The odds were stacked against Roy Nelson to not only come up with a favorable decision at UFC 137, but also keep his mixed martial arts career intact. Everyone from UFC president Dana White to Joe Rogan thought he was too fat, too sloppy and too unkempt to even present himself in public, much less defeat a legend like Mirko Cro Cop in the Octagon.
Yet, "Big Country" defied the odds, as he has so often throughout his time in the UFC, to defeat Cro Cop with a third-round TKO and prove his legions of doubters wrong in the process.
It wasn't always pretty (what ever is with Nelson?), but the hefty American persevered nonetheless, feeding off an attendant crowd friendly to his Las Vegas roots.
If anything, Nelson's pudgy build proved advantageous to his chances against Cro Cop, as he expertly maneuvered himself on top of Mirko time and again to smother his opponent with his belly and land a long strong of soft but effective blows all the while.
Nelson had been in serious danger of being dropped from the UFC coming into the weekend. Aside from being panned by White himself, Nelson had lost his last two bouts—to Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir—and four of his previous six fights overall.
Another defeat would have given White plenty of justification to rid his league of a fighter who is unorthodox in every way, from his "hillbilly" appearance to his unusually humble attitude to his hulking fighting style.
Instead, Nelson, at the age of 35, now finds himself on the precipice of championship glory. After the fight, Nelson, using his typical country humor, made light of the UFC tradition of contenders calling out titleholders after securing big victories. He seemed somewhat uncomfortable inciting any sort of rivalry with Cain Velasquez or Junior dos Santos, who will compete for the UFC heavyweight championship on November 12th in Anaheim.
But it was the only reasonable thing Nelson could have done at that point, with Rogan, one of his many detractors, shoving a microphone in his face, in front an adoring crowd.
Then again, what about Nelson has ever been entirely reasonable or made that much sense?