• On The Rise: Gunnar Nelson

  • UFC Fight Night 37 poster 226x300 On The Rise: Gunnar NelsonWhenever a major fight card takes place there will be movement up and down the rankings in some way, shape or form. This feature will look to reflect upon a recent fight card and analyse which of its competitors had made the biggest impact, made the biggest statement or has simply gained the most from victory.

    We will look at that particular fighters past, present position and what we can expect from them in the future, as well as comparing the outcome of their individual fight against the others on the same fight card.

    This week we will be looking at Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson who produced an incredible performance to submit Omari Akhmedov in the first round in London on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa.

    It is perhaps unusual that I would select Gunnar Nelson to be the fighter considered to have gained the most from this weekend’s fights, on a night whereby Alexander Gustafsson cemented his place as the next in line for a shot at the Light Heavyweight title regardless of who is to emerge as Champion from UFC 172 in April.

    For a long time there have been rumblings on the MMA scene that Gunnar Nelson is a man to keep an eye on. We have seen the likes of training partner Conor McGregor, coach Renzo Gracie or mere observer, Kenny Florian to praise the Icelandic prodigy.

    Speaking on UFC Tonight, Florian went as far as to say that Gunnar is one of a select few that could keep pace with long time welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre when it comes to the wrestling/grappling department, a strong compliment if ever there was one.

    Gunnar might have started his career in MMA in 2007 with a draw but since then he has amassed a perfect record winning 12 straight. Having fought previously on a couple of occasions for top European show BAMMA, “Gunni” was called up to the UFC and after several changes of opponent, he eventually fought against DaMarques Johnson, a former runner up on The Ultimate Fighter.

    Nelson got the victory that night in Nottingham and followed it up with another respectable win against MMA veteran Jorge Santiago in February 2013.

    Going into this weekend’s bout, there were concerns that the fight against Santiago was his last outing inside the Octagon and as such the mythological “ring rust” might come into play. As if to make things worse for Nelson, his opponent was by no means a soft matchup either.

    Akhmedov’s career had followed a similar path to that of Nelson in that the one blemish on his record had come early in his career before reeling off 11 straight victories. In addition, Akhmedov was considered a strong wrestler and had won “Fight of the Night” honours in his one and only UFC outing.

    However, with the stage set for an intriguing main event with light heavyweight title implications, it was Nelson’s performance that was the standout performance of the night.

    From the beginning of the fight, a Fedor-esque poise was on display from Nelson who landed several good shots on the feet to show that he is not a one trick pony before landing the submission victory in the closing stages of the first round.

    With an exciting UFC 171 card on the horizon featuring many of his fellow welterweights, Nelson can sit back and see how things play out in Texas safe in the knowledge that his stock will have risen dramatically this weekend and he will likely get a step up in competition next time around.

    A lot of potential matchups throughout the top 10-15 in the welterweight division will be decided post fight next weekend in Dallas. However,  for the time being there are a few that could seemingly make sense for Nelson. Dong Hyun Kim is fresh off another incredible knockout victory over John Hathaway at the TUF China finale and whilst Kim might be looking for an opponent further up the rankings, with the hype and intrigue surrounding Nelson at the moment it could still be a fight that makes a lot of sense.

    It would perhaps be too early to throw Nelson in with any one of the fighters in the two main fights next weekend regardless of the outcome. The likes of Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler are seemingly destined to have a round robin tournament between themselves over the next year or so in order to determine the undisputed Champion in the absence of the long time king, Georges St. Pierre.

    Prior to this weekend, Gunnar was not featured in the top 15 of the rankings in the welterweight division in the UFC. However, with such an impressive showing it would be hard to argue that fighters such as Josh Koscheck or Rick Story warrant a place above Nelson given that Koscheck’s last win came in 2012 and Story’s career has stuttered of late, losing four out of his last seven.

    Once the dust has settled on the UFC welterweight division next weekend we should see Gunnar Nelson appear in the welterweight rankings list at the back end of the list but rest assured, with performances like the one he put on against Omari Akhmedov this weekend, nobody on that list would relish the prospect of facing the Icelandic ace.

    About The Author – Greg Byron

    Greg started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.

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