There are few athletes as exciting as mixed martial arts prospects. The thought of a young man or woman full of hope, energy and a commitment to violence thrashing their way through the UFC roster is must-see TV.
Think of Jon Jones earning the light heavyweight strap at just 23 years old. Or maybe Ronda Rousey arm-barring her way to becoming the first female champion. Even “Sugar” Sean O’Malley’s gradual rise to the top has been an exciting storyline to follow.
The hype is all very different when we’re talking about an athlete who has true championship potential. That’s what the UFC has in middleweight prospect Bo Nickal. The 26-year-old was a three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion who’s been building toward a move to MMA since 2019.
He’s an electric talent, which is why we wanted to break down all the Bo Nickal odds.
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Who Is Bo Nickal?
Fight fans were introduced to Nickal during Week 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series on August 9. The Penn State product closed his Octagon debut vs Zack Borrego as an outrageous -2800 favorite.
Basically, Nickal was given a can to crush – and he destroyed Borrego, who also missed weight before the fight. Nickal landed a thunderous takedown right away and transitioned into some heavy ground and pound. The American was like a spider monkey, using lightning-quick transitions to pivot from a standing guillotine attempt to a back mount.
Yeah, Bo Nickal is the REAL DEAL pic.twitter.com/d6yzxLkgdo— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) August 10, 2022
Bo eventually sunk a rear naked choke (almost a neck crank, really) one minute into the fight, and Borrego tapped out. Immediately, there was chatter about him earning a UFC contract. His power, style and supreme confidence made him an easy choice for a deal. Not so fast, apparently.
Dana White wasn’t super impressed by Nickal’s dominance, insisting that the wrestler prove himself on the Contender Series once more and awarding him a “development contract.” That brings us to Nickal’s next fight odds.
Bo Nickal Next Fight Odds
Nickal’s opponent, Donovan Beard, was the middleweight champion of Cage Fury FC and looks to have a much stronger wrestling background than Nickal’s last opponent.
Beard holds a 7-1 pro record, including three victories by submission. The 32-year-old also has the chin of a grizzled MMA vet. In a fight vs Tracy Hardy in Peak Fighting, Beard ate a wicked flying knee that dropped him in Round 1. He immediately engaged on the ground and eventually flipped to a dominant position, scoring a ground-and-pound TKO before the round concluded.
All to say, Nickal will have his hands full. He likely won’t be able to glide through Beard’s guard like butter, meaning he’ll have to get creative with his takedown entries. Also, since both fighters are esteemed wrestlers, there’s a chance this bout turns into a striking match. Nickal might welcome that challenge, too. He seems very keen to flash his entire skill set, and after his first fight flexed the wrestling, MMA fans would love to see Nickal let the hands go.
Our pick is Bo Nickal by KO/TKO (+110).
Can Bo Nickal Become A UFC Champion?
From the get-go, Nickal’s been adamant his journey into MMA is about becoming the UFC middleweight champion and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. A lot of patience is required to achieve such a goal. By all accounts, though, he possesses the maturity to get there.
“I would love to get the (UFC) contract,” Nickal told ESPN after his last fight. “And that’ll be a step in my career, but at the end of the day, I’m gonna be all the way on the top of the mountain.”
If we want to have fun and look down the road – or to the top of the mountain, as Nickal put it – middleweight is a great division for the prospect to enter. The incumbent champion, Israel Adesanya, looks unbeatable – though that could change vs Alex Pereira – but the rest of the 185-pounders lack the sizzle that Nickal brings.
Stylistically, there aren’t a ton of pure wrestlers at middleweight. Ranked fighters like Marvin Vettori, Derek Brunson, Jack Hermansson and Sean Strickland have wrestling skill sets but none as polished as Nickal’s. Even Kelvin Gastelum, a Division I junior college wrestler, doesn’t stack up to Nickal’s pedigree.
Would Nickal beat any of the aforementioned fighters today? No. There are intangibles that only UFC experience can give you. Fighting in the Octagon at Madison Square Garden is very different than wrestling some bum at The Apex. But the groundwork, in terms of attitude and talent, is there for the kid to become a UFC champion one day.