This past Saturday night at UFC 290, a battle between two undefeated middleweight prospects kicked off the main card. Former three-time NCAA division one wrestling champion Bo Nickal (5-0) was looking to move to 2-0 inside the octagon as he took on newcomer Val Woodburn (7-1).
Woodburn was set to compete on the upcoming season of Dana White’s Contender Series. However, after Tresean Gore got hurt and had to pull out of the fight against Nickal last minute, Woodburn jumped at the opportunity to take on the promotion’s most hyped prospect.
Woodburn showed that he could be dangerous in the opening seconds. He’s built like a tank and threw a furious right hand that just missed Nickal. However, Nickal remained composed in the pocket and then he landed a huge right of his own that stunned Woodburn.
He then landed a perfect uppercut which sent Woodburn to the mat. A few follow up shots landed and Nickal scored a TKO win in less than 40 seconds at UFC 290.
What’s next after UFC 290?
These types of fights are always dangerous for big time prospects. If they win and look underwhelming, it can hurt their stock. If they lose, it’s devastating to their stock. They need to walk through the competition when the competition is viewed as so inferior. That’s exactly what Bo Nickal did at UFC 290.
So, now what do you do with him? This is the tricky part. I don’t believe that the UFC wants to rush Nickal. Instead, I think they want to build him slowly hoping he continues to walk through competition on his way to the rankings and eventually the middleweight title.
Depending on his recovery, they could just look to rebook the Gore fight. Gore is a step up in competition, but it’s still a fight where Nickal would be heavily favored. I also have my eye out on the Gerald Meerschaert – Andre Petroski fight that’s coming up next month.
Meerschaert in particular is one to watch. He’s become a little bit of the guy who the top prospects fight to gain more credibility. See Khamzat Chimaev and Joe Pyfer. However, he would be a solid test for Nickal if they want to have him take that next step in competition.