Renzo Gracie black belt Roy Nelson began his MMA career in April of 2004 at the Rage on the River promotion in Redding, California. Over the course of the four man heavyweight tournament he submitted Bo Cantrell with a hammerlock and won a hard-fought split decision over Jerry Vrbanovic. Four months later in Guam, he forced Ray Seraile to submit to strikes at PXC 3: Return of the Enforcer. Returning to his home state of Nevada, he submitted Michael Buchkovich via rear naked choke before chalking up back-to-back first round submission wins in the Fight Force promotion. Roy’s first professional loss occurred in St. Petersburg, Russia during his Bodog Fight debut against Josh Curran.
Splitting his time between the Bodog Fight promotion and the burgeoning IFL, Nelson went 7-1 in his next eight fights with his only loss being a split decision to “Big” Ben Rothwell at IFL: Moline. Roy got back on track immediately with a unanimous decision win over Shane Ott, and then entered and won the IFL 2007 Heavyweight Grand Prix defeating Bryan Vetell and Antoine Jaoude. Nelson went on to defend his IFL Heavyweight belt twice against Fabio Scherner and Brad Imes.
After the demise of the IFL promotion, “Big Country” suffered back-to-back losses in two highly controversial bouts. He suffered his first knockout loss to Andrei Arlovski in a match that contained a questionable standup by the referee; Nelson was in side control hunting for a Kimura when the ref stood the pair up, facilitating the eventual KO. He also lost a unanimous decision to Jeff Monson that was criticized by fans and broadcasters alike as almost all thought Nelson had done enough to win the decision.
Following the Monson fight, Nelson entered and won the Ultimate Fighter 10 . He defeated Kimbo Slice, Justin Wren and James McSweeney in exhibition matches en route to the Ultimate Fighter Finale. There he defeated Brendan Schaub via KO, earning the first of two consecutive Knockout of the Night awards. The second KOTN award came against the 6’11” Dutch Kickboxer, Stefan Struve. He dropped unanimous decisions in his next two efforts against Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir. The two battles highlighted both the strength of his chin, Nelson was the first man to last three full rounds with Junior, and his weakness: cardio. After losing two fights in a row and being publicly chided by Dana White for his quick fade in the later rounds, Nelson turned to former opponent Frank Mir in Las Vegas to prepare for his win-or-walk fight against Mirko Filipović at UFC 137. A third round TKO win over “Cro Cop” put Nelson back in the win column, and although he lost his next fight to Fabricio Werdum, the bout was given Fight of the Night honors.
Nelson followed up his Fight of the Night performance with his third Knockout of the Night over Dave Herman at UFC 146, and then returned to the Ultimate Fighter house as a coach on season sixteen of the popular reality show. Nelson went on to face Matt Mitrione at the finale due to a Shane Carwin knee injury during the taping of the show. Nelson made short work of Mitrione and finished him in less than three minutes of the first round with strikes. In fact, all of Nelson’s UFC wins have come via knockout. Currently riding a two-fight win streak, Nelson will face Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 in Newark, NJ. He hopes a victory over Kongo could lead to a title shot against the winner of the May title-fight between champ Cain Velasquez and challenger Antonio Silva.
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