Roy Nelson scored his latest knockout without setting foot in the Octagon.
Nelson took Palelei’s place in the fight with Miocic. The bout was also bumped to the pay-per-view portion of the fight card.
Palelei (18-3), riding an eight-fight winning streak, had lobbied long and hard to get a return shot in the UFC. He finally had it with the fight against Miocic (9-1), but that was before UFC interim bantamweight champ Renan Barão on Tuesday dropped off the card due to injury.
Barão was supposed to defend his belt against Eddie Wineland.
With the main event blown apart, UFC officials quickly elevated the co-main event between Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson to headlining status, their bout remaining three rounds. The new co-main event is a fight between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
After that, however, the name value on the fight card took a significant drop, so the UFC decided to do something about it.
Enter “Big Country.”
Roy Nelson has become a fan favorite with his brash, blue-collar style. He’s the everyman of the Octagon.
Exit “The Hulk.”
Palelei will still make his UFC return, but it will be delayed. He’ll likely return later in the summer.
Nelson (19-7) is on a three-fight winning streak, knocking out Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione, and Cheick Kongo. With the rest of the top-end of the heavyweight division already occupied, Nelson had been in waiting mode, but now makes the quick turn from his win over Kongo on April 27 to fight Miocic.
Nelson gives the revamped UFC 161 fight card – the promotion’s first stop in Winnipeg – a much-needed boost in name value.
Miocic is coming off of a UFC on Fuel TV 5 main event loss to Stefan Struve. It was the first blemish on his otherwise spotless record.
It’s a tall order for Miocic, who has far less experience than Nelson, and has been on the sidelines since the September 2012 loss to Struve. Two of Nelson’s three latest knockout victories have come since Miocic last fought.