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UFC 189 fight card: Gunnar Nelson vs Brandon Thatch full fight preview

Gunnar Nelson and Brandon Thatch will collide this Saturday (July 11, 2015) at UFC 189 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a match up of Brazilian jiu-jitsu mastery and Muay Thai violence, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Find out below!

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Gunnar Nelson and Brandon Thatch will attempt to return to the win column this Saturday (July 11, 2015) at UFC 189 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Unbeaten in his first four UFC fights, Nelson had plenty of hype behind him heading into his main event showcase opposite Rick Story. The 26-year-old grappling prodigy, however, came up short, meaning it's quite important for him to take out his opponent here and avoid consecutive losses.

Similarly, Thatch absolutely mauled his first two opponents, resulting in a match up with former Lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson. While Thatch displayed his striking skill and physicality, "Rukus" still ended up on the wrong side of a late submission loss.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:

Gunnar Nelson
Record: 13-1-1
Key Wins: Zak Cummings (UFC Fight Night 46), Jorge Santiago (UFC on FUEL TV 7)
Key Losses: Rick Story (UFC Fight Night 53)
Keys to Victory: Nelson is one of the very best submission grapplers in UFC, finishing nine of his opponents via tap, snap or nap. In addition, Nelson possesses a rather crafty karate attack, which relies on movement and quick, straight punches.

Movement will be very important for Nelson in this fight. He's a smaller Welterweight, while Thatch is a truly massive one and will undoubtedly have a major strength advantage. With that in mind, clinching with "Rukus" must be avoided.

However, Thatch's outside game is much less polished. At this distance, Nelson's speed and footwork-focused should allow him to avoid many of his opponent's power punches while being able to land some shots of his own.

Thatch will undoubtedly look to clinch at some point, and that's Nelson's chance to land a takedown. While he's a wrecking ball with slick technique on the inside, Thatch's method of gaining the clinch is often to simply extend his hands and move forward. Nelson should be able to duck under that for a well-timed takedown.

And from there, it's Gunni's world.


Brandon Thatch
Record: 11-2
Key Wins: Paulo Thiago (UFC Fight Night 32), Justin Edwards (UFC Fight Night 37)
Key Losses: Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 60)
Keys to Victory: Thatch is a highly experienced striker with a background in karate and kickboxing. Inside the Octagon, however, Thatch is a murderous in-fighter, who quickly overwhelms his opponent's defense from the clinch with unending waves of knees and elbow strikes.

And since he has yet to win a fight by anything other than a finish, it seems to be working fairly well.

For Thatch, it's very important for him to intelligently close the distance. If he rushes this aspect of the game, there's a pretty good chance he'll end up his back, which is the absolute last place he wants to find himself.

To safely clinch up with Nelson, a position where Thatch's physical strength and technique should keep him pretty safe from takedowns, Thatch needs to really focus on cutting off the cage as he pressures his opponent.

Kicks can also be a valuable tool for Thatch. As Nelson looks to circle away, a high kick could easily stop him in his tracks and be difficult to turn into a takedown. Above all else, Thatch simply needs to be patient in his approach, as he's not outmatched at range either. He simply cannot rush into a bad position.

Bottom Line: Both of these men had quite a bit of momentum heading into their last fight and could have pushed themselves into the immediate title picture with a win, but instead came up short. This is an opportunity for redemption for both fighters that could put either man in the Top 10.

Nelson is currently the more proven fighter of the two, having won four of his UFC fights prior to the loss. If he manages to slay the giant on Saturday, expect him to get right back in the hunt for the title, potentially as the headliner of a European card.

On the other hand, a loss may mean a switch in weight class. While Thatch dwarfs the majority of 170-pound fighters, Nelson is consistently the smaller man. If he's reached a level of fighter he cannot best at Welterweight in Story and Thatch, then a drop down could do him some good.

Thatch has to be fairly disappointed in his last performance. Regardless of how talented Henderson is, losing to a short-notice opponent in the weight class below is rarely a good look. If Thatch drops his second fight in a row, the 29-year-old combatant may stop being looked at as a potential contender.

That said, fight fans are all about what's happening lately. If Thatch goes out and destroys Nelson in classic "Rukus" fashion, the world will quickly forget the Henderson loss and anxiously await for Thatch to hand out more violence.

At UFC 189, Gunnar Nelson and Brandon Thatch will clash. Which man will end the bout with his hand raised?

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