On the heels of his second straight UFC loss, a knockout by Mike Swick, DaMarques Johnson will look to keep his UFC job against debuting Icelandic prospect Gunnar Nelson.
Striking: One might look at Gunnar Nelson’s status as a Renzo Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and assume that he’s a relatively deficient striker. But Nelson also has a background in karate, and has a stance very similar to fellow welterweight Stephen Thompson. Nelson has sharp kicks and decent punches, but his application of striking in MMA is basically as a tool to get fights to the ground. Make no mistake, he is no slouch as a striker. His opponent, DaMarques Johnson, hits hard and is a threat to win by knockout, but is not a prolific or technically sound striker by any means. Still, if Johnson wants to win this fight, he probably has to do it by knockout, and he definitely has that potential, but he’ll likely find Nelson’s chin a tough target to hit.
Wrestling: Johnson is a decent offensive wrestler but a terrible defensive wrestler. That’s bad news against Gunnar Nelson, who is not a great takedown artist, but has a quick shot and good timing. Nelson particularly likes to go for takedowns the moment his opponent rushes in, and Johnson is absolutely the kind of fighter who will do that. Nelson always looks to get fights to the ground, and since Johnson has been taken down repeatedly in almost all of his fights, I have no reason to doubt Nelson will do the same.
Submissions: Johnson is just as aggressive on the ground as he is standing, which is why his fights rarely go to decision, but it’s doubtful he’ll have much success against the very sound ground game of Nelson. Nelson is the kind of ground fighter who favors position over submission, and will methodically pass his opponent’s guard, achieve full mount or back mount, and then finish with strikes or a submission. And just as DaMarques Johnson has poor takedown defense, he has poor submission defense, losing by that method six times in his career. The ground game is Nelson’s domain.
Prediction: Gunnar Nelson by submission. I was very impressed by what I saw from him on tape. Not only is Nelson a fighter with decent takedowns and very good Jiu-Jitsu, he has a good karate striking game to go along with it. On the flip side, DaMarques Johnson is a fighter with glaring holes in his takedown defense and submission defense. From everything I see, this is a nightmare match for Johnson, whose weaknesses align perfectly with Nelson’s strengths. I have to take Nelson to get this fight to the ground and force Johnson to tap out.