Even a fighter as good as UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos can fall for the stereotypes about Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
Dos Santos knows that underneath Nelson's girth lies a freak athlete, capable of doing things in the Octagon that a person who simply looked at him without knowing his history wouldn't think possible.
And yet, leading up to their UFC 117 fight, dos Santos almost fell for it.
Recalling an interview with a Brazilian reporter at the open workouts leading up to the Aug. 2010 event, dos Santos said, "He asked, ‘You're going to fight the fat boy. Do you think you're going to lose to fat guy?' I was like, 'Why are you saying that?' I gave my answer, and later I started to think about it. If I lost to ‘the fat boy,' people who don't know fighting, they think because he's fat he's going to be weaker. It's not true, people who know MMA know Roy is a serious fighter, but people think like that. I started to get worried."
Dos Santos pushed the thoughts aside for the rest of the week, but they came roaring back in the heat of battle.
"During the fight, I started to think about that," dos Santos said. "I gave a good uppercut on him, and then he comes back and I started to think, ‘here the fat boy comes again, why won't he stay down?' That stuck in my mind and after I won, I was like, ‘phew.'"
Dos Santos beat Nelson via unanimous decision that night, but the fight marked the first time the future champion was taken the distance in his MMA career. When the dos Santos interview was conducted last month, Nelson was scheduled to face Shane Carwin (A fight dos Santos had predicted Nelson would win). But whether Nelson is fighting Carwin or Matt Mitrione, regardless of the opponent, you'll never hear Junior dos Santos underestimate "Big Country" again.
"I really like Roy," dos Santos said. "Roy Nelson is a really good person, I like him, he's a fighter. I have a good relationship with him. If you don't respect Roy Nelson, you make a mistake."
There's a busy weekend on tap, with Nelson vs. Mitrione part of a Friday/Saturday UFC doubleheader and the final Bellator event of the year. So let's get to another edition of Fightweets. But not before a plug: My friend Elias Cepeda has been writing an interesting series over on Cage Potato called "The Travel Chronicles." It's a look back at a journey which started at home in Chicago; continued to Saskatchewan, where he went up a weight class and fought the local promotion's champion; then went straight from there to Los Angeles and Las Vegas to train with at the likes of Antoni Hardonk, Randy Couture and Wanderlei Silva's gyms. His latest edition is up and it's worth a look.
To be a part of a future Fightweets, go to my Twitter page and drop me a line.
@GiglioTrey: Where does Condit/MacDonald land? PPV, CoMain, Fox Main, or FX/Fuel Main? I think recent exposure gets them main for free.
UFC has announced that Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald will be the co-main event of what's expected to be UFC 158 in Montreal on March 16, underneath the planned-but-not-yet-official Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz bout.
What happened with MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5 was the ideal circumstance the UFC had in mind when they first started putting these network television shows together: Take a young, up-and-coming fighter with a future, put him on free TV where he manhandles a legend, have him issue a challenge for a rematch with a fighter who is in the rare "raised his profile in a losing battle" position in Condit, and presto ... you've got a newly minted co-main eventer people will pay money to see. Condit-MacDonald is the sort of fight which will move the needle and help make what's already a popular main event in Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz into a blockbuster seller of a card. Things don't come together any better than that.
@Auggie85: With GSP, Diaz, MacDonald & Condit all tentatively booked for UFC 158, what does the UFC do with Hendricks?
The UFC should pay Johny Hendricks a generous retainer and tell him to get in fighting shape and be ready to go when something inevitably goes wrong with Diaz leading up to the fight.
Who is Fighter of the Year?
@chadimoglou: Why is a UFC belt a req for [FOTY]? What about other fighters who've had a dominant year?
A UFC belt isn't a prerequisite for Fighter of the Year. But it more often than not means you've had a hell of a year against best competition in your weight class.
If that's not a good enough answer, let me ask you this: Which fighter not holding a UFC title would you consider for 2012 FOTY? Matt Brown had a commendable year, going 4-0. He deserves more attention than he's gotten. But Mike Swick was by far his highest-caliber opponent during that stretch, and quality of competition matters. Ronda Rousey? Maybe. She made quick work of the two other best fighters in her weight class, Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufmann. But she only fought twice. Daniel Cormier only fought once. Nate Diaz was a contender up until last Saturday. If Johny Hendricks had fought Jon Fitch three days later than Dec. 30 of last year, he would have had three fights this year and been exactly the sort of case of a fighter on the rise, knocking on the door. But this is only for 2012 fights, so his last two are the only ones under consideration.
So yeah. Being a UFC champ isn't a prerequisite, but it's more difficult to build your case without one.
First up for Strikeforce champs?
Let's start with "El Nino." There's actually a potential path for him to get a title shot in his UFC debut, depending on what happens between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone at UFC on FOX 6. If Pettis wins that one, then a rematch with Benson Henderson would be pretty hard to deny. If Cerrone wins, though, a title shot isn't quite so clear-cut, since Cerrone has already lost twice to Henderson. That's where Melendez could step in. If Pettis does win, though, I sure wouldn't complain about a Melendez-Cerrone fight.
As for Rockhold, here's where he and Melendez differ: Melendez had the advantage of being a marquee player during Strikeforce's heyday. He beat Clay Guida in 2006 to win his first Strikeforce lightweight title. Scott Coker went out of his way to bring in top-flight Japanese talent like Shinya Aoki when he could. Melendez also showed himself to be the sort of fighter with the smarts to correct his mistakes, as he avenged his two career losses, to Josh Thomson and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
Those are the fights in which Melendez made his reputation. Rockhold, meanwhile, is a fine young talent, but his rise coincided with Strikeforce's downfall. It's not like "Jacare" Souza, whom Rockhold beat for the middleweight belt, is any slouch. But all in all, Rockhold simply didn't have the opportunities Melendez had. I'd expect Rockhold to get a top-10 fighter in his debut, but he's nowhere near as close to a title shot in his division as is Melendez.
@CastanedaSammy: With all the talk of super fights, and contenders...why is Anderson silva ducking @ChrisWeidmanUFC?
Ducking him? Unless the exalted Sensei Segal taught Silva some sort of mystical mind trick which enabled the "Spider" to injure Weidman's elbow from a continent away, I'm not sure how it's Silva's fault Weidman is out of action. Look, I've said over and over that Chris Weidman looks like a future champion. I stand by it. But he's still a fighter with exactly one win of note at this point in his career, and he's not yet a clearcut choice for a title shot ahead of other top contenders at 185.
@llogan219: Do you think Alan Belcher will fight for the belt in 2013?
If Belcher scores an impressive win over Yushin Okami at UFC 155, then he belongs in the conversation. Such a performance would give him five straight victories and seven out of eight, with the only loss the questionable split decision against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100. But the questions from there would be: 1. Can he hold up physically? The Okami bout marks just his fifth fight in the past three-and-a-half years. 2. What about Michael Bisping? If Bisping can pull off a win in Brazil over Vitor Belfort, Silva vs. Bisping becomes a huge-money fight in Brazil. 3. How long will Weidman be out? And none of this takes any superfight speculation into account, which could keep Silva from defending his title at all.
All in all, I wouldn't rule out a Belcher title shot, but right now he's sort of like that football team in the running for a wild card which has to win and then see how everything else plays out before knowing if they're going to the playoffs.