Matt Mitrione made his way to the second round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix by defeating Roy Nelson by majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28) at Bellator 194.
The main event matchup proved to be a back-and-forth battle over the course of three rounds. Mitrione gained the upper hand during the opening stages of the contest when he showcased his typically light footwork to punish Nelson with stinging punches and inside leg kicks. For the first three minutes of the contest, it looked as if “Big Country” was going to be completely outclassed by his opponent.
Nelson clawed his way back into the contest by securing takedowns and removing the danger of Mitrione’s striking.
His takedown attempts weren’t the most attractive by any means, but they were indeed effective. Nelson waited until Mitrione backed up behind the black tape before rushing forward and smothering Mitrione against the cage. Once there, Nelson had no troubles taking Mitrione down.
One of Nelson’s major criticisms of recent times (notably his contest with Derrick Lewis) was that he was relatively inactive when he had gained a dominant position. This can be said about the first round with Mitrione here, as his takedown and efforts afterward were not even close to enough to influence the scoring of the first round.
Picking his shots
Mitrione’s second round was his best of the three. He stayed well outside of Nelson’s range while connecting with long and damaging strikes. Nelson was often forced to cover up and accept the offensive output of Mitrione.
While Mitrione was displaying some excellent striking, Nelson’s stand-up game was barely threatening. He decided to attack with single punches that had no real thought process or planning behind them. So instead, Nelson was just winging powerful uppercuts that weren’t even coming close to the intended target.
But again, Nelson shot in for a successful takedown with minutes left in the round and managed to control the position. However, the takedown and top control were never going to be enough to overturn Mitrione’s striking dominance in this second round.
A final push
Just one round after Mitrione’s best work of the night, Nelson managed his best five-minute stint in the final round.
He secured a takedown much earlier than he had done in the earlier two rounds and began to work towards the crucifix position. He climbed the body of Mitrione and started pounding away at the head of his opponent, who was now trapped underneath all 265 lbs of Roy Nelson.
Despite his efforts in the last round, it never seemed like he was doing enough damage for the round to be scored 10-8. It might have been close, though. In fact, Nelson’s last round was the most dominant of all the rounds in the fight, but it could have been argued either way for whether it was a 10-8 or 10-9.
Mixed martial arts can be a strange sport to score at times. Nelson’s final round was clearly more dominant than Mitrione’s efforts in the first round, yet they were likely to be scored the same.
At the end of three rounds, two judges declared the contest a 29-28 win for Matt Mitrione while one judge had allowed Roy Nelson the benefit of the doubt in round three and scored it a 10-8 to bring back a 28-28 scorecard.
It soon became apparent that if Roy Nelson wanted to advance to the second round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, he needed to finish Matt Mitrione when he had the chance.