UPDATE: Gore has withdrawn from the bout last-minute with a wrist injury and UFC has tapped Octagon newcomer, Val Woodburn, as a +1200 replacement.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight prospects Bo Nickal and Tresean Gore will throw down this weekend (Sat., July 8, 2023) at UFC 290 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nickal is very likely MMA’s hottest prospect. An unbelievably credentialed wrestler, Nickal has been training at American Top Team for years, and they’re among the most successful teams in the sport. He’s still green inside the cage, but Nickal has been effortlessly finishing foes thus far in his career. Gore is still very young in the fight game himself, but he’s got more cage time than Nickal. An Ultimate Fighter (TUF) product, Gore has real athletic potential and finishing ability, which makes him a small step up for the stud wrestler.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jamie Pickett (UFC 285), Donovan Beard (Contenders Series 2022), Zachary Borrego (Contenders Series 2022)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Nickal’s wrestling accomplishments are absurd. A multiple-time All-American wrestler with a gold medal in the world championships, Nickal has shown sharper kickboxing and jiu-jitsu than one would expect of a pro with less than six minutes in the cage.
The game plan for Nickal is always going to be the same: wrestle his foe to the canvas and finish him. Until someone can stop his takedown assault, what needs to change? Likely, he has the wrestling to succeed on his first shot, at which point he’s in top control and in his wheelhouse.
If that lone shot isn’t enough, Nickal might have to strike a bit more. Gore is powerful, but his kickboxing isn’t so complex that Nickal cannot move around with him and work to set up the shot a bit more.
Key Wins: Josh Fremd (UFC Vegas 63), Gilbert Urbina (TUF 29*)
Key Losses: Bryan Battle (UFC Vegas 47), Cody Brundage (UFC Vegas 58)
Keys to Victory: Gore is a serious physical talent, quick and powerful for the 185-pound division. He’s also demonstrated very good composure as a kickboxer, as well as a pretty solid anti-wrestling game.
Obviously, the latter part of his MMA skill will be tested. Gore cannot win this fight from his back! Generally, there are a few tactics that are pretty much always a good idea if the main plan involves avoiding the takedown, and Gore has to utilize all of them.
First and foremost, positioning! Gore cannot be forced onto the fence. Tying into that is strikes up the middle. Jabs, body jabs, front kicks, uppercuts — Gore has to make sure Nickal can’t just walk through his strikes and force him to the cage. Lastly, body work is a great idea. Body punches help ensure Gore has the under hook in any takedown scenario, as well as giving Nickal more fire to walk through.
In terms of big picture strategy, Gore has to survive through the first round. Nickal has never felt exhausted and faced adversity in the cage, and Gore can introduce those feelings to him if he just survives the early exchanges.
It’s another showcase fight for Nickal.
Nickal is a gigantic favorite and will continue to be so until he loses or challenges a Top 10 Middleweight. Despite his wrestling accolades, Nickal still needs more time in the cage before he can step into the cage against such an opponent. That’s what this bout is for, a small step up in competition to see if Nickal is ready for the best.
UFC clearly wants another quick finish to help the hype train keep rolling. It’s Gore’s job to disrupt those plans and steal some of Nickal’s momentum! When his season of TUF ended, Gore actually had some real steam himself. That’s since evaporated, but Gore has an opportunity here to reinsert himself in the Middleweight division as a future contender.
At UFC 290, Bo Nickal and Tresean Gore will open the main card. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 290 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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