On Tuesday night, Bo Nickal again proved that he may be the premier prospect in mixed martial arts when he scored another quick submission win on "Dana White's Contender Series." Unlike his debut on the show on Aug. 9, Nickal left with an official UFC contract as the hype surrounding the three-time NCAA national champion in freestyle wrestling only continued to grow.
Nickal's 52-second triangle choke submission of Donovan Beard, a capable fighter who had won the CFFC middleweight title in his previous fight and entered with a 7-1 professional record, again stunned even hardcore longtime watchers of the sport.
Nickal locked in the triangle without use of his hands.— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) September 28, 2022
Sign him now. Immediately. He just DEMOLISHED a good fighter. Jesus H. Christ.
Nickal's wrestling background gives him the most dominant base from which to build a fighter. High-level wrestling allows a fighter to control where a fight takes place, patching over areas where they may have deficiencies and limiting the chance to be exposed on the feet.
In the 2:27 it has taken Nickal to win his first three professional fights, he has shown that he has some power in his strikes and a willingness to mix it up a bit before employing his wrestling. He scored a knockout in his pro debut and in his win on Tuesday night, a big left hook scored a knockdown that set up the eventual triangle choke.
Of course, the sport has seen other heavily-hyped wrestlers stumble. The easiest comparison is Aaron Pico, considered by many to be the best prospect in MMA history ahead of his pro debut. Pico was submitted in just 24 seconds in that fight in 2017 and started his career with a 4-3 record after two knockout losses. Pico has since seemed to put together the pieces and fights on Saturday at Bellator 286 needing just one or two more wins to secure a shot at the promotion's featherweight title.
Nickal has yet to face the same level of adversity as Pico. But, as UFC president Dana White frequently says, there are no easy fights in the UFC. While fighters like Beard are not pushovers, Nickal is swimming with the sharks now.
After securing his UFC contract, Nickal was quick to call out Khamzat Chimaev, the wrecking ball who has decimated nearly every fighter he has faced in the UFC and seems a lock to fight for the welterweight title in the near future -- if he can avoid missing weight as he did at UFC 279.
"[Chimaev] is good without a doubt," Nickal said at the post-fight press conference. "You can't take that away from him. He's got skills and he does a lot of things really well. That being said, ask anybody who knows anything about wrestling and who watches the sport and studies it and puts time into it. I'm one of the best wrestlers in the world. You can go in the Penn State room, still to this day, without having wrestled a year-and-a-half, I'm still right there. There's just a different level there."
It's understandable that a competitor and lifelong winner like Nickal, the 2019 Big Ten Athlete of the Year, is already discussing fights with the best fighters in the world. However, to the promotion's credit, the UFC does not seem willing to push Nickal up the ladder too quickly.
"Let's not get crazy here," White said at the same press conference. "You don't test him against ranked talent. You bring him in just like you would bring in any prospect. You build him up, give him fights. The problem is, there are no easy fights here. This isn't like the boxing model. But he walked into a show where there are no easy fights. Everybody here are killers."
Nickal believes he's the real deal, the UFC agrees, as do fight fans and media. He's now a UFC fighter and will have every chance to prove the hype is justified.
There are no easy fights in the UFC. But there are fighters who make many UFC fights look easy. Only time will tell if Nickal is in that group.