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Gunnar Nelson, UFC Fight Night 53's 'Fighter to Watch' today in Stockholm

Gunnar Nelson has been on the rise in UFC's competitive welterweight division, but for him to take the next step, he'll have to today (Oct. 4, 2014) topple a very game opponent in Rick Story in the main event of UFC Fight Night 53. Nelson will undoubtedly have to make some changes to his approach if he wants to come away victorious ... and that will be very interesting to watch on Fight Pass.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship UFC) Welterweight division has long been dominated by a very talented crop of converted wrestlers, all with fairly predictable game plans and similar strengths. The first man to break that mold was a man by the name of Georges St. Pierre, who took the 170-pound division by storm with his well-rounded, very honed approach.

Though eventually even he would fall into that wrestling style, "Rush" was able to dominate the weight class for years because of his incredible ability to essentially neuter the opposition.

In some sense, Gunnar Nelson may be that same breed of fighter as he makes his ascent in the Welterweight division. He does not fight anything like the legendary Canadian, but he does share a similarity with him in that he is very, very different from any other fighter on the current roster.

Nelson, who will headline UFC Fight Night 53 later today (Sat., Oct. 4, 2014) against Rick Story inside Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, possesses a style that focuses mostly on countering each of his opponents' moves, whether it's on the feet or on the mat, an asset at which he has become very proficient. His grappling is on another level, as displayed in his decorated competitive Brazilian jiu-jitsu record, but he also possesses a very honed, unorthodox method of striking that makes him a very dangerous opponent upright, too.

The main gripe one can have with Nelson's style is that he is perhaps too cool-headed in the cage, sometimes allowing fights to seemingly slip away before finally making something happen to get the win. He is extremely passive, both in his approach to striking and bringing the fight to the mat, and many people think that this will eventually cost him victories.

Up until this point in his career, Nelson has not been made to pay for his laid back approach; however, at the top of UFC's welterweight division, anything can happen.

Another big criticism of Nelson, 5'11," is that he is undersized. He isn't short by any means, but his frame is clearly one that could allow him to make the 155-pound lightweight limit. As of yet, the size difference hasn't had much of an effect on Nelson, but with thicker wrestlers such as Johny Hendricks sitting at the top, it could be a lot to the Iceland-born fighter to hold his own against fighters with significant strength and size advantages.

All that said, Nelson is a very, very interesting prospect. His unorthodox style can lend itself to occasionally boring fights, but when he comes alive, it is a sight to see. His striking is smooth, quick and unwittingly powerful, while his grappling is just something else all its own.

Nelson is capable of pulling off some wild things inside the Octagon. And I think we still have yet to see the best he has to offer.

Against Story, it is very likely that we see Nelson tested in a way he hasn't been before. Story is known for his high offensive output and a style that puts tons of pressure on his opponents. And this could very well be the undoing of the very passive Nelson. That said, Story's pressure fighting can be his own undoing at times, as his gas tank does not always hold up late into three-round fights, much less a five rounder like he'll be facing at this event.

Nelson must keep Story from being effective in the early going and then take over the fight over as "Horror" fades late. Nelson is a very elusive target and I don't doubt that he can hold his own with Story at striking range, but if this fight takes place in the clinch, he would be well-suited to escape quickly and keep the fight at distance ... or get it to the ground.

As the fight drags on, expect Story to get sloppy and Nelson to get more aggressive. So long as Nelson doesn't succumb to a finish in the early going of this fight, he will be more than capable of handling a tired Story. If Story really becomes desperate as he grows tired, he will probably go for lazy takedowns, which is when Nelson should capitalize on his superior grappling and score a submission.

Nelson presents a very fresh style. And as the division transitions from the dominant reign of St-Pierre, it couldn't be a better time for Nelson to make a push to the summit. He's clearly not the odds-on favorite to challenge for a world title anytime soon, but a win over Story would quiet many doubters that he can't handle an aggressive, dangerous opponent.

Even if Nelson doesn't end up successful today, his future may still be very bright.

Indeed, a loss to Story could be the wake up call that sends him to Lightweight, which could be a more appropriate weight class for him ... where he may thrive even more. All in all, Nelson has much to offer, and his future path could rely heavily on his result against Story later this afternoon.

Nelson has a lot of pressure on him, but he is a fighter who has the potential to become a top UFC contender in the future. And his performance in Stockholm will go a long way toward figuring out the best path.

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