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UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao - The Idiot's Guide to the Fight Pass Main Card

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Future WW contender Gunnar Nelson is the co-main event for UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao (to be previewed tomorrow) in a brief series of mostly one-sided bouts.

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Gunnar Nelson vs. Zak Cummings Welterweight

In theory, I don't have a problem with one-sided matchmaking. It's a utilitarian service to the sport of MMA that is too often ignored in favor of the sink or swim attitude used against its prospects. And it makes zero sense.

It's not about the "easy win", nor is it about spoonfeeding. It's about getting a fighter with superior talent comfortable in his new environment. If you want your prospects to shine, let them put on a show first. This bout sort of straddles that line. Gunnar has already faced better opposition in Jorge Santiago and Omari Akhemodov. Now he's facing Zak Cummings, whose 2-0 UFC record is sort of overshadowed by the fact that he lost to Dylan Andrews on TUF. This bout feels like two steps backwards. Maybe Joe Silva had a thing for fighting the Abobos from Double Dragon last, or something.

In any event, here we are. For a small card, it's a reasonable fight if just because Gunnar is a world class talent, and still only 25 years of age. I would argue that Nelson could fight for the title tonight, and not get embarrassed. Although part of that is a function of WW looking a little slim these days. I think Hendricks is gettable, for as good as he is. But he's getting ready to face the winner of Matt Brown vs. Robbie Lawler: two men who are the sum of their win streaks rather than a collection of their raw abilities. I'm not saying that WW is shallow in a post-GSP world: just that it's in a state of flux, and could be exploited by a young talent with loads of potential.

We're getting a little off topic, but this is Gunnar's show all the way. His maturity, and willingness to experiment on the feet is paying dividends. He chambers one of the more potent and compact right hand uppercuts from a southpaw stance (that changes from round to round). And his ADCC chops (with a win over massive anarchist, Jeff Monson) are apparent in the way he just flat out glides in top control from guard to side control to something more dangerous.

Cummings is not a bad fighter. But at +460, this sounds about right for him. Still, Gunnar would be wise not to take him lightly. Actually, who are we kidding? It won't matter one bit.

Still, Cummings is much better than his TUF background indicates. For one, he's a large WW having fought as high as 205. He's also pretty well rounded, and defensively capable. The problem here is that Gunnar's methodical kickboxing that draws similarities to Lyoto Machida, is exactly what Cummings doesn't have the game to counter. In addition, his style plays right into Gunnar's Icelandic hands. Zak likes to work in top control where he's able to snatch a submission with reasonable precision. Of course, he's only done so against inferior opponents, and even then not all that impressively (see the Yan Cabral fight where Cabral was winning the exchanges early). Gunnar is not inferior. In fact, he'll be contending for the title very very soon.

Gunnar Nelson by RNC, round 2.

Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall Flyweight

This is easily the most evenly matched fight on the card. Which is interesting given where both men are at in their careers: at the proverbial crossroads.

McCall has had the toughest road mentally. After the roadblock, and incompetence that was the debut Flyweight tournament in Australia, he came back only to lose his next two while dealing with personal troubles away from the cage, including a disturbing story involving former TUFer, and human toxoplasma*, Rob Emerson.

It's hard not to root for McCall to be successful. Only McCall could recite Joseph Benavidez's oddball poem, the Entertainer, and capture the mixture of silliness, violence, despair and optimism all at once knowing his unique, yet tragic history. McCall is a reminder that despite the veritable weapon prizefighters have turned their bodies into, there's a unique vulnerability to the men and women who can't mask their identities.

So he finds himself in a very tough matchup against the perpetually tough, Brad Pickett. That Pickett is the slight underdog at +150 is a bit of a shock, and worth considering. After all, McCall is an emotional fighter, which means he's subject to the ups and downs of maintaining your health inside a cage. He's prone to frustration and his expertise on the feet will be challenged by a guy who likely won't come close to being knocked out. I still wonder how he took those shots from Michael McDonald. If you're a BE reader who obsesses over minutia, like the pics we like using for our articles, you know exactly what shots I'm talking about...

Anyway, I still like McCall in this one because his movement is something Pickett will have trouble with. While I think Brad is a solid boxer, and is able to hide his plodding footwork well, I don't think he moves well enough to really outpace Ian's lateral movement. I just think Pickett's strength at the higher weights is that he could compete with his opponent's speed: that won't fly at, uhh...flyweight.

Kudos to both men for an epic stare down.

Ian McCall by Decision.

Norman Parke vs. Naoyuki Kotani Lightweight

No matter who you are, this is a head scratcher.

If you're a casual fan you're thinking "neither name rings a bell".

If you're a casual fan who watches a lot of UFC you're thinking "Naoyuki Kotani doesn't ring a bell?"

If you're a massive dork who spends most of his time writing screenplays the world will never read, and blogs about MMA because being a Shooto hipster at one time made the powers that be on this swell site mistook you for someone who knows what he's talking about, you're thinking "ZST never produces consistent fighters, so why is the guy who got steamrolled by Luiz Azeredo at the great Pride Bushido 9, and then blitzed by Denis Siver fighting a UFC regular who is on a 3-0-1 winning streak?'

Politics.

Dana White probably wouldn't complain if Parke entered the cage during Conor McGregor's bout against Diego Brandao and slammed his back with a press row chair. The two "famously" have a deep seated problem with each other.

So here's a chance for Parke to look good and potentially set each other up for their own showdown. He's very active on the feet, so while he doesn't have a lot of power, he should be able to rack up points on the judges' scorecards. Despite the chances nobody is giving Kotani, I don't expect Parke to look good against him. Parke isn't imposing, and Kotani isn't an action fighter, yet does a lot of small things well. His performances are also extremely bipolar. Somehow he was able to handle Remigijus Morkevicius's whirlwind offense, and yet was lost against Roger Huerta's raw attack.

Norman Parke by Decision.

*You're not a proper nerd unless you've aware of Carl Zimmer's writing on the world's most fascinating parasite.