Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC Fight Night 113 as Gunnar Nelson takes on Santiago Ponzinibbio in a Top 15 welterweight clash.
Gunnar Nelson (Record: 16-2, -160 Favorite, Power Ranking: B)
The best-ever mixed martial artist to come out of Iceland, Nelson enters his second-ever UFC main event on the back of a two-fight winning streak after submitting both Alan Jouban and Albert Tumenov. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and 2009 Pan American Gold Medalist, Nelson entered the UFC with a lot of fanfare and has not disappointed. He holds a 7-2 record inside the Octagon, with six of those wins by submission.
On the feet, Nelson is a low-volume striker, landing just 1.98 significant strikes per minute. Even though he’s not an active striker, he can be effective because of his accuracy. He successfully lands 56 percent of his strikes. Nelson has a sniper’s mentality on the feet and will wait for an opportunity as opposed to forcing the action. Ultimately though, Nelson uses his striking to help setup his takedowns. Nelson secures takedowns at a high rate: 1.68 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 62 percent success rate. When Nelson gets opponents to the mat, he’s got one of the best top position grappling games in the sport. He doesn’t need a lot of time to get the job done, and he does so with relative ease. The last thing an opponent of Nelson’s wants to do is be taken down by the BJJ ace.
Santiago Ponzinibbio (Record: 24-3, +140 Underdog, Power Ranking: C+)
The Argentina-born welterweight is riding the best form of his career. The American Top Team-trained fighter has won four fights in a row, most recently a decision win over Nordine Taleb. The 30-year-old welterweight is one of the most improved fighters in the UFC over the last couple of years.
Ponzinibbio is an aggressive striker and active from the opening bell of his fights. He tends to push the pace in his fights, forcing his opponents into a brawl. He’s got a good right hand and tends to throw the majority of his punches with power. He lands with high volume (4.03 significant strikes per minute) and has knocked out three opponents thus far in the UFC. With his heavy hands and volume approach, he does tend to slow down in his bouts and has been fatigued in the third round in multiple fights. His ground game is rather limited, and he hasn’t shown much of an ability on the ground. Furthermore, his takedown defense is only 60 percent, so he can be exploited by a fighter with a solid grappling approach.
In a battle of contrasting styles, Nelson takes on Ponzinibbio to main event the UFC Fight Night 113 card in Glasgow, Scotland. Look for Ponzinibbio to come out fast in this bout. He will look to put the pressure on Nelson and force him into a striking exchange. Nelson is going to be cautious and look to avoid getting into a firefight with the dangerous striker. If Ponzinibbio is going to win this fight, I think he needs to pour it on early and get a finish. If he’s unable to do that, he will get frustrated and take more chances. With chances come risk, and that will make Ponzinibbio more vulnerable to takedowns. I expect Nelson to take advantage of an over-aggressive Ponzinibbio, secure a takedown, and then take his opponent to task to earn his seventh submission win in the UFC. The Nelson Submission prop hasn’t been released yet, but it will be a consideration if above +150. Nelson has won all but one of his fights in the promotion by submission, and it will be hard for him to win a five-round decision given Ponzinibbio’s volume striking. In other words, a finish, specifically by submission, is his most likely way to win this fight.
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