Gunnar Nelson has begun to pick up steam in the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division.
The 28-year-old SBG Ireland standout will carry a two-fight winning streak into his pairing with Santiago Ponzinibbio in the UFC Fight Night 113 main event on Sunday at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. Nelson has compiled a 7-2 record in nine appearances since joining the UFC roster in September 2012, a split decision loss to Rick Story and a one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Demian Maia his only missteps. He last competed at UFC Fight Night 107 on March 18, when he submitted Alan Jouban with a second-round guillotine choke. Nelson has also beaten Albert Tumenov, Brandon Thatch, Zak Cummings, Omari Akhmedov, Jorge Santiago and DaMarques Johnson inside the Octagon.
As the stoic Nelson prepares to take on American Top Team’s Ponzinibbio, here are five things you might not know about the Icelandic star:
1. He has a rich grappling heritage at which to point.
Nelson holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie, whose lineage can be traced all the way back to Mitsuyo Maeda, the founder of the discipline. A three-time medalist at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Pan American Championships, “Gunni” finished fourth in the absolute division at the 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. There, he upset two-time ADCC gold medalist Jeff Monson -- a man who outweighed him by roughly 60 pounds.
2. Tapouts are the preferred path to victory.
Eleven of Nelson’s 16 professional MMA wins have come by submission: six by rear-naked choke, two by guillotine choke, two by armbar and one by neck crank. He has elicited eight of those tapouts inside one round.
3. His roots are modest.
Nelson was born in Akureyri, a small town of less than 19,000 people in northern Iceland, where the average daily temperature dips below freezing in November and remains there until April.
4. He travels the world.
A globetrotter by all accounts, Nelson has fought for eight different promotions and competed in six different countries during his 19-fight MMA career. He has made stops in Denmark, Ireland, England, Sweden, Netherlands and the United States. The John Kavanagh protégé will soon at Scotland to the list.
5. Cashing in has become a common occurrence.
Nelson has been awarded four post-fight “Performance of the Night” bonuses during his nine-fight stay in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, hauling in a total of $200,000 for submission victories over Jouban, Tumenov, Cummings and Akhmedov.