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Gunnar Nelson: Replacement Gilbert Burns is ‘tougher’, ‘more exciting’ matchup than Thiago Alves

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Gunnar Nelson amended his preparations for UFC Copenhagen significantly when noted striker and initial opponent Thiago Alves was forced from their bout two weeks ago before being replaced by jiu-jitsu supremo Gilbert Burns.

“Gunni” didn’t hesitate when he was offered the replacement bout and insisted his biggest fear was noted getting a new opponent at all.

“There is a lot of difference in the opponents, but to be honest, my fear was more that I wouldn’t get a new opponent. It was two weeks out, so when Gilbert steps up and he says he wants to fight, I’m delighted just to get an opponent. In a way, I was just expecting for this thing to be rescheduled or for me to be put into something different,” Nelson told MMA Fighting.

“With my situation now, I couldn’t have just continued on with this camp because I’m having a baby in the next month. The plan was to get this Copenhagen fight done and then take a little bit of time off. I was very relieved that Gilbert stepped up and props to him for doing that.”

Nelson feels as though Burns will make for a much more exciting bout.

“I think it’s a tougher opponent. Of course, Alves is a dangerous opponent for sure, but Gilbert is more well-rounded. He’s an animal on the ground, obviously, but I think he’s really good on the feet as well.”

A celebrated grappler in his own right, Nelson is relishing the thoughts of trading techniques with the highly decorated Brazilian.

“It’s more exciting, for sure. I’ve had many, many striker versus grappler moments, but this is something that’s more exciting to me, this guy is really good on the ground. I think he’s ranked higher [than Alves] too, not that I really pay attention to that, but it’s a more exciting matchup for sure,” he said.

Check out the Eurobash preview for UFC Copenhagen featuring Jack Hermansson and Jack Shore.