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Andre Petroski plans to show Gerald Meerschaert and eventually Bo Nickal that ‘I’m the best grappler in this division’

UFC 281: Petroski v Turman Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Andre Petroski may not have the most submissions in UFC middleweight history like his upcoming opponent Gerald Meerschaert or three NCAA championships in wrestling like Bo Nickal but eventually he wants to prove he’s better than both of them.

The 32-year-old Ultimate Fighter veteran won’t break any records with his upcoming fight at UFC 292 but the matchup will almost certainly allow him the opportunity to showcase his grappling, which is where he feels he holds an advantage over anyone else in the world at 185 pounds. That’s why he called out Nickal ever since he first signed with the UFC as a blue chip prospect and there’s a good chance he’ll continue that campaign assuming he gets through Meerschaert on Saturday.

“My argument is I’m the best grappler in this division,” Petroski told MMA Fighting. “I’ve made a pretty damn good argument for it. Everyone I’ve grappled, everyone I’ve finished, I’ve made a damn good argument for it.

“So for someone else to come in and make that claim, you’ve got to get through me first. That seems fair.”

Petroski recognizes a pattern when it comes to Nickal’s career thus far as he amassed a perfect 5-0 record overall, two straight wins in the UFC and nobody even making it to the three-minute mark in the opening round against him.

While the argument can be made that Nickal is still learning on the job while fighting in the UFC, Petroski believes he knows why the Penn State alum hasn’t responded to his multiple call outs.

“His coaches are smart, he’s with American Top Team — you can see they are purposefully avoiding any grapplers,” Petroski said. “He had [Jamie] Pickett and this dude Val [Woodburn], both strikers and even his Contender Series fight was a striker. He hasn’t fought anyone that has any grappling.

“I think where you’re going to see Bo struggle is when you get later in the fight, later in the rounds. That’s when your true skills reveal themselves and you really see what you’re made of. It’s not hard to look good for two minutes. My first five fights, I finished everyone in under six minutes and I never really developed how to manage the fight, how to manage my gas tank, how to settle in on my feet, how to control the momentum of the fight. You don’t learn those things until you’ve actually been forced to go the full distance.”

There’s no telling if Petroski will get his wish or not but he knows it’s only a matter of time before Nickal finally gets pushed by somebody in the UFC.

“I’d have to imagine he’ll eventually want to fight someone tough,” Petroski said. “I’ve tried to fight him a bunch obviously. I’ve even offered grappling matches, too. But I don’t know why he doesn’t like me.”

As far as his upcoming fight against Meerschaert goes, Petroski considers him the perfect next step with hopes that top 15 ranked competition won’t be far behind.

Petroski is already very familiar with Meerschaert after helping his teammate Joe Pyfer get ready for him back in April — a fight Pyfer won by first-round knockout — and he seems to know what to expect when they finally clash on Saturday.

“He has decent striking, obviously good grappling and he has OK wrestling but I think that when you get into the top five, you have to be exceptional at something to beat those guys,” Petroski said about Meerschaert.

“I think that I can hurt him on the feet and then force him to take desperation attacks. Then, I think I can submit him on the ground.”

Mauling a submission specialist would mean even more to Petroski as he seeks to establish his grappling dominance over the middleweight division where he doesn’t see a lot of competition in that realm.

That’s why Petroski singled out Nickal as a future opponent because there’s no doubt about his wrestling credentials but the same can’t be said for the majority of top fighters at 185 pounds.

“I mean [Marvin] Vettori and [Jack] Hermansson are good grapplers but they don’t force the grappling,” Petroski said. “They try to strike and if the fight goes to the ground, they’re OK but they don’t really force the grappling.

“I honestly don’t think there’s many high level grapplers in the top 10. I mean I don’t think I’m being ridiculous by saying that. I think most people would agree.”

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