Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Leon Edwards and Gunnar Nelson will duel this Saturday (March 16, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 147 from 02 Arena in London, England.
Edwards is a very impressive, if continually overlooked, Welterweight contender. “Rocky” joined UFC’s roster in 2014 known mostly as a striker, but he has developed considerably beyond that point. Still just 27 years old, Edwards has put together an excellent six-fight win streak to break into the title mix. While Edwards’ rise has occurred at a steady pace, Nelson has bounced between labels like “future champion” and “overrated” repeatedly depending on the result of his most recent fight. Nevertheless, the Icelandic talent is a unique fighter, one who rarely sees the judges and tends to either win or lose spectacularly.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Victories: Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 132), Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 107), Albert Tumenov (UFC 204), Bryan Barberena (UFC Fight Night 115)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: Edwards is a prime example of the benefits of fighting smart and being well-rounded. On paper, Edwards is not the absolute best kickboxer, wrestler or grappler, but he’s damn good everywhere and is able to adjust around his opponents’ strengths to attack their weak points. Just as an aside, Edwards is the only man to defeat Luque in the previous four years — and that win is only going to look even better as Luque keeps destroying people.
Opposite Nelson, Edwards has one clear position he does not want to be: on his back. Luckily, Edwards takedown defense is a strength. Even early in his UFC career opposite Usman, “Rocky” did many things correctly to repeatedly deny Usman’s takedowns.
The Englishman understands head position in the clinch and fighting off the fence perfectly.
I’d like to see Edwards pursue the pocket in this match up. Nelson is tricky from the outside, but Edwards’ length and his own kickboxing skill should allow him to navigate those waters well enough. Once in the boxing range, however, Edwards is the far sharper man, as Nelson sometimes fails to realize that his hands need to come up to his chin when distance is not protecting him.
Key Wins: Alex Oliveira (UFC 231), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 107), Zak Cummings (UFC Fight Night 46), Albert Tumenov (UFC Fight Night 87)
Key Losses: Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC Fight Night 113), Demian Maia (UFC 194), Rick Story (UFC Fight Night 53)
Keys to Victory: Nelson is one of the sport’s top Brazilian jiu-jitsu players, a real destroyer from top position. Despite being a fairly small Welterweight, Nelson also packs a serious punch on the feet, and his Karate background has translated well into an ability to quickly cover distance with both punches and takedowns.
Nelson is a fighter who tends to have major moments that end fights. He sprints forward into a cross that stuns his foe, creating an opening for the finish. His quick feet and clinch takedown chaining result in a trip directly into a dominant position, one that his foe never escapes. Minute-to-minute, Edwards is likely the sharper man in most areas, but Nelson’s finishing ability is his major advantage here.
Realistically, Nelson is going to have a difficult time taking down Edwards, who’s an excellent defensive wrestler with great range control and an understanding that Nelson wants to strangle him. However, a power cross right on the chin can produce the result, and that’s an easier path when his opponent is concerned about the takedown already.
Bottom Line: This is an excellent match up between two contenders really looking to finalize a run at the title.
Edwards is already on a very impressive win streak, one that has established him as a top 10-ranked talent. Another ranked win should be just the push needed to secure a more high-profile fight next, an already established top contender. He could face anyone from the winner of Saturday’s main event to Ben Askren, but that’s the type of match up “Rocky” would deserve.
Nelson is still recovering from a somewhat recent loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio, but taking out No. 10 to make it four wins out of the previous five is nothing to scoff at, either. Furthermore, Nelson does tend to win in highlight-reel fashion — look no further than his last bout, when he strangled Alex Oliveira while the Brazilian “Cowboy” was completely coated in his own blood.
Another wild finish in the co-main event would go a long way in pushing Nelson to the title mix.
At UFC Fight Night 147, Leon Edwards and Gunnar Nelson will battle in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?