Bellator 194 main-event breakdown: Can Roy Nelson upset tourney favorite Matt Mitrione?

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of Bellator’s top bouts, and today, we look at Bellator 194’s main event.

Bellator 194 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and airs on Paramount following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

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Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 UFC)

Roy Nelson

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 41 Weight: 262 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Javy Ayala (Sept. 23, 2017)
  • Camp: Country Club (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt

+ IFL heavyweight and grand-prix titles

+ 14 KO victories

+ 5 submission wins

+ 13 first-round finishes

+ KO power

+ Deceptive athleticism

+ Devastating right hand

+ Devastating head kicks

+ Strong inside of the clinch

+ Underrated wrestling ability

^ Defensively and offensively

+ Solid positional grappler

Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 UFC)

Matt Mitrione

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″” Age: 39 Weight: 256 lbs. Reach: 82″
  • Last fight: TKO win over Fedor Emelianenko (June 24, 2017)
  • Camp: Hard Knocks 365 (Indiana/Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Former NFL player

+ 11 KO victories

+ 7 first-round finishes

+ KO power

+ Explosive speed and athleticism

+ Solid feints and footwork

+ Accurate left hand

^ Coming forward and off of the counter

+ Strong inside the clinch

+ Underrated wrestling ability

^ Improved defense and getups

+ Dangerous ground striker

Summary:

The main event for Bellator 194 features the second bout of the organization’s heavyweight grand prix as Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione battle for the second time.

Winning their initial bout back in 2012, Nelson will be looking to repeat history with a big win here whereas Mitrione, the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, is deadset on bringing balance to the record books.

Starting off on the feet, we have a similar dynamic as the first fight: a forward-pressuring power puncher vs. a violent stick-and-move stylist.

Mitrione, the more mobile of the two, will have some on-paper advantages going his way.

A natural athlete, the former NFL pro has translated his talents well to MMA. Fighting from a southpaw stance, Mitrione will work behind improved feints and footwork while measuring the threat before him.

Whether he is drawing out his opposition or finding an offensive angle of his own, Mitrione seems to have a natural feel when it comes to fighting in space. Keeping his patented left cross at the ready, Mitrione can punish his opponents down the centerline both coming forward and off of the counter. And since his time spent working with Henri Hooft in South Florida, Mitrione has only sharpened his fundamentals and strengthened the arsenal surrounding his left hand.

Nevertheless, the way in which Mitrione leaps in and out often makes for collisions that can work against him – something that he will need to be mindful of considering the opposition at hand.

Enter Nelson.

Don’t let the big belly and mullet fool you; beneath the semi-comical build lies a complete mixed martial artist.

Using his deceptive athleticism, Nelson will shuffle his way into the pocket behind feints and fakes. Often prodding his left hand and changing levels, he will look to create a sense of defensive uncertainty that helps set up his big right hand.

Although the 14-year pro possesses underrated leg kicks, going to the well may be what serves Nelson best in this matchup. Not only is it a useful weapon against southpaws on paper, but intercepting right hands have also been the common culprit in Mitrione’s career.

Should this fight go past the first round, then we may see wrestling play a decent factor in deciding the outcome.

In recent years, Nelson has gone back to a more grappling-heavy approach. Parlaying the pressure he produces, Nelson will corral his opposition into the cage as he looks to change his level. From chaining off his double-legs to hitting an outside trip, Nelson has a surprisingly serviceable takedown game he likes to utilize against the fence.

That said, taking Mitrione down will be no easy task.

Not only is the former NFL athlete hard to pin down due to his movement, but his wrestling has quietly improved over the years. Putting in hard hours with the Purdue University wrestling team, Mitrione has added solid technique to his athleticism.

Whether he is digging for an underhook or framing off his opponent’s hips, Mitrione demonstrates an understanding and awareness of crucial positions like he hadn’t before. He’s also spent a decent amount of time working with catching wrestling coach Neil Melanson, which I only imagine has helped Mitrione’s ground game further.

Still, the 39-year-old will likely be at a disadvantage should he allow Nelson to get him down and settle into position.

In his last fight against Javy Ayala, Nelson showed that he still can establish a half-guard or crucifix positions to pin down his more athletic counterparts. Regardless of whether or not get can the finish, this type of offense could earn Nelson favor with the judges.

The oddsmakers and public seem somewhat decided on who they like, listing Mitrione -190 and Nelson +165 as of this writing.

Given Mitrione’s recent run and slighter higher ceiling on paper, I can understand why he is favored to take the win in a rematch. Mitrione will also have the comfort of a full camp and large cage, something he didn’t have in their first meeting.

However, after looking at this one a bit closer, I ended up siding with Nelson. Despite his last handful of UFC performances not being the most impressive, I believe that Nelson has shown signs of rejuvenation from his in-fight tactics to his overall attitude.

More importantly, Mitrione still seems to have a propensity to eat right hands (dropped in two of his last three contests), something I have trouble overlooking here. The pick is Nelson by an upset TKO in the first round.

Official pick: Nelson inside the distance

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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