Gunnar Nelson (aka “Gunni”) who was born 28th July, 1988 in Akureyri, Iceland, has an 18-5 record and currently fights in the UFC. The 33 year-old welterweight’s pro career started on the UK and Ireland regional scene where he went undefeated before signing to the promotion.
Fighting out of the SBG Ireland gym in Dublin, alongside the likes of Conor McGregor and Artem Lobov, there has always been excitement about the Icelander given these affiliations.
Nelson is an unusual fighter in that he has great pedigree in both jiu-jitsu and karate. At the 2009 edition of the biggest submission grappling event in the world, ADCC, he placed fourth in the absolute division.
He also started karate at the age of 13, winning national championships. His karate background is especially pronounced in his wide stance, and similarities in this can be drawn with his teammate McGregor.
Nelson had been out of action since 2019 due to the pandemic and was in much need of a win given the two-fight losing streak he was on. However, with the fights against two of the very best in the division in Leon Edwards and Gilbert Burns, he got what he needed when he returned in March 2022 with a unanimous decision victory over Takashi Sato.
OK, so now that you’ve got some of “Gunni’s” backstory, let’s lock in Gunnar Nelson’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Vs. Albert Tumenov – UFC Fight Night 87 (May 8, 2016)
Tumenov aka “Einstein” (21-4), was on a five-fight winning streak leading up to this bout and was beginning to look like a top prospect in the division.
After this loss however he lost again, to Leon Edwards, meaning the end of his career in the UFC, moving to the formerly named ACB, now ACA, the promotion owned by Chechen warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov.
In round 1, Nelson started well with quick blitzes from his karate stance backing Tumenov up. They stayed on the feet until Nelson went for a takedown. Two minutes in, he threw a right straight, that he turned into a body lock and hit an outside trip.
Nelson landed in the butterfly guard, and Tumenov tried a butterfly sweep using Nelson’s momentum, but was able to post and pass to mount.
The Russian attempted to make his way to the fence to get up, but Nelson pulled him away and into the open, landing a hard, short elbow in the process.
Nelson landed a few more of these strikes, until, with 40 seconds left on the clock, Tumenov used them as an opening to bridge out of the mount and back up to his feet for the remainder of the round.
In round 2, the two went back and forth on the feet, with Nelson shooting a takedown under a jab, again securing the body lock to outside trip at 1:30 in. This time he avoided the guard and hopped around into side control with ease. He bided his time waiting for an opportunity to throw his leg over and gain mount again.
Once this was achieved Tumenov tried to bridge out as he successfully did in the first, but this time Nelson had tight control of the upper body, allowing him to ride the wave of the bridge and take the back as it was exposed.
His opponent elected to roll over onto his back instead of the turtle position, and Nelson used this to secure a body triangle. He used strikes to open up Tumenov’s defenses and slip an arm under his neck.
Tumenov tucked his chin, but Nelson locked off a textbook rear naked choke (RNC) grip with the hand behind the head, and the squeeze forced the tap, at 3:15 into round 2.
4. Vs. Omari Akhmedov – UFC Fight Night 37 (Mar. 8, 2014)
This fight was early on in both men’s UFC careers, with Nelson handing Akhmedov (22-7-1), just the second loss on his record to that point.
In round 1, Nelson started off pressuring Akhmedov backwards and feinting, with his opponent throwing multiple leg and body kicks.
At 1:25 in, Nelson landed a straight left, dropping Akhmedov, and following him to the ground to knee on belly, and slid across into mount.
The Russian managed to push Nelson’s hips down onto his legs, but Nelson quickly flattened him out again in mount, landing short, chopping elbows.
He moved to a technical mount, looking to set up an armbar. Giving Akhmedov space to escape his hips he brought his legs through to a half-butterfly guard, allowing him to push Nelson away.
Nelson quickly looked to toreando pass and did, with ease, finishing with knee on belly control.
Akhmedov countered by turning into the Icelander, leaving his neck vulnerable to a guillotine that Nelson snapped up, finishing the fight at 4:36 into round 1.
3. Vs. Brandon Thatch – UFC 189 (July 11, 2015)
This was the second replacement fight made in a row for Thatch, aka “Rukus” (11-5), originally being slated to face John Howard.
He didn’t fare too well in these fights, going zero for two in both bouts.
Being on the UFC 189 card where McGregor fought Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight title, Nelson had plenty of support from the strong Irish crowd, given his links to the country and the Irishman.
