UFC Rio Rancho: Nathaniel Wood is the fighter to watch

Nathaniel Wood, who looks to remain undefeated in the UFC when he meets John Dodson at UFC Rio Rancho, is this week’s fighter to watch.

With a nickname like “The Prospect,” it’s safe to say that Nathaniel Wood carries with him lofty expectations. On Feb. 15 at UFC Rio Rancho, Wood will aim to extend his UFC record to a perfect 4-0 when he squares off with former two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson. Consistent with his nickname, Wood is one of the most promising fighters in the bantamweight division, and his bout with Dodson is easily the biggest of his career.

A former Cage Warriors champion, Wood is just 26-years old but has amassed an impressive 16-3 professional record. He hasn’t lost in four years and has earned all of his UFC wins by way of submission. Wood is, as they say, the real deal.

Despite his three consecutive submission victories (over Johnny Eduardo, Andre Ewell, and Jose Quinones), Wood came to the UFC with the reputation of a knockout artist. Indeed, prior to his UFC debut, Wood had put together four consecutive knockout wins.

Wood is a well-rounded fighter with no glaring weaknesses. Even by bantamweight standards, Wood has blazing-fast hand speed that he uses to implement his fundamentally sound meat-and-potatoes kickboxing. In particular, Wood throws a piston-like straight right hand with virtually no tell; this is his go-to strike that he seems to land on nearly every opponent.

On the ground, Wood is just as fundamentally sound. Although he hasn’t yet faced a high-level wrestler in the UFC, his takedowns seem to be above average. Once on the ground, Wood patiently advances position, using strikes to set up guard passes and submission attempts.

In short, there’s no single skillset for Wood that jumps off the screen. Instead, he’s well trained and prepared in all aspects of MMA and is able to adapt his approach to the opponent and fight in front of him. He’ll need that adaptability against Dodson, the stiffest test of his career to-date.

Dodson will almost certainly be the fastest man Wood has ever faced, and for that reason, presents an interesting challenge. Wood is accustomed to holding a speed advantage when exchanging strikes, but he won’t necessarily have that against Dodson. Moreover, Dodson is an excellent defender of takedowns. And despite dropping five of his last eight bouts, Dodson has a wealth of experience against elite bantamweights.

That said, Wood’s diversity of skills, durability, and overall athleticism could carry him against Dodson. If he’s able to pick up the win, it might be time for Wood to shed the “prospect” nickname; he will have arrived.

UFC Rio Rancho takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, live from the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Follow along with FanSided MMA all your live results and highlights.

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