Our ten-part odyssey of previewing and predicting tonight’s UFC 96 event has reached its conclusion. And FiveOuncesOfPain.com will end its fight-by-fight preview for UFC 96 with the fight that will lead off the entire show.
Aaron Riley (27-10-1) vs. Shane Nelson (11-3)
Despite a pedigree that includes training under B.J. Penn, Nelson is hardly a blue chip prospect. Having develop a reputation on the Hawaiian MMA scene for being less than an exciting fighter, Nelson still got a shot to be a part of the cast for the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Despite winning in the qualifying round and make it into the house, Nelson was eliminated from competition early against eventual-lightweight winner Efrain Escudero. Despite the loss, he showed enough to get a shot in a non-televised match at the TUF 8 finale against George Roop.
While Nelson earned a split decision win over Riley, the UFC’s lightweight division is overstocked and native Hawaiian’s job security is less than certain.
Currently on his third tour of duty with the UFC, the rugged and experienced Riley earned his first win inside of the Octagon at UFC 91 this past November when he recorded a unanimous decision win over Jorge Gurgel that knocked Gurgel out of the UFC.
With previous UFC losses against Spencer Fisher and Robbie Lawler, the 28-year old journeyman will look to win his fourth consecutive fight and keep his spot in the UFC.
It’s hard to break down this matchup, as Nelson has the better jiu-jitsu yet Riley is stronger and more aggressive. In the end, I believe Riley’s experience and versatility will prove to be the difference.
Prediction: Riley over Nelson via second round TKO.