Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight talents Bo Nickal and Jamie Pickett will throw down this weekend (Sat., March 4, 2023) at UFC 285 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Is it too early to call Nickal the best prospect in mixed martial arts (MMA)? Heck, it might be too late. He’s such a ridiculously accomplished wrestler that those skills alone could carry him far up the ladder, but he’s been a prominent training partner of great fighters at American Top Team for years now. He looks well-rounded and composed already, an instant threat to any 185-pound athlete. Pickett, meanwhile, doesn’t exactly have the same level of hype behind him. The Contenders Series product has won two of his six trips to the Octagon, and he’s not exactly being set up for success in this match up as a massive underdog.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Donovan Beard (Contenders Series 2022), Zachary Borrego (Contenders Series 2022)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Three-time national champion is the easiest to understand of Nickal’s wrestling accomplishments, but it’s just scratching the surface. He’s genuinely one of the most talented wrestlers to ever compete inside the Octagon, but beyond that, he’s shown slick submission chaining, good distance management, and natural punching power to complement that wrestling skill.
In Feb. 2022, Kyle Daukaus pretty easily dragged Pickett down to the canvas. From there, he hung heavy on the neck, continually transitioning until the d’arce choke finish materialized.
Nickal can copy that exact gameplan to a tee. Sure, he seemingly has the striking to compete with Pickett, but why bother when such a clear path to victory is readily apparent?
Key Wins: Laureano Staropoli (UFC Vegas 41), Joseph Holmes (UFC Vegas 46)
Key Losses: Denis Tiuliulin (UFC 279), Kyle Daukaus (UFC Vegas 48), Jordan Wright (UFC 262)
Keys to Victory: Pickett doesn’t have an extensive background in any one combat sport quite like his opponent. He’s definitely more of a generalist, and his back is to the wall here.
Does Pickett appear to be the type of fighter to derail a mega prospect like Nickal? Not really. He’s been grounded out before by less accomplished grapplers, and at 34 years of age, he’s unlikely to suddenly take a massive step forward in terms of ability.
Still, he can at least try to do what’s proven to work against talented young wrestlers. Namely, it all comes down to footwork and cage position. Pickett cannot be giving up easy takedowns. He has to really make Nickal work to even touch him, let alone grab a leg. Any time a shot is avoided, that’s the time to answer with a combination.
Even the best wrestlers are not accustomed to three five-minute rounds. If Pickett can extend this fight, Nickal will likely get tired and look a whole lot more human. Then, maybe, just maybe, Pickett’s overall MMA experience advantage can come into play.
This is a showcase fight for Nickal.
Since the beginning, Nickal has been demanding elite competition. He hasn’t quite earned a ranked opponent yet, but if he continues demolishing everyone with ease, he’ll get there quickly. Should Nickal open the main card with yet another effortless finish, perhaps he’ll score an opponent in the Top 10-15 range. Worst case, UFC decides to build him slower, which probably just equates to more paychecks and exposure.
As for Pickett, he’s probably fighting to avoid his UFC release. That’s not exactly fair since he’s fighting the sport’s best prospect, but his overall UFC record doesn’t afford him any favors. Fortunately, a win would be momentous, one of he biggest upsets in the sport’s history on a major stage.
At UFC 285, Bo Nickal will open the main card opposite Jamie Pickett. Will the prospect live up to the hype?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 285 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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