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UFC 166: Nelson in Position to Drastically Alter Future Rankings in Two Divisions

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COMMENTARY | Most of the attention being paid to this Saturday night's UFC 166 pay per view has focused on the main event for the UFC Heavyweight Title between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. This attention is justified based on the fact that the two are clearly the most dominant heavyweights in the division and are among the top pound for pound fighters in all of mixed martial arts. The fight is one of the most important in the history of the division and will cap one of the best trilogies ever inside a UFC octagon.

However, the main event is not the only important fight in the heavyweight division to take place on Saturday night. If anything, a case could be made that the evening's co-main event bout between Roy Nelson and Daniel Cormier could have an even greater impact on the UFC's divisional rankings going forward. This is because not only is the fight relevant to the heavyweight rankings, but it also stands to have a major impact on the light heavyweight rankings. In effect, a win by Nelson would create a major shake-up in the UFC's plans for both weight classes.

This is because, win or lose, Cormier has made clear his intention to drop to the lower weight class after the fight. Considering the fact that current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will have cleared out the division if he is successful against Glover Teixeira early next year, it is not a stretch to think that a dominant performance on Saturday would put Cormier in the discussion for an immediate shot at the title.

With recent wins over Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, adding Nelson to the list would surely give Cormier a resume worthy of a UFC title shot, especially when the past trash talking between him and the champion is factored in. At the same time, Cormier's elite wrestling and evolving kickboxing could potentially provide a new challenge to the mostly-dominant champion. At the very least, these factors should be enough to lead to an expectation that Cormier will be thrust into an immediate title eliminator at 205 pounds if he is successful against Nelson.

On the other hand, if Nelson is able to score a victory over Cormier, the stench of his upset loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 should essentially be forgotten. To be sure, Nelson would not all of the sudden be in line for an immediate title shot against the winner of the main event, but it stands to reason that knocking off the undefeated Cormier in one of the UFC's premier events of 2013 would catapult him back towards the top of the division.

Such a win, when taken with Nelson's outgoing (and sometimes-outlandish) personality and the general lack of marketable depth at the top of the heavyweight division would undoubtedly put him in line for a big time fight. Considering that the last three shots at the UFC heavyweight title have been given to figthers with no more than a two-fight winning streak, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Nelson would position himself for a title eliminator by getting past Cormier in impressive fashion.

As a result, it is fair to say that the major players in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions should be keeping a close eye on the co-main event on Saturday. Regardless of what happens, the fight is likely to result in the rankings for both divisions being sorted out to an extent. Specifically, if Nelson is victorious, which is not out of the question due to his durability and good takedown defense, the UFC may have to alter its plans going forward for both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. For starters, it would be impossible for Cormier to be shot directly into the title picture at light heavyweight. At the same time, Nelson will have reemerged as a threat at heavyweight.

To make things even better, it is almost impossible to envision the fight not being exciting, as both fighters generally employ aggressive game plans. The rare combination of excitement and relevance makes Nelson and Cormier a fight not to miss.

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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.

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