a legitimate impact in the UFC. It remains to be seen if he will stay with the UFC or pursue some tune-up bouts in smaller organizations. The latter might be the wisest choice for the young BJJ purple belt. Schaub should return to the UFC after honing his skills against some unsigned UFC veterans such as Ricco Rodriguez or Dan Christison. However, Saturday was a bittersweet night for Jon Jones. The pressure was on and Jones delivered an impeccable performance against wrestling standout Matt Hamill. Jones, who appeared to be a much bigger fighter physically, flustered Hamill with an assortment of tricks on his feet before taking him down and pounding him out with a vicious ground-and-pound assault. Hamill was already in no man's land and Jones made a costly mistake by dropping a downward elbow and splitting Hamill's nose. We witnessed the first-ever case of the instant replay rule, implemented by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, coming into effect. Referee Steve Mazzagatti declared that Jones' illegal elbows led to Hamill being unable to continue the fight. As such, Hamill was declared the victor by disqualification. The classy Jones has been apologetic for the infraction and has accepted the first loss on his record. After all, Jones was dominating Hamill and the end was near, so there is no question as to who the superior fighter was on Saturday night. By domainating Hamill, Jake O'Brien and Stephan Bonnar, Jones is on the verge of being considered a top-10 light heavyweight. Several potential opponents for Jones come to mind. With Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell set to coach the next season of "TUF," that means Forrest Griffin will not be facing Ortiz in a rematch anytime soon. Griffin would be a great test for the 22-year-old. Other challengers that could make sense for Jones include Luiz Cane, Vladimir Matyushenko, Brandon Vera, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or Thiago Silva, if he comes out on the losing end against Rashad Evans. Meanwhile, Hamill, who is believed to have suffered a broken shoulder in the bout, will continue to assume a gatekeeper role in the UFC. A potential fight against preliminary card winner Brian Stann could make sense for his next outing. No one expected the Houston Alexander-Kimbo Slice matchup to go more than one round and it went three.
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In the end, Slice earned the unanimous decision on scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Though definitely a better fighter than when we last saw him, Slice, who had American Top Team head trainer Ricardo Liborio in his corner, is still a work in progress. He lacked the gas tank and killer instinct needed to be a force in the UFC, not to mention his sloppy ground game and failure to check leg kicks are weaknesses that could be easily exploited by more experienced opponents. Slice was successful against Alexander because "The Assassin," typically a 205-pound fighter, failed to evolve his deficient grappling. Additionally, Alexander was overpowered by a bigger heavyweight who clearly possessed the power advantage. It was an uninspired performance as Alexander hesitated to engage and perhaps gave Slice too much credit on his feet. Slice's next opponent, virtually any light heavyweight in the UFC, is likely to expose his limited MMA game. Slice risks defeat against the lowest light heavyweights on the UFC totem pole, including Bonnar, Eric Schafer, Steve Cantwell and James Irvin. Ironically, both Schafer and Irvin have beaten Alexander in the past. "The Assassin," who was favored to win, is probably going to get his walking papers from the UFC if the promotion hopes to maintain its legitimacy. Aside from a lucky knockout of Keith Jardine, Alexander has been exposed for a plethora of holes in his game and he needs to tune up his skills before returning against the top 205-pound opposition in the world. In an entertaining 155-pound tilt that earned Frankie Edgar and Matt Veach an extra $25,000 for "Fight of the Night" honors, Edgar submitted Veach after a razor-thin first frame that could have gone either way. In the second, Edgar, the smaller fighter, caught Veach with a straight rand hand and pounced on him with a barrage of strikes until the previously unbeaten Veach gave up his back and allowed Edgar to lock on a rear-naked choke for the win. Edgar, who is 6-1 in the octagon, has now asked for a lightweight title shot. With wins over Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin and Spencer Fisher, Edgar has proven himself against top fighters in the division already. However, given his lone setback against Gray Maynard, one can argue "The Bully" Maynard should get a title shot before him. Edgar needs another big test before he earns a shot at the crown. The three possibilities that come to mind include the loser of B.J. Penn vs. Diego Sanchez, the winner of Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida or a rematch against Maynard after he fights Nathan Diaz in January. Veach remains a solid prospect in the deep division and could position himself near the top of the heap if he can get by an experienced veteran like Caol Uno. In the first main card bout featuring a pair of NFL veterans, Matt Mitrione survived a near-submission predicament in round one to score a violent knockout against Marcus Jones in the second round. Mitrione showed off his heavy hands against the crafty submission specialist, who seemed to tire midway through the opening frame. Neither man is ready for the UFC. Jones needs to decide if he's serious about an MMA career. If that's the case, he needs to work heavily on his stand-up game as he's susceptible to getting knocked out in a division full of heavy-handed sluggers. Mitrione, meanwhile, is hardly the complete package himself. His conditioning and submission defense could use work and his mental stability is still in question. Nonetheless, it would be unsurprising if he stuck around to fight another day in the octagon.

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