Nickal (3-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is just three fights into his professional MMA career, but the three-time Division I national wrestling champion predicts he’ll be fighting top competition in the UFC within a year.
Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) is unbeaten as a middleweight and has already defended his title five times. But Nickal thinks with his decorated wrestling background, he’d be a problem for “The Stylebender.”
“Of course, if I’m going in there with a guy like Israel Adesanya, yeah, he’s a killer on the feet,” Nickal said in an interview with Michael Bisping. “He can knock anybody out, he has amazing striking, and that goes without saying. Anytime you go into a fight there’s a risk of being knocked out. For me, when I look at that, that’s really my only chance of losing that fight.
“There’s not really a chance in the world he’s keeping me away and picking me apart for five or four rounds. I’m gonna get a hold of him at some point, I’m gonna bring him to the ground. He’s never fought anybody with one-tenth of the wrestling that I have, with one-tenth of the jiu-jitsu that I have.”
Nickal is yet to absorb a strike. He earned a UFC contract at Dana White’s Contender Series in September when he ran through CFFC champion Donovan Beard for a first-round submission. He expects to be able to do the same against Adesanya.
“I don’t really know how he’s gonna stop me from bringing him to the ground and submitting him,” Nickal added. “I get it. Yeah, there’s always going to be a chance that I get knocked out, but we’ve seen this story too many times in this sport, and we know how it goes.”
Adesanya returns in Saturday’s UFC 281 main event when he takes on Alex Pereira at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.