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Gunnar Nelson vs Leon Edwards


Gunnar Nelson and Leon Edwards meet in one of the very best fights of the card, personally the one I am most looking for. The icelandic warrior has always been a delight to watch technically speaking, and the contrast of styles with his british opponent “Rocky” Edwards promises a very interesting contest at 170 pounds. The winner of this fight will get a top ranked opponent most likely. Nelson enters this fight after submitting the always wild “Cowboy” Oliveira in one of the bloodiest fights of the year, while Edwards masterfully outpointed Donald Cerrone over five fairly one sided rounds last June. The judges had it 48-47 for Edwards, and I consider it one of the worst scorecards of last year. I had it a shutout as he completelly dominated the fight and shut down Cerrone´s offense in every round. A grappling standout with a karate background, Nelson is a unique fighter. He also has that “true martial artist” aura around him. Extremelly respectful inside and outside the octagon, he is an old school type of fighter. His Jiu Jitsu is one of the best in the whole UFC. He is a very high level black belt. If you go to the ground with him and Nelson ends up on top, you are in big trouble. Heavy on top, smooth passing and elite control are his trademarks. He is also an agressive submission finisher. Make no mistake though, he is also dangerous on the feet. Boasting a karate bouncing style, he will look for openings to land and he has sneaky power in his right hand. Once he hurts the opponent he jumps on him searching for a choke. This low hands striking style has left him vulnerable some times in the past though, he certainly can be cracked, but it is a dangerous game to play with him. He can also effectively use takedowns to take fights to the ground when needed. In his last fight he showed a much improved physique and wrestling game that will certainly be valuable in this fight.
Enter Leon Edwards. A flying under the radar fighter for years, he is quite underrated in the welterweight division. He has earned some notable victories during his UFC run, like a decision against the feared Vicente Luque, only losing a split decision in his debut and then coming short against now champ Kamaru Usman. Primarily a striker when he entered the UFC, he has developed a very good offensive grappling game that he uses to gain top control and score points when he needs it, even though he mostly controls fights on the feet with his cerebral striking. Owner of a well educated jab, the southpaw Edwards punishes his opponents with rear leg low kicks and the ocassional high kick and straight left when the ocasion presents itself. You can see that he studies his opponents thoroughly before his fights. He had Cerrone´s game perfectly studied, and punished him everytime they broke out of the clinch.
Probably Leon Edwards will want this fight on the feet, and will try to outpoint or eventually hurt Nelson there. I would be surprised if he went for takedowns to test Gunnar´s guard. How does Gunnar approach this fight? My guess is he is gonna try to put Leon down as soon as possible via takedown. If Nelson succeeds in doing so, Edwards is in for a rough night as Nelson is simply much superior on the matt. He may only need to establish top position once to finish the fight. If he does not, it´s anybodys figth on the feet, but must be taken in account that Nelson hurting Edwards would imply the first scenario all over again. If Edwards can stuff all the takedown attemps he has a good chance of winning the fight himself.
I think Nelson is gonna be able to take down Edwards eventually. His defensive wrestling is not as good as his offensive grappling game. Given that Nelson has finished 15 out of his 16 wins, 13 of them by submission, the pick here is Gunnar Nelson to win inside the distance, submitting Leon Edwards or pounding him out from mount.