Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Rick Story and Gunnar Nelson went to war yesterday afternoon (Sat., Oct. 4, 2014) in the Fight Pass main event of UFC Fight Night 53 at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
"Horror" needed a victory in order to prove he's not just a gatekeeper. In his recent performances, Story had come quite close to pulling off the upset, but fell just short.
Nelson, on the other hand, was fighting to keep the hype train rolling. His technical jiu-jitsu and karate style had proven to be quite effective already, but last night was the biggest test of his professional career.
Though Nelson proved himself worthy of the challenge, Story ultimately walked away the victor.
Story opened with a pair of outside leg kicks. Nelson returned with a pair of straights not long after. Nelson looked to control the center of the Octagon early and maintain his range. Story then landed a hard inside leg kick.
In the center of the cage, the men clinched. After absorbing a few small shots, Nelson hit a beautiful inside trip. Then the wrestler returned to his feet. Story next landed a hard body kick.
Story momentarily dropped Nelson with an inside low kick. Nelson threw a hard high kick that was blocked. Nelson was not being very active, but he was successfully evading many of Story's blows.
Close round, but it appeared that Story did a bit more damage and should have the edge.
Once more, Story began the round with some low kicks. Nelson landed a hard body kick, then slipped on a spin kick. Story allowed Nelson back to his feet. Nelson scored with a hard right hand, but Story returned with a few punches.
Nelson was still doing a pretty good job being elusive, but some of Story's offense connected. Nelson landed a nice right hook, and Story returned with some body punches within the clinch.
Story continued to be active with his low kicks, which landed with solid thuds. The two men traded power punches. Both fighters were slowing a bit, but the pace was still fairly high. Again, Story was the more active man, but Nelson would land a very clean punch every minute or so. Story ended the round with a flurry of left hands that may have hurt "Gunni."
Another very close round that comes down to Story's volume against Nelson's precision.
The two men slap hands to begin the third round. Story next landed another leg kick. Nelson landed a quick double leg, but Story again worked to his feet very quickly. Story's low kicks seemed to be having an effect on Nelson.
Nelson began to look for the clinch more aggressively, but Story fought him off. Nelson landed a nice pair of straight rights to the body. Story returned with a hard jab to the jaw. Story landed a hard body kick and followed it up with an overhand left.
Story continued to be the aggressor and controlled the center of the Octagon. Both men are tired, but Nelson's defense is suffering more. At the end of the round, Story landed a nice combo within the clinch, punctuated by body shots.
For the third round in a row, I would lean toward Story, but the fight was in either man's hands.
Story began the fourth round in his usual fashion with a pair of low kicks. Story suddenly dropped Nelson with a brutal left. Story stood over Nelson's guard and landed a series of punches before letting Nelson up.
Despite being hurt, Nelson appeared to still have some spring in his step. Nelson got in deep on a double, but Story managed to sprawl out. Another shot is stuffed by "Horror." Story landed a combo in the clinch before backing out.
Nelson got a bit more active, and landed a few straight punches. However, his activity faltered, and Story regained control moments later. Story is having success with doubling up on his punches. Story delivered a hard left to the sternum then landed a couple punches high.
For the first time, a round has a clear winner, as Story took the fourth.
Both men were bloody and bruised to enter the fifth. For the fifth and final time, Story began the round with some kicks. Nelson was seriously trying to circle Story into the fence, but Story's footwork kept him in the center of the cage.
At this point in the bout, both men landed a majority of the strikes they threw. Nelson landed a nice right hand that snapped Story's head back. Story returned with a long left hand.
Each time "Gunni" found a home for his straight punch, Story would come back with a series of punches, often to the body. Still, Story's eye bled profusely.
Story landed a hard overhand left. The fighters exchanged evenly in the center. Nelson next scored with a body kick. With 30 seconds left, Story pushed Nelson back with an extended combination. At the 10 second mark, Story again unleashed a lengthy combination.
Though many of the rounds were close, I scored this as a clean sweep for the American.
The judges sort of agreed, as one judge somehow gave it to Nelson. The other two scored it clearly for Story, rightfully giving him the victory (see the scorecard here).
For Story, this was a huge victory. He proved that he can still contend with the top fighters of the division. Hopefully, Story will be able to build another run, like he did in 2010 through 2011.
After this performance, Story deserves another top 15 opponent. Matches with either Ryan LaFlare or Jordan Mein would likely result in exciting matches.
Though Nelson is likely disappointed at the result, he proved that he could hang with one of the toughest fighters at welterweight. More impressively, he did so almost entirely on the feet. Nelson is still young, so there's time for him to improve on the feet.
For his rebound fight, expect Nelson to get a lower ranked welterweight. A scrap with fellow grappler Igor Araujo would make sense.
At UFC Fight Night 53, Rick Story out-struck Gunnar Nelson for the majority of five rounds. Can Story build another title run?
For complete UFC Fight Night 53 "Story vs Nelson" results, click here.