SBG Ireland At UFC 194
SBG Ireland’s Gunnar Nelson vs Demian Maia
This Saturday, SBG will once again take center stage in one of the biggest MMA events of all time. Straight Blast Gym is home to two of the fighters featuring on a fully stacked UFC 194 main card the likes of which hasn’t been seen for some time. Of course, most people, MMA fan or not, are aware of SBG Ireland’s Conor McGregor taking on Jose Aldo in the main event. Memorable appearances on news and late night talk shows ensure he continues to be the most sought-after fighter around today. But an SBG athlete is also involved in arguably the most technically intriguing match-up of the night, as SBG Ireland’s Gunnar Nelson takes on Demian Maia earlier in the card.
The reason the contest is so intriguing is that Maia represents the toughest test to Gunnar Nelson’s MMA grappling ability to date. 10 of Nelson’s 14 profession wins, including four of five inside the UFC Octagon, have been via submission. But even in a sport full of BJJ black belts, Maia is still a step up. As Nelson puts it:
“He (Maia) is a world-class black belt… That’s the difference. There can be as much of a difference between a black belt and a black belt as a white belt and a black belt. If you’re a world-class black belt, it’s a whole different game, and he is world-class and he’s got a few titles under his belt in jiu-jitsu, and he’s showcased it in MMA as well.”
Despite the tough test, Nelson is happy to get the opportunity to fight Maia:
“It’s a fight that’s been talked about for a long time, a fight that a lot of people want to see, including me. I’m very happy to be fighting Demian Maia, especially because I think he’s on his way out now and I’m catching him before he leaves. He’s on a winning streak now, so I think this is the perfect time for me to fight him.”
While many will be hoping for an exhibition of exceptional grappling from this fight, Nelson has shown that he is equally capable from standing. After suffering his first career loss against Rick Story in 2014, many did not like his chances against Brandon Thatch earlier in the year, expecting Nelson to fall foul to Thatch’s stand-up ability. Contrary to prediction though, Nelson did not look to avoid Thatch and bring the fight to the ground, but instead felled Thatch with a straight left, before choking him for the win.
“It was a very good fight for me. I got to showcase my striking a little bit more and the hands definitely set the whole thing up, but the ground finished the work. I’m very happy with the performance.”
If anything, that win shows that Gunnar Nelson is not just the grappler many see him as, but instead a fighter who continues to develop and grow, learning from each contest and working to improve over time. As such, Nelson’s fight with Maia is not only intriguing due to the potential match-up of two great grapplers, but also because of the potential to see a further improved Gunnar. Good luck to Gunnar Nelson and the whole SBG Ireland team this weekend at UFC 194!