Last week, it was the Connor McGregor show at UFC 178.
Tomorrow, McGregor teammate Gunnar Nelson looks to expand on his teammate’s success with a victory of his own.
Wiley veteran Rick Story stands in the way. He almost pulled off a come-from-behind win over TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum, only to lose a split-decision.
You can bet he’s aware of the hype and would like to flip the script.
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
In case you missed the weigh-ins:
NIKLAS BACKSTROM (8-0-0, 1 NC) VS MIKE “THE WARRIOR” WILKINSON (8-1-0)
Andrews: Backstrom made a successful short-notice debut in the summer when he submitted Finland’s Tom Niinimaki. He has the height and reach advantage and is solid on the ground. Wilkinson is decnt on the ground, but takes a lot of strikes.
Wilkinson still fuming from Backstrom’s ‘no-hoper’ interview and will be motivated, but I see Niklas overcoming all and submitting him when the dust settles.
Andrews Prediction: Niklas Backstrom via submission.
Wiseman: Wilkinson will definitely want to take this to the mat, but both fighters have great takedown defence. Wilkinson is superior on the mat, but Backstrom will connect several times in the standup before things go to the mat. That’s what Wilkinson doesn’t want. Backstrom is long, with power. Backstrom will use his counter striking and precision to get the win.
Wiseman Prediction: Niklas Backstrom via TKO.
ILIR “THE SLEDGEHAMMER” LATIFI (10-3-0, 1 NC) VS JAN BLACHOWICZ (17-3-0)
Andrews: This is a big step up for Blachowicz, the pride of Polish MMA. Jan is making his UFC debut, Latifi already made his, facing top-notch competition in Gerard Mousasi and Cyril Diabete. He is also the hometown hero, but gives up some reach and height. Latifi’s leg kicks and ground game should take the starch out of Blachowicz for the unanimous decision.
Andrews Prediction: Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi via unanimous decision.
Wiseman: Blachowicz is making is UFC debut, so of course one can always think of nerves. Regardless of experience, Latifi’s wrestling is going to be a problem. Yes they both have great submission games, but with the size of Latifi weighing down on Blachowicz, that’s going to be an experience he hasn’t had. Latifi’s power is also going to be a problem. Blachowicz will certainly put up a fight to make things entertaining, but Latifi will be the superior fighter.
Wiseman Prediction: Ilir Latifi via TKO.
AKIRA CORASSANI (14-5-1) VS MAX “BLESSED” HOLLOWAY (10-3-0)
Andrews: A whopping 64% of Corassani’s wins went to decision. He has only a 7% KO ratio and a 21% submission rate. Not good news when facing one of the most technical guys in the division. Holloway put away a tough Clay Collard in August. Corassani will make him earn it, but Holloway’s technical skills will shine through.
Andrews Prediction: Max Holloway via TKO.
Wiseman: This fight is going to be a standing battle. Corassani will want to grapple, but Holloway is able to throw elbows and defend well to get off the cage. Holloway has the reach advantage, so he will be able to us this for striking and power. Carassani’s chin isn’t the strongest, but I see this fight going the distance as each fighter tries to put together the better combination.
Wiseman Prediction: Max “Blessed” Holloway via unanimous decision.
#12 GUNNAR “GUN” NELSON (13-0-1) VS RICK “THE HORROR” STORY (17-8-0)
Andrews: Rick Story needs to keep this fight standing. The exception to this is to use his wrestling to wear out Nelson. Only 8% of Nelson’s wins have gone to a decision and he has a 62% submission rate and a 31% KO rate. Nelson has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie and is the more versatile fighter. Story put in a valiant performance against Kevin Gastelum and we saw an improvement in his overall wrestling game, but he has close to a punchers chance here. This fight is Nelson’s to lose.
Andrews Prediction: Gunnar Nelson via submission.
Wiseman: Nelson is a submission genious. He is able to perfectly set up a takedown, score, transition, finish. He can defend a takedown to prevent ending up on bottom, but is very heavy on top with speed on his side he is able to submit anyone. Story is sturdy and packs a load of power, match that with aggression and you have his fighting style. The problem with that kind of fight style is that it won’t work against Nelson. Nelson fights very long, but is able to get in and out of the pocket. He has more power and is more precise in striking. His takedowns and clean with a tight submission game. Nelson will be the one dictating this fight.
Wiseman Prediction: Gunnar Nelson via submission.