LAS VEGAS — Bo Nickal may well be the best wrestler in the UFC after just five professional fights and only two in the promotion. If he’s ever going to fulfill his potential as one of the game’s elite prospects — quite possibly, the elite prospect — he’s going to need to show he can strike at a high-level well.
Nickal scored a 38-second first-round knockout of late-replacement Val Woodburn on Saturday in the main card opener of UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Never did he even think of wrestling Woodburn, who took the bout after Tresean Gore withdrew following a wrist injury.
Nickal threw his hands at Woodburn, and in the course of five strikes, three left hands and two rights, he knocked Woodburn out. Woodburn dropped in the center of the ring and referee Chris Tognoni wasted no time in stopping it.
— UFC (@ufc) July 9, 2023
Nickal was at one point as high as a -2400 betting favorite but closed at -1600 on Saturday. Tognoni wasn’t going to have much patience with Woodburn, and for good reason. Woodburn was scheduled to fight on "Dana White’s Contender Series" in August, but jumped at the chance to face Nickal.
It didn’t go well for Woodburn as Nickal showed a new aspect of his game. It was Nickal's fifth-straight first-round finish, but first by knockout.
In talking to Joe Rogan in the Octagon after his win that boosted him to 5-0, with former President Donald Trump seated a few feet away, Nickal announced his wife, Maddie, is pregnant.
“I'm a husband [and] I'm also going to be a father soon,” Nickal said. “My wife is pregnant. And it's really cool to knock people out in the Octagon. I just did it. It's really cool. But it's even cooler to be a good husband and a good dad, and that's what's most important to me in life.”
Nickal said he would leave it up to his managers as well as UFC president Dana White to choose his next opponent, but conceded he needs to up his level of opposition.