Bo Nickal (5-0, 2-0 UFC) remains undefeated after a vicious first-round knockout at UFC 290 this past Saturday night in Las Vegas.
On a UFC card that will be remembered for years to come, Nickal started the main card action with a 38-second knockout victory over unbeaten opponent Val Woodburn (7-1, 0-1 UFC).
Nickal continues to prove that he is one of the best UFC prospects of all time, as the 3x NCAA Wrestling Champion showed that his boxing can also be an issue for any opponent in the future.
As expected, Nickal seemed to be looking for a takedown just seconds into the fight. Woodburn’s hands consistently dropped early on to stop an attempted takedown from Nickal, which allowed Nickal to fire a bullet of a right hook to rock Woodburn. Nickal followed with a left and then finished with a bomb of an uppercut to send Woodburn wobbling to his back. Nickal followed up with one shot before being pulled off Woodburn to end the fight in exhilarating fashion.
Now with five-straight first-round victories, Nickal has yet to eclipse six full minutes of time in the octagon and does not have his eyes set on any particular opponent.
Nickal is in a very interesting spot compared to every other middleweight in the UFC division, and it does not seem like Nickal or the UFC is in a rush to have him fight a top-15 contender in the near future.
Despite many MMA fans wanting Nickal to fight an elite wrestler and contender in the UFC, like Khamzat Chimaev (12-0, 6-0 UFC), we may have to wait a while for that to happen.
Nickal’s situation seems to be very similar to the rise of Sean O’Malley, the #1 bantamweight contender who fights for the championship belt in less than six weeks. Like Nickal, O’Malley earned his contract to the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series and has since slowly made his way to the top of the bantamweight division with only one loss in the UFC.
Many UFC fans became eager to see O’Malley fight a top-15 opponent for years as he fought eight opponents outside that ranking before fighting Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 (ruled no contest).
Just after two fights in the UFC, fans are starting to say the same about Nickal and are reluctant to buy in to Nickal’s potential.
It’s an interesting angle to look at, but Nickal could be following the same path as O’Malley. Nickal could gain more experience in the octagon all while being headlined on the main card of big events and earning a healthy purse.
However, Nickal has already made numerous comments about elite contenders like Chimaev that could spark a big fight if he wanted to. The wrestler’s mindset of Nickal is that he will accept whatever fight Dana White and Hunter Campbell offer him, and those fights may be more opponents outside the top-15.
Nickal is definitely guaranteed to be featured on the main card for his next fight regardless of his opponent, which means that Bo has the leverage and opportunity to decide which level of competition he wants next.
At the post-fight press conference at UFC 290, Nickal made it clear that he will take some time with his team and management to see what is next for him, but if Dana White and the UFC come offering a huge fight with an elite contender in the upcoming months, do not expect Nickal to reject that fight or any other fight they may think of.