The UFC heavyweight division is the strangest of creatures. One moment you’re up, the next, you’re down. It mirrors the one-punch, sudden knock-out ability so much of the division possesses. At heavyweight, outcomes can come suddenly, fights change in the blink of an eye. So can careers.

Roy Nelson has forever been hovering around or within the top ten of the division it seems. Yet after a three-fight win streak a few years back that had him on the brink of title contention (during that stretch, he knocked out Dave Herman, Matt Mitrone, and Cheick Kongo), “Big Country” went into something of a tailspin. He bet on himself, taking a short-notice fight against Stipe Miocic to save a card, and instead lost a decision to the man who would go on to become champion. In his next fight, he did the exact same thing, losing a decision to a man who would go on to become light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier.

If nothing else, you can at least say Nelson was losing to nothing but the best, right?

The problem is just that for Nelson, however. The Ultimate Fighter 10 winner, former IFL champion, and champion of the people has always struggled when going up against the best. He’s good — better than many critics like to give the portly slugger credit for — but not great, and pushing into his forties, it’s unlikely that Nelson is about to start showing signs of greatness this late in the game. Of course, there’s still a chance for him — because on a good day he could knock out a Mac truck — and he knows it. However, to get back into the title picture, or even stay relevant, Nelson needs to win.

Which makes his fight against Derek Lewis at UFC Fight Night 90 a must-win situation.

Oh, Nelson isn’t coming off a loss, and he’s not about to get cut (though too many more goose-eggs, and the UFC might be tempted to let him go — lets face it, Dana White is not a Roy Nelson fan). However, his last fight was a horrid debacle of a bout against Jared Rosholt, and though it was no fault of Nelson’s, it left a bad taste in many fan’s mouths. Rosholt ran from Nelson for three rounds, and was shown the door from the UFC afterwards. Nelson, who picked up the decision win, moved on, but he now needs a win against someone who will actually fight him.

Enter Derek Lewis. Long considered a “scary” fighter, he, like Nelson, is a heavy hitting fan favorite. This fight could potentially be a passing of the guard, but like Nelson, Lewis has struggled with steps up in competition. At least he had, until he met, and demolished, Gabriel Gonzaga this past April in a short notice bout. Lewis is now on a three-fight win streak. Nelson’s scalp would give him an argument for being in the top ten, while he represents the same for Nelson, who is currently ranked 10th in the UFC official rankings (Lewis is just two spots down at 12th).

This fight is an easy sell for fans — more than likely, someone is getting knocked out. It feels like a fun fight. Yet for Nelson, it’s anything but. A loss here, and he’s likely out of any potential title talk for good. A win, and he’s looking at a fight with someone higher up in the rankings.

That’s the exciting part about heavyweight — careers can change off a single fight. It’s a double-edged sword however, and right now, it’s hanging over Nelson like the Sword of Damocles.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.