Bo Nickal has recently burst onto the UFC scene with his recent Contender Series win against Donovan Beard. Carrying a shallow 2-0 record into the fight, many fans and skeptics were curious to see whether Nickal was just another wrestling specialist (albeit a spectacular one at that), or a well-rounded product of a new generation of MMA training and development. He had already made his mark a month prior on a Contender Series card against Zachary Borrego, but fans didn’t see much outside of his strong grappling and relentless pressure, something most had already expected, with the fight only lasting one minute.
Needless to say, it seems as though Nickal proved himself as a mixed-martial artist, showing fairly sharp striking, an intimidating wrestling base, and a surprisingly technical submission game; all of which in the staggeringly quick time frame of 52 seconds.
Nickal had already garnered some hype leading up to this, being the main event of his debut Contender Series card and having garnered a reputation as a phenomenal wrestler during his collegiate career at Penn State. Immediately following this, Nickal was slated to appear on the main card of UFC 282 opposite Jamie Pickett, an established name in his division. This was a luxury that most would only dream of, to be a main card opener of a pay-per-view, however, Nickal was forced to pull out due to an injury. The fight has since been rescheduled to open next week’s pay-per-view card at UFC 285, this time on a card that’s arguably even more stacked.
- Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett is part of the UFC 285 PPV main card
- Order the ESPN+ PPV now to watch every fight live this weekend
This opens the question, with the recent fast-tracking of stars like Khamzat Chimaev and Alex Pereira, what path is Nickal’s career going to take and, should he see continuous success in the octagon, how quickly can we see him in the title picture?
This would’ve been a relatively foolish question until a couple of months ago. It was rare for a fighter with a 3-0 record to even make it to the UFC, let alone start off on a main card and already appear in talks of how he fits in as a contender. However, the recent success of Alex Pereira, a 6-1 kickboxing specialist, defeating one of the most established champions in the history of the company in Israel Adesanya has opened discourse regarding the importance of records in championship fights.
As well as this, the pushing that many recent stars like Khamzat Chimaev, Sean O’Malley, and Paddy Pimblett have illustrated, at least to an extent, that the UFC plays favorites in choosing fighters who they deem more marketable. Bo Nickal fits into this category remarkably, bringing in a vast audience of American collegiate wrestling fans who’ve watched him throughout his career. The fighter already has over 280,000 followers on Instagram and, at the young age of 27, this will only continue to grow.
With that being said, what can we expect to see out of his career? With a win against Jamie Pickett, depending on how quickly and in what fashion it is in, it’s very likely that Nickal will remain exclusively as a pay-per-view fighter and most likely would remain on the main card at the very least. In fact, it’s very arguable that he’s only two or three decent wins away from a main event spot and, at that point, title contention would largely be a product of the ebbs and flow of the middleweight division.
All-in-all, it is very likely that Nickal’s performance this upcoming weekend will assert his standing in the company and middleweight division, regardless of how shallow his record is as of right now. In a division filled with grappling specialists, it’s easy to see that Nickal will find at least some level of success at 185 lbs, especially when considering how the UFC will handle his matchmaking and marketability like other stars.
Nonetheless, Nickal is one of the most interesting prospects in the entire UFC. His last performance in Dana White’s Contender Series showed not only a rapid development of fighting fundamentals but also a natural instinct for combat and a keen ability to pull the trigger to score a finish. It’ll be fascinating to watch how not only his career develops, but his skills as a fighter as well, because, as of right now, his potential seems limitless.