Perhaps the most electrifying prospect to step foot in the UFC in quite some time will make his long-awaited debut, the three-time NCAA Wrestling Champion and Dan Hodge Trophy winner, Bo Nickal (3-0).
A six-fight UFC veteran, Jamie Pickett (13-8; 2-4 in the UFC) is looking to halt the massive hype and re-enter his name into conversation as being an exciting middleweight prospect, a tag associated with him after coming off a 2-round finish on DWCS back in 2020.
The excitement to see the wrestling stand out in action to kick off the start of the UFC 285 PPV main card is quite high, and a fight you certainly want to tune into and watch! Catch all of the action live on Saturday night by ordering the UFC 285 PPV on ESPN+.
Bo Nickal is a massive -1400 favorite over Jamie Pickett. This line indicates a win probability of 93% for the Penn State megastar.
Many credentialed wrestlers have made the transition into MMA. From Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo earning medals in the Olympics to Kamaru Usman winning a National Title in college at the D2 level, wrestlers transitioning into MMA is quite common, and, often a seamless transition at that.
While Olympic medaling is the pinnacle of success for freestyle wrestling, the grand stage for the slightly different style of folk is at the D1 national level. For Bo Nickal, saying he was a successful wrestler in college would be a vast understatement, as he was a 4-time All American, 4-time Team National Champion, 3-time Individual National Champion, a Dan Hogen Award Winner – award for the best wrestler in the nation – and simply, one of the best wrestlers to have ever worn a Penn State Singlet, a program that has won a National Championship 9 of the last 11 years.
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I spend a fair amount of time articulating the collegiate accolades of Nickal to attempt to illustrate just how elite of a wrestler he is. This skill has demonstrably translated into MMA as he put on a clinic, albeit brief, in his first DWCS bout, taking down an opponent, swiftly taking the back, and finishing it off with a submission victory all of which happened early in the first round. While the most impressive performance I have seen on DWCS, he did not get a contract because he was just 2-0 as a professional, so, Bo fought again on that same season of DWCS where he faked a single leg attempt, landed a massive left hand that nearly stopped the fight in one punch, and then went on to ground and pound, and then, elected to show off back submission skills with a triangle choke. Once again, all of that happened early in the first round.
Bo’s elite wrestling gives him a massive advantage on the feet because his opponent is cognitively thinking about having to defend a shot, and because of this, they are somewhat frozen which allows the hyperathletic individual that Bo is to land explosive strikes on the feet. This aspect of his game is very underrated. Moreover, the 140+ match experience he had at the highest level of wrestling makes Bo a seasoned competitor compared to his limited professional fights, an experience gap many overlook. All in all, the hype surrounding Bo Nickal is real and more than earned.
Where Bo’s hype is extremely prevalent, the hype that was once around Pickett is no more. Going 2-4 in the UFC, Jamie Pickett has underwhelmed, particularly knowing he is a well-built 185’er with massive amounts of athletic potential. The issue is that while he possesses the raw ability, he is typically quite passive in fight tendency and does not utilize his athleticism in the octagon — think the inverse of what we just saw last week with Rafael Alves using big spurts of athleticism to be dangerous throughout the fight. Instead, Pickett elects to use a combination of a long straight left hand that will be thrown from distance, and then, he will parlay his left hand into a clinch where he wants to keep it there to land knees to the body.
The style, of grinding his way to a victory against the cage will simply not work against Nickal. Because of this known fact, we may see a new version of Jamie Pickett come Saturday night. If a new version does arrive, I would anticipate it to be one where he goes for broke on the feet, looking to land damaging blows early to end the night before it hits the mat. While this plan is likely the all-or-nothing plan he needs to implement, the track record for how he fights gives me pause in believing he will do it. If he does not, then a still-moving opponent on the feet in Pickett will allow Bo to make quick work just as he did in all 3 of his professional fights to date.
Prediction and Betting Guide
As indicated by the sizable -1400 price tag, Bo Nickal should win this fight quite easily. I fully expect this “should” to become reality, and knowing Pickett will likely stick to the same mundane game plan that has caused him to go 2-4 thus far in the UFC, I fully expect Bo to find success early and finish the fight quickly.
Because of this, I absolutely love the -400 price of Bo winning inside the distance in parlays and for a single-fight play, I am trusting once again that Bo fighting a lesser opponent equates to him being able to find a finish inside of 5 minutes.
Pick: Bo Nickal by first-round stoppage (-270)