On a quest to find value on the two Bellator cards this weekend, I’m interested in this classic heavyweight match between Sergei Kharitonov and Roy Nelson. Both fighters are late in their careers and it remains to be seen if either can perform to their potential.

“The Russian Mercenary”

Known for walking out in full military fatigues, Kharitonov was one of the most exciting heavyweight fighters in the Pride era. Revisiting some old footage, Kharitonov’s explosive slams and ferocious boxing combinations were a sight to behold. Since then, the sambo master has lost a step or two. Now 38-years-of-age, Kharitonov looked noticeably slower in recent fights. While he scored an excellent uppercut knockout of Chase Gormley at Bellator 175 and subsequently flatlined Sokoudjou in M-1 Global – I believe Kharitonov’s best years are behind him.

In his last fight against Anton Vyazigin, there were some serious red flags. He was taken down and gave up his back early in the fight. If this happens against a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt in Roy Nelson, he’s in a world of trouble. Although he was able to reverse Vyazigin on the mat, Kharitonov should look to stay standing at all costs against Nelson.

“Big Country”

The man with the gigantic belly and gigantic overhand right needs no introductions. The juxtaposition between his knockout power and unathletic physique made Nelson a fan favorite during his UFC tenure, although we’ve seen him rely more on his grappling over at Bellator. Now 42-years-of-age, it’s doubtful we see him make any improvements at this stage in the game.

In his Bellator debut, Nelson was able to repeatedly take down Javy Ayala – a solid fighter who is also a lifelong wrestler. He used his grappling effectively against Matt Mitrione as well, winning the third round decisively. Knowing that Kharitonov does his best work with his hands, I think Nelson will be looking to put the Russian on his back early and often. Given Nelson’s success in landing takedowns, the American winning via positional control or possibly finishing on the ground seems likely.

Where is the Value?

Roy Nelson absolutely deserves to be the favorite here, but I’d cap him around -200. I think -335 is ridiculous and I’m certainly not prepared to pay that kind of juice. Kharitonov can win this contest by staying vertical, avoiding the big overhand right and landing the cleaner boxing combinations. Perhaps that’s improbable, but it’s not impossible. I wouldn’t wager anything significant on this fight, but at these prices I’m not averse to a small value bet on the underdog.

Pick: Sergei Kharitonov +255

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