The co-main event for UFC Fight Night 147 is a fantastic welterweight clash between two rising talents: Leon Edwards and Gunnar Nelson. On paper, this looks like one of the closest fights on the card and it’s hard to envision how it will play out. Here is my breakdown from a betting perspective.
While not setting the world ablaze with his performances, the Englishman is quietly on a six-fight win streak and has defeated some tough opponents. Listening to his interviews, Edwards has unwavering self belief and it will be interesting to see how far he can go in one of the UFC’s most stacked divisions.
Entering the UFC in 2014, Edwards looked like a pure striker and his standing skills are still one of his best assets. He keeps his hands high, is defensively sound, throws a clean 1-2 and like many southpaw strikers – has a good body kick to the open side against orthodox opponents (which Gunnar Nelson is).
The biggest development for Edwards has been his grappling, which has improved exponentially since his early days as a UFC fighter. Since getting tossed around by wrestling stud and current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, Edwards has showcased a complete MMA grappling game. He can score takedowns and has good positional awareness on the mat. He’s also not afraid to lie on opponents and steal rounds in the most boring way possible – as we saw against Bryan Barberena. Perhaps the best strength for Edwards is his fight IQ. He fights strategically and always takes opponents to where they’re weakest – which suggests he’ll want to avoid going to the mat with Gunnar Nelson (he certainly will not want the Icelander on top of him under any circumstances).
With one of the most visually appealing and unique styles in MMA, Gunnar Nelson is a delight to watch. Coming from a karate base, the icelander is light on his feet and stands with a wide stance – which allows him to spring forth like a cobra and catch opponents by surprise. The 1-2 that dropped Brandon Thatch came from out of the blue, as did the short right hand that dropped Alan Jouban.
Nelson is able to lull opponents to sleep with his movements and expressionless gaze, before breaking his own rhythm and launching devastating offensive blitzes. It’s fantastic to watch and another club and sub victory for Nelson would not surprise me in the slightest.
On the mat, Nelson is a wizard. He has one of the best ground games in the entire UFC and if he’s able to secure a dominant position on the mat, there is a high chance he’ll finish Leon Edwards. The x-factor in this contest could be Nelson’s wrestling. I’m reliably informed Nelson has worked obsessively on this part of his game over the past few years with Canadian wrestling coach, Matthew Miller. I liked the way he tenaciously chained takedown attempts against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira and I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll be able to get Edwards to the mat as well.
Both men are good, well-rounded fighters with a bright future in the welterweight division. It wouldn’t surprise me if either athlete walked away victorious this weekend. With that being said, there are odds available and this is a betting breakdown.
I’m inclined to side with Gunnar Nelson as the slight underdog. He’s a potent finisher on the mat and I think there’s a good chance he can take it there. I don’t think it would be unfeasible for the Icelander to win a kickboxing match either.
Pick: Gunnar Nelson +130