One more injury, one more lost Ultimate Fighter coaches’ fight. Much like the overall injury bug that has hit MMA this year, the curse set upon TUF coaches’ fights is nothing if not consistent, and it leaves an opening atop an upcoming UFC card.

With UFC President Dana White tweeting the news that returning UFC heavyweight Shane Carwin blew out his knee, the search is on for a new opponent to fight Roy Nelson at the TUF 16 Finale. Nelson, as a fighter just outside of the top 10 and a man whose wide girth and whacky personality have done just as much to earn him main-event status as anything he’s done inside the cage, warrants a significant name standing across from him within the Octagon. And although it’s always possible that the UFC could shuffle other match-ups around, making any top heavyweight a potential candidate to step in and take the fight, the search really should consist of just two options.

The first is Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier.

Sure, Cormier is slated to appear on the stacked Strikeforce “Grand Finale” card in January, but his opponent for that event is Dion Staring. The Dutchman might be a 28-7 prospect, but there’s no doubt that the smarter match-up would see Cormier abandon that contest and immediately migrate to the Octagon for a battle with Nelson.

This might not sit well with Strikeforce’s network home of Showtime, but with the January card representing Strikeforce’s funeral, there’s a good chance that Zuffa would have no problem telling Showtime execs to quit their bitching. The card still has three title bouts, and it’s not like fans were salivating over the idea of Cormier facing a man who would be competing for the first time in a Zuffa cage and on U.S. shores.

From a match-up perspective, Cormier versus Nelson makes sense. Although Cormier is the top dog among Strikeforce heavyweights, he’ll need more of an introduction with the UFC crowd. Nelson isn’t championship material, but he’s proven to be a reliable gatekeeper to the division’s upper tiers. Putting Cormier against Nelson allows the UFC fan base to get a sense of just how good Cormier is against a man who has gone the distance with UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, former champ Frank Mir and Fedor-conqueror Fabricio Werdum.

Nelson is also a much safer fight for Cormier at this point. Not from the standpoint of an easy win, but rather in terms of risk versus reward. On the off chance that Cormier loses to Staring on the last offering of a dying promotion, the momentum he had entering the UFC as an elite heavyweight is lost. But if he loses to Nelson, at least he’s losing to a heavyweight who still could be considered a borderline top-10 guy. And a win against Nelson is also worth a lot more for Cormier’s career than a victory over Staring.

However, should Zuffa opt—or be forced by Showtime—to keep Cormier’s fight with Staring intact, then there is another intriguing option out there for Nelson. And that would be Stefan Struve.

Nelson briefly met Struve at UFC Fight Night 21 in March 2010. I say briefly because Nelson delivered a knockout punch that floored Struve just 39 seconds into the bout. It was Nelson’s first UFC win after claiming the TUF 10 championship with an equally impressive knockout of Brendan Schaub. So, if Nelson destroyed Struve so convincingly, why would I suggest a rematch?

It all has to do with the passing of time. Struve and Nelson are at different points in their careers now than they were in 2010. Struve has developed into a contender in that time, while Nelson has settled in as a man who can give anyone a stiff challenge, but who will never be considered the greatest at anything outside of perhaps a food-eating contest at a county fair.

The “Skyscraper” might have fallen once at the hands of Nelson, but since then, the tall Dutchman has gone 6-1 with a “Knockout of the Night,” a “Fight of the Night” and two “Submission of the Night” bonuses. Struve’s only losses were devastating knockouts to Nelson, current champion Junior dos Santos and fellow prospect Travis Browne. It’s a perfect time and a perfect situation, with Struve’s headlining win over Stipe Miocic coming in September and his next fight still to be announced.

A rematch with Nelson would continue to establish Struve as a headlining attraction, but more importantly, it would give him the opportunity he needs to prove that he’s come a long way since that loss to Nelson. Struve is a contender on the brink, and a win over Nelson could move him over that hump.

And, to top it off, fans will tune in to see whether Nelson can deliver a repeat performance of his highlight reel knockout. The focus for fans is always on the spectacular finish, and Nelson’s previous meeting with Struve serves among the most memorable of finishes. Can he do it again, or has Struve matured enough to where he won’t make the same mistake again?

Although the loss of Carwin from the TUF 16 Finale is a disappointing one, the UFC has a pair of excellent opponents for Nelson that can fill that void. Both options would help cement rising contenders through the use of Roy Nelson as a stepping stone. And it’s a good bet that there’s nothing that Dana White would like to see more than other heavyweights benefitting at Nelson’s expense. Well, except maybe for Nelson embarrassing himself in a 400-meter dash.

Photo: Shane Carwin (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

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