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Kavanagh adamant that Nelson can emulate SBG team-mate McGregor's UFC title triumph

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about that.”

Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among the spectators at last October's UFC Dublin card at the 3Arena.
Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among the spectators at last October's UFC Dublin card at the 3Arena.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

GUNNAR NELSON WILL aim to return to winning ways when he faces highly-regarded Russian fighter Albert Tumenov at UFC Fight Night 87.

According to John Kavanagh, Nelson’s coach, the SBG welterweight is ready to seal a win that will get him back on track for a title shot in the 170lbs division.

Despite hailing from Iceland, Irish fans have adopted Nelson as one of their own. The 27-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has trained regularly under Kavanagh in Dublin since he was a teenager.

Nelson reaffirmed his credentials as a welterweight contender with a very impressive first-round submission win against Brandon Thatch last July at UFC 189 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

However, Nelson’s progress ground to a halt at the same venue at UFC 194 in December when his own elite grappling pedigree was comprehensively nullified by Brazilian veteran Demian Maia over the course of a unanimous-decision loss.

Nelson (14-2-1) subsequently dropped out of the rankings but he’ll aim to launch himself back into the upper echelons of the 170lbs division when he faces Albert Tumenov (17-2) in Rotterdam on Sunday, 8 May.

Tumenov has shown himself to be one of the top strikers currently operating in the UFC, with his win against Lorenz Larkin at UFC 195 in January catapulting him into 13th place in the rankings.

“This is a brilliant match-up and I think it offers the perfect opportunity for Gunni to get back in the mix,” John Kavanagh told The42.

“I’ve seen the fight described as a clash of styles — a striker versus a grappler. But I’d describe it as a striker versus a well-rounded MMA fighter. Gunni’s ability in all areas is probably overshadowed by how high his level of grappling is, but he can win the fight in all ranges.”

UFC 194 Mixed Martial Arts Gunnar Nelson en route to a loss against Demian Maia at UFC 194. Source: John Locher

The loss to Demian Maia hasn’t dampened Kavanagh’s belief that Nelson can become a UFC champion, and he expects the Icelandic fighter to prove that he’s capable of challenging for the belt when the UFC heads to Holland for the first time in May.

Kavanagh: “There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about that Gunni can be a champion. He’s even stronger since the loss against Demian Maia. It didn’t go our way but Gunni learned that night that he can survive absolutely anything. It was a lesson learned and now it’s time to bounce back.

“I think this next fight will be similar to the one against Brandon Thatch, with a similar outcome too.”

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