Gunnar Nelson lived up to his reputation as one of the most dangerous grapplers in the sport after he dispatched Bryan Barberena in lightning quick fashion with an armbar in the first round at UFC 286.
The 34-year-old fighter from Iceland ultimately only needed to secure a single takedown as he planted Barberena on his back and never let him up again. Nelson connected with several stiff elbows before he saw the opening the grab the armbar, which forced Barberena to tap or risk potential injury with the end of the fight coming at 4:51 in the first round.
“It feels great,” Nelson said afterwards. “Everything we’ve been working on the last camp, just clicked. I wanted to take my time. I wanted to keep that pace. Just stay on that pace. I was expecting him to explode a little bit more. I think he didn’t want to hurt his back. It’s a smart thing to do.
“We’ll see [when I fight again], I’m going to go back now and focus on my team and then we’ll see.”
A methodical attack from Nelson saw him walk down Barberena and eventually trap him against the cage before securing his first takedown. A noted grappler with nasty submission skills, Nelson was quick to advance his position as he looked to land elbows on the inside while looking to set up any number of submissions.
Barbarena was really just stuck on the ground with Nelson moving around inside his guard and then picking his shots to unload more strikes from the top. There were a couple of moments where it looked like Nelson might move into mount but he opted to stay in either half-guard or side control while doing damage with his punches and elbows.
With time ticking down in the first round, Nelson saw an opening for an armbar and he quickly spun into the submission in rapid-fire motion. Nelson extended the arm and Barberena tried to resist for a moment but he then opted to tap out to stop the fight.
Nelson has now won his past two fights in a row after he spent nearly three years out of the sport dealing with injuries. His victory at UFC 286 was also the first time Nelson has finished an opponent with a submission since 2018 when he choked out Alex Oliveira at UFC 231.