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‘Cowboy’ Oliveira sees major upside to UFC 231 matchup with Gunnar Nelson

TORONTO – Alex Oliveira believes Gunnar Nelson can be his springboard into title contention talk in the welterweight division. He just has to execute in the octagon at UFC 231.

Oliveira (19-5-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) meets Nelson (16-3-1 MMA, 7-3 UFC) on Saturday’s card having lost just once in his past eight UFC appearances. “Cowboy” has earned all but one of the victories in that stretch by stoppage, and if he can keep that run going against another respected foe, his position will enhance even further.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, and if they put me against him that’s cause they know I have the paths to do it,” Oliveira told reporters, including MMAjunkie, through an interpreter at UFC 231 media day. “I think if I win this fight it’s going to leave me in a really, really good position.”

UFC 231 takes place at Scotiabank Arena. Oliveira vs. Nelson is part of the pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Although Nelson is seemingly the superior grappler, Oliveira isn’t afraid of the threat ahead. He said he dedicated a little extra time to his grappling throughout training camp but ideally doesn’t want to have to use it at all.

“I know he’s good on the ground game, and I’ve been focusing on that,” Oliveira said. “But for him to get me on the ground he has to get near me, and he’s going to have to pass through (my fist).”

Oliveira’s only loss in the past nearly three years came against Yancy Medeiros in a “Fight of the Year” contender at UFC 218 in December 2017. He had a legitimate shot at winning that fight but has rebounded strong, and can make it 3-0 this year with a victory at UFC 231.

Defeating Nelson almost certainly won’t lead to a title fight, but it will move Oliveira one step closer, and he said he’s happy with that.

“You can expect me to be up there and people counting on me,” Oliveira said. “I will be champion in this. … Whoever has that title when I get there, I’ll go there and beat them up and take it.”

For more on UFC 231, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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