Roy Nelson is one tough son of a bitch and if you saw his fight against Junior dos Santos this past weekend at UFC 117, you will undoubtedly agree with me. For three rounds, he took shot after shot, combination after combination from JDS in hopes of landing a fight ending right hand. His heart and determination were simply amazing.
Another thing you may have noticed if you watched the fight was Joe Rogan talking about how Nelson's gut could be holding him back from bigger (no pun intended) and better things. Well, MMAJunkie decided to ask their medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin if Rogan was right about Nelson's belly:
Every time I see "Big Country" compete, I am impressed that he can get such a high level of production out of that body. Roy Nelson is a perfect case study to better understand cardiovascular fitness - or what MMA fans commonly call "cardio" or "gas." (Please, no fart jokes). Nelson's ample body and belly cause many viewers to make a common mistake. They make a direct correlation between physical appearance and cardiovascular fitness. As counter-intuitive or backward as it may seem, significantly overweight people can have impressive cardio. Likewise, thin and/or muscular, well-defined people can have terrible cardio. Why? Because cardiovascular fitness measures the body's ability to take in, distribute and use oxygen (according to the Center for Disease Control). Cardio is primarily a measure of the heart's ability to efficiently pump blood and oxygen to the muscles. It is not a measure or function of physical appearance. To properly assess cardiovascular fitness, a serious athlete will undergo a test called VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake). Everyone has seen endurance athletes on TV running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike with EKG pads/wires hooked to them and with what looks like a snorkel coming out of their mouths. That's the VO2 max test. (I could get fairly technical here, but I'll assume that we've all got better things to do.) Here's a simple test: Briskly walk up three flights of stairs. If your heart is pumping hard, your head is throbbing or a bit light, and/or you're short of breath, guess what: Your cardio isn't much regardless of how you look. The follow-up question to me is: How good could Nelson be if he shed those excess pounds? Yes, he would be quicker, more explosive and more athletic in general. Also, if he carried significantly less weight, his personal cardio would, in fact, improve. Ever wonder why the most elite heavyweight championship contests rarely go to a decision? It is extremely difficult for the big boys - ones of all shapes - to keep up the pace for the fourth and fifth championship rounds. Therefore, they try to finish early. Did you see how hard both Nelson and opponent Junior Dos Santos were breathing in the third round? I loved the fight, but I was glad when it ended - and I think they were, too.
Here is the most important part of what Dr. Benjamin said after the jump...
How good could Nelson be if he shed those excess pounds? Yes, he would be quicker, more explosive and more athletic in general. Also, if he carried significantly less weight, his personal cardio would, in fact, improve.
For a guy his size, Nelson's cardio is impressive. He can't go hard for three rounds like Clay Guida does, but he can go three rounds when a lot of Heavyweights can't go one. What would help a guy like Nelson is having the ability to a full fight and still has some of that same explosiveness that he has in the first in the second and third. Turning his keg into a case of beer will help with that. He still may not be able to get a fresh JDS to the ground at the start of a fight, but he probably could a tired JDS to the ground in the third round if he still has some of his first round explosiveness. The match is simple, add a quicker, more explosive Nelson in with his technique, game planning and power and you have yourself one hell of a fighter. All that Nelson needs to do now is shed the most marketable part about him.