Bryan Barbarena took on another veteran of the fight game at UFC 286 as he faced former top-15 welterweight contender Gunnar Nelson on the PPV card.
Barbarena fought three legends of the sport in Matt Brown, Robbie Lawler, and Rafael Dos Anjos coming into this fight, so even a respected guy like Nelson was a step down for him in terms of name power. However, ‘Bam Bam’ has shown a weakness to grapplers in the past, so it was not necessarily an easier matchup. Gunnar, for his part, returned to the cage in 2022 after three years away as he dominated Takashi Sato. The promise Nelson had shown in his top-ranked welterweight fights could potentially return him to the rankings, but he had to get past Barbarena first.
Gunnar and Barbarena started out feeling each other out, bouncing in their stances – Nelson in orthodox and Barbarena in southpaw. Bryan targeted the karateka’s with leg kicks, which ended up bruising Gunnar’s calf badly, but Nelson kept pressing forward, seemingly looking to set up the takedown. He crashed into the clinch after one hundred seconds of fight time. Barbarena defended well in the clinch with frames and hooks at first but Nelson was able to work his way to the double-under.
After a full minute in the clinch, Gunnar was able to get deep on the single leg, lift Bryan, and drop him on his back, settling in top half. Nelson dropped down elbows from top position for a solid minute before finally isolating the arm and scrambling to grab the armbar. It was a risky move, but the last few seconds of the round limited the potential downside; more importantly, Barbarena was forced to tap after just a few seconds.
Official Result: Gunnar Nelson def. Bryan Barbarena by Submission (armbar), Round 1, 4:51