Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson produced a stunning first round knock-out to deny Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the UFC Fight Night Abu Dhabi main event.
Big Country’s powerful right-hand did the damage as he put his opponent on the canvas three times in less than four minutes of fighting.
Nogueira was able to gather himself following the first two knock downs but the third, a brutally timed overhand right straight into the Brazilian’s face proved decisive.
With victory Nelson improved his professional record to 21 wins in 30 fights, and he made no attempt to hide his ambitions in the division.
“Any time you beat Big Nog [it’s a good win], he’s a legend. Thank you, thanks for coming if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be fighting MMA,” Nelson said. “I always want to fight for the belt, let me start right there. Let me work backwards.”
Despite his obvious punching power, Nelson insisted he had not planned for the fight to be over quite so quickly.
“My goal was to get a take down per round and go five rounds,” he said. “I just pushed the pace a little bit and it just happened my right hand landed first.”
Of that ferocious right hand, Nelson added: “I was throwing left hands but he has a hard head so I knew I had to throw a big right hand.”
The crowd — officially a 7,963 sell-out — had been whipped into a frenzy by an excellent co-main event that saw Clay Guida score a deserved unanimous decision over Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Guida was given the fight 30-27 on all three cards and it was easy to see why as he tore into his opponent at an unrelenting pace. Having knocked Kawajiri down early in the first, the American held his own on the floor after the Japanese fighter had countered.
At the final bell Guida still had the energy to circumnavigate the Octagon to take in the applause of those inside the du Arena, while his opponent received treatment to his cuts and bruises.
“I feel great hope the AD fans liked that grappling match,” Guida, who improved his record to 31-11, said before becoming the second fighter of the night to call out Conor McGregor.
“[Fight me] if you want to fight a real man there ain’t no gold at the end of the rainbow,” he added.
Earlier, Ryan Laflare had secured a unanimous decision over John Howard but it was the first fight of the main card, between Ramsey Nijem and Beneil Dariush that created the most buzz outside of the main event.
Nijem, entering the ring to Arabic music and followed by the Palestinian flag, received a raucous ovation and he carried that energy into a brutal knock-out win over his Iranian opponent.
The American-born fighter unloaded almost two minutes worth of hammer fists into Dariush’s face before referee Neil Hall called an end to the contest with 40 seconds of the first round left.
“I came in with this energy. It means a lot to come out here and fight for you guys. It’s special and thanks for the support,” Nijem said. “I’m here to bring a title and bring a title to the Middle East. I understand my role I’m going to step up and bring that title to the Middle East.”
The night had opened with a no contest between Rani Yahya and Johnny Bedford due to a clash of heads.
Jim Alers then scored a UFC debut win over Alan Omer via a split decision, before calling out McGregor.
There was also a knock-out victory for Thales Leites over Trevor Smith while Jared Rosholt won over all three judges against Daniel Omielanczuk.