There’s plenty of reasons for NCAA loyalists, Penn State diehards and American Top Team fighters to assure the world that Bo Nickal is the real deal, but would an active UFC middleweight have a reason to be excited for the debut of his potential competition?
Gerald Meerschaert has never shied away from mixing it up with the new guys. Whether it’s Deron Winn’s third trip to the cage, Kevin Holland’s or Khamzat Chimaev, if there’s a fighter looking to make a splash at middleweight, only one man jumps at the chance.
It comes as no surprise that GM3 practices the way he “plays,” so when Bo Nickal dropped by Roufusport for a brief stay, everybody in the gym knew exactly where to direct him.
Meerschaert was still rebounding from his KO loss to Chimaev when Nickal came through, and while Meerschaert couldn’t help but feel disappointed by his compromised state, the combination of Nickal’s know-how and Meerschaert’s work ethic still allowed for a productive practice.
“I was really taking it easy with coming back into everything, and it’s kind of like riding a bike; you’re never completely out of shape, but it’s not like I had a lot of high energy,” Meerschaert said. “Luckily, Bo is a very skilled wrestler, and he comes from that Penn State program and he’s still really strong, but they teach a lot of technique, and he can flow. Sometimes you get a lot of old school kind of Hawkeye style where they can’t flow, it’s just, ‘go hard.’ They wrestle like they’re a Marshawn Lynch running back as opposed to a guy who’s trying to spin out of tackles.”
Meerschaert never wrestled collegiately, but once he stepped into MMA, a large majority of his training became centered around the sport. He’s now equipped enough to compete in, as he called them, “old timer tournaments” when he retires from MMA.
His relationship with Ben Askren, Duke Roufus, Anthony Pettis and many more have given him ample amounts of experience with wrestlers, and as a guy who has seen every kind of ground game out there, he warns others in their division that Bo Nickal is going to be a problem.
Not just a problem. He’s going to cause training camps to be different for every middleweight fighter going forward. “I do think that he’s going to wrestle in a way that’s very unique to him that a lot of people won’t necessarily be ready for tactically,” Meerschaert said. “There’s a lot of tricky stuff that he did in his NCAA career that he’ll probably be able to implement into his MMA career, and it’s not a look that everybody can give.”
Although Nickal does have one of the strongest bases of all-time coming into an MMA debut, Meerschaert is a little hesitant to call him championship caliber yet. His wrestling is going to be ahead of everybody in the division but there’s still some question when it comes to opening up his game.
“Until he gets somewhere bigger with a higher level of competition it’s kind of an open question,” Meerschaert said. “I think he can beat most people with wrestling. I don’t know if it will be easier to take higher-level guys down, but if you get into a clinch with him or lock up in any way, shape or form, you’re going to have a rough time getting him off you.” Despite having (Chris) Weidman and (Derek) Brunson in the division, Meerschaert has no problem theorizing that if Nickal were to walk into the UFC today, he’d have the best wrestling in the history of the division. It’s not simply because it’s Bo Nickal, but because the division as a whole has never seen a specialist quite like the Nittany Lion.
“For having a lot of guys that are really good at one thing or another, ’85 seems to be full of pretty well-rounded fighters,” said Meerschaert. “Even the guys that are supposed to be just good at one thing, they’re still good enough at everything else.”
If Gianni The Greek put out odds for future bouts for Nickal, Meerschaert’s past alone would put him as one of the early frontrunners and he’s not exactly one to back down. He’s the exact fighter that gets Meerschaert excited, and whether the fight does happen or not, Nickal is going to be must-see TV for the King of Racine.
“His mindset isn’t, ‘Ok, I’m going to get in there and double-leg some people and try to hold them down and throw hammer fists or see if I can get to a good spot to elbow,’” Meerschaert explained. “He’ll be able to implement submissions really, really well. He’ll be able to incorporate it into his game and not just lay and pray. And he’s got length where if he gets his striking up to par, he’s going to be a problem for a lot of people.”
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