Surging Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Soa Palelei and Jared Rosholt are set to square off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 43 this Saturday (June 28, 2014), airing live at 5 a.m. ET on Fight Pass from Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
No. 14-ranked Palelei recently earned a spot UFC Top 15 rankings by defeating Ruan Potts with a brutal first round knockout at UFC Fight Night 40 in May. The Australian-born "Hulk" has finished each of his last 11 mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts by knockout, including three in the UFC.
He'll look to extend that streak against Rosholt, the Team Takedown member who has scored decision wins in his only two UFC bouts. He's won six straight, most recently beating Daniel Omielanczuk at UFC Fight Night 39 in April after making a successful debut against Walt Harris at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale in November 2013.
"Big Show" will face a big challenge in the hard-charging Palelei, who last lost to undefeated Daniel Cormier in 2010. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters:
Record: 21-3 overall, 3-1 UFC
Key Wins: Pat Barry (UFC Fight Night 33), Ruan Potts (UFC Fight Night 40), Nikita Krylov (UFC 164)
Key Losses: Daniel Cormier (Xtreme MMA 3)
Keys to Victory: Palelei is on a streak rarely seen in MMA. His scary knockout power certainly lives up to his nickname "Hulk," and he'll be dead-set on becoming the second man to stop Rosholt with strikes.
To do so, Palelei has to fight with a controlled gameplan. The crowd and electric atmosphere will be at a feverish pitch in his support, yet he can't let that make him look past Rosholt. His striking will be light years ahead of his opponent's, but rushing in without caution could see him tied up and taken down.
Palelei has proven he is a bear to deal with on the ground. However, he's never squared off with a wrestler as accomplished to Rosholt. It's clear that maintaining flawless takedown defense will open windows for Palelei to end this fight with his thunderous stand-up skills.
Although Palelei hasn't lost much, two of his three defeats have come by submission. Rosholt has three tapout victories of his own, but two of them were by strikes. Still, "Big Show's" submission skills should be picking up steam thanks to Team Takedown Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Mark Lehman.
That means "Hulk" will probably look to keep this fight upright at all costs. If he can, expect him to smash his way to another impressive victory.
Record: 10-1 overall, 2-0 UFC
Key Wins: Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC Fight Night 39), Walt Harris (TUF 18 Finale)
Key Losses: Derrick Lewis (Legacy FC 13)
Keys to Victory: Three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler Rosholt is the winningest heavyweight in Oklahoma State history, a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
Despite his sizeable knockout power, Rosholt won't be looking to test his chin by going toe-to-toe with a brute like Palelei. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Rosholt will be seeking a high volume of takedowns in an effort to neutralize "Hulk's" forward momentum.
If and when he secures one, he'll go to work with a dominating top game to control the Australian striker. He just can't eat to many punches, elbows, and knees while going in the process.
With an opponent as powerful as Palelei, Rosholt needs to execute his wrestling-centered gameplan with a high degree of accuracy. Attempting to drag down a man of his size unsuccessfully will sap his gas tank in rapid fashion.
Rosholt won't impress the UFC brass all that much if he wins a slow, grinding decision, but it would still keep him in the win column with his biggest-ever victory. That's the peril of relying heavily upon wrestling in today's knockout-focused UFC landscape.
Regardless, he's received a steep step up in competition against Palelei, and he'll need everything he can muster to put an end to the Australian's insane streak of knockouts.
Bottom Line from Auckland: The bottom line for this fight is that Palelei can truly announce himself as a contender in the relatively talent-shallow UFC heavyweight division.
Rosholt may not be all that high-profile of an opponent, but if he can score his twelfth straight knockout finish, "Hulk" will be on everyone's radar. Unscathed against Potts, Palelei immediately signed on to put on a show for his home fans, and he'll be more than ready to give them their money's worth.
That means Rosholt is fighting an uphill battle, but if there's one skillset that could potentially negate Palelei's power, it's his hard-nosed strategy. "Big Show" has a huge opportunity in Auckland; even if the deck is stacked against him a bit.
Palelei is on fire, and he'll have the New Zealand crowd fully behind him. But Rosholt is no stranger to the pressure of competition; so don't be surprised if he shows up confident and ready to out-grapple Palelei.
If he can't, it could be short night for the Idaho native, and we could have a star in the making in Palelei.
The stage is set for "Hulk" to continue his assault on the 265-pound division, but it may not be as easy this time around. Expect a fast bout to favor Palelei, with Rosholt taking over the longer it lasts.
Soa Palelei has looked unstoppable as of late, and Jared Rosholt has quietly built up a long win streak of his own. Can "Big Show" put an end to the "Hulk's" run in his backyard?