Just 45 seconds into the first round the two clinched, both exchanging knees to the body before breaking.
Nelson then caught a body lock off ducking under a wild overhand left thrown by Thatch and proceeded to put him against the cage.
Thatch defended well, however, posting both hands on his face, forcing him to release. Shortly after, at 1:30 in, Nelson landed a lightning-fast one-two, dropping Thatch.
Where most may choose to strike their dazed opponent, Nelson’s grappling mindset led to him instead, to go for head and arm control and pass to mount.
Thatch did well to push Nelson down onto his legs to escape, but Nelson transitioned into side control, before again taking mount.
An Americana (key-lock) presented itself to Nelson which he went for, but Thatch escaped and tried to bridge out of the position.
Nelson surfed over onto the back with ease, securing the body triangle – as with many of the finishes on this list.
Similarly, again he sunk in and finished with a rear naked choke, at 2:54 into round 1.
2. Vs. Alan Jouban – UFC Fight Night 107 (Mar. 18, 2017)
Alan Jouban, aka “Brahma” (17-7), was riding a three-fight winning streak coming into this matchup, including wins over Mike Perry and Belal Muhammad.
This was a potential opportunity for to enter the UFC top 15 rankings, but Nelson had other ideas for him.
The fight started as a cagey affair, with both men feeling each other out, throwing feints.
At 2:45 into the first round, Nelson secured a takedown against Jouban, landing in butterfly guard, but immediately passed expertly with a knee cut into side control.
The American turned in to escape giving Nelson the chance to slide his knee over his stomach and take mount.
He didn’t get to do much with the dominant position as a fresh Jouban did well, constantly moving and attempting to escape, meaning Nelson had to focus more on control than offense.
In round 2, Jouban started aggressively, but it didn’t prevent Nelson from pressuring him back against the cage and landing a straight right hand just 35 seconds in, causing a chicken dance from his dazed opponent.
Nelson followed up with a right, high kick as Jouban was leaning on the fence to support a body he was no longer in control over. This allowed Nelson to shuck him down to all fours, and switch to a Peruvian necktie for a quick tap at 0:46 into the second round.
1. Vs. Alex Oliveira – UFC 231 (Dec. 8, 2018)
Oliveira aka “Cowboy” (22-12-1), is a stalwart of the UFC welterweight division, with a mixed record in the promotion, going (11-10-1) since he joined back in 2015.
He can pose real problems with his lengthy build for the weight class, and when he wins, he tends to finish.
This fight for Nelson followed the first, and only, stoppage loss of his career to Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC Fight Night 113. This performance was the perfect response coming off this aberration on his record.
Nelson started the fight blitzing in with a lead right hand that he used to push Oliveira against the fence and pursue a takedown.
The Brazilian landed hard elbows to the side of Nelson’s head and defended well, keeping his base wide and using an underhook to prevent the completion of the double leg attempt.
Nelson switched off to a single leg and lifted Oliveira, almost securing the takedown, but was thwarted by his opponent grabbing the fence, causing a warning from the referee.
They reset back on the feet, and Nelson managed to work to a body lock, finishing the takedown this time, and taking “Cowboy’s” back with a body triangle as he turned to get back to his feet.
Oddly it was Oliveira doing most of the damage, landing punches with his freakishly long arms, allowing him to turn out of the position and into Nelson’s closed guard.
The Icelander tried to move to a high guard but Oliveira postured and escaped, landing hard ground and pound from top position for a minute-and-a-half, until the last thirty seconds of the round.
Oliveira put himself into the headquarters position on top, which Nelson used to get a shin to shin with his left leg and entered a single leg X, extending his legs to sweep his opponent.
Both men remained off their backs in a leg entanglement until the end of the round, with Nelson half-heartedly attempting ankle locks and heel hooks, having no real solid control over Oliveira’s hips and leg.
At the start of round two Oliveira leapt in with a jab, causing them clinch in an over under, whilst Nelson was being pushed up with his back against the fence.
Oliveira went for takedowns, to no avail until Nelson turned him against the cage at 2:45 into the round.
Immediately getting his hands locked under Oliveira, he pulled him off and secured the takedown, before passing seamlessly into mount.
He stayed there for two minutes, not throwing many strikes, rather instead controlling his opponent. With a minute left he began landing hard, slicing elbows, cutting Oliveira open and leaving him a bloody mess.
This attack forced Oliveira to turn and give up his back, allowing Nelson to sink in a quick, rear naked choke at 4:17 into round 2.