Nathaniel "The Prospect" Wood is exactly what his nickname says he is, one of the biggest prospects in the UFC. This weekend, Wood faces one of the toughest tests in his career in Andre "Touchy" Fili in his home country in London, England. He has a tough opponent, the fans behind him, and the main card feature; all he needs is the performance to put a stamp on one of the greatest moments of his career.
Record: 19-5 (6-2 UFC)
Height: 5'6 (168cm)
Weight: Featherweight (145 lbs), Previously Bantamweight (135 lbs)
Reach: 69 in (175cm)
Country: Morden, England
Next Fight: Andre Fili at UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs. Tybura
Nathaniel Wood started in MMA by attending a BJJ class alongside his father at sixteen. After beginning a carpentry course in college, Wood decided to drop out and pursue MMA full-time, leading him to debut at eighteen. He debuted against James Humphries in Epsom, England, on February 18th, 2012, and won via second-round TKO. Wood would go on to win his first four fights, finishing all four with three KO/TKOs and a submission.
"The Prospect" would face defeat for the first time in his career vs. Ed Arthur at BAMMA 15. After arguably winning the first and second rounds and nearly securing a submission, Wood would be caught in a rear-naked choke in the third round. This loss would age very well, as Arthur would go on to win his first five fights and have a competitive decision loss to Petr Yan.
This loss wouldn't define Nathaniel, a common theme throughout his career, and he returned to the cage just a month later. He'd win his next two bouts with a submission and a TKO. He would then return to BAMMA but suffer another submission loss, this time in the first round against Mike Cutting, who has bouts vs. Mike Grundy, James Gallagher, and Decky Dalton. Wood would secure two more wins following the defeat, both coming via decision.
Wood received the most prominent career opportunity when he fought the hometown hero Alan Philpott in Dublin, Ireland. They had a competitive two rounds, but in the third, the doctor would stop the bout, despite Wood being on top, and call it off because of a broken nose. This marked Nathaniel's third loss in BAMMA, though controversial.
He returned on July 16th, 2016, debuting in Bellator against Chase Morton, and would win via rear-naked choke. After this win, he'd be picked up by Cage Warriors and have his next four fights there.
If you have yet to see Nathaniel Wood's Cage Warriors run, we'd highly recommend watching it, as it's one of the most entertaining streaks in the promotion's history.
Wood faced UFC veteran Vaughan Lee in the co-main event in his CW debut. "The Prospect" would come out with a noticeable swagger in this bout, showing more confidence in his striking ability. At the beginning of the second round, Wood dropped Lee with a right hand and began to pick up the pace, eventually TKOing Lee at the end of the second round.
Wood manifested his CW title shot after securing the win over Vaughan Lee. He faced Marko Kovacevic for the vacant Bantamweight Cage Warriors title on June 2nd, 2017. After a high-paced back-and-fourth round, Wood dropped Kovacevic with a right hand which sparked the beginning of the end. He'd continue to pressure and KO Kovacevic with the same shot, claiming the title.
In his first title defense, he faced undefeated Josh Reed in an insane matchup. Reed rocked Wood early in the contest, nearly getting TKOed against the fence multiple times. However, "The Prospect" gritted through a nasty flurry and TKOed Reed after he gassed from the onslaught.
Woods' final title defense came against Luca Iovine on March 24th, 2018. "The Prospect" shined incredibly in this bout, dropping Iovine immediately with a leg kick and securing a first-round KO with a massive left hook, all within a minute. After the finish, the crowd chanted repeatedly, "UFC, UFC," so it was no surprise he'd get a call from the promotion shortly after.
Nathaniel Wood made his UFC debut in Utica, New York, on June 1st, 2018, against Johnny Eduardo. In the first round, he succeeded with his striking but got overconfident and was caught by a counter. However, "The Prospect" shined through and secured a submission victory in the second round. Wood faced Andre Ewell in his second UFC bout on his first PPV at UFC 232 and won via a third-round rear-naked choke. He then returned to home soil in London, England, and submitted José Alberto Quiñónez, again by rear-naked choke.
On February 15th, 2020, Nathaniel Wood got his first crack at a ranked opponent. He faced veteran John Dodson, a multiple-time title challenger in the Flyweight division, who had huge wins over Pedro Munhoz, T.J. Dillashaw, and Tim Elliott. Dodson would use his illusive movement in the first round to evade most Woods strikes, but in the second, "The Prospect" found his footing more and stole the round. The two were 1-1 heading into the third, and Wood started the round off by landing a clean right hand but would overcommit on more strikes and pay a considerable price. As he tried to double up on a second right hand, Dodson evaded and countered with a left hook, sending Wood to the canvas, where he was eventually TKOed, the first proper knockout loss of his career.
Once again, Wood was not deterred by a big stage loss and returned on July 26th, 2020, to take on John Castañeda on the undercard of Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till. Wood performed incredibly, landing 131 strikes across three rounds and winning every round on the judge's scorecards. This was the first time he had gone to the judges since 2015, clearly showing maturity in his game.
Wood returned for his final fight of 2020 on the prelims of UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje. He faced Bantamweight prospect Casey Kenney and won Fight Of The Night honors but lost a highly controversial decision.
Wood finally took an extended period off following his first decision loss to Casey Kenney, going without a fight for over two years. He tried to get multiple bookings during 2021 but suffered injuries, including a broken metacarpal in his right hand.
On July 23rd, 2022, Wood made his Featherweight debut against Charles Rosa and put on one of the best performances of his career. Wood dominated Rosa with strikes in the pocket and clinch, dropping the American several times with leg kicks. He won the bout via unanimous decision, including two 30-26 scorecards. This set his next bout, arguably the toughest of his career.
Nathaniel Wood was already living up to his name, but now it was time to show the world that he was ready for everything. He faced Charles Jourdain, who was coming off his own breakthrough performance against Shane Burgos. Despite coming in as an underdog, Wood demonstrated his ability to land strikes in clinch, boxing, and kickboxing range, troubling Jourdain throughout the contest. Wood also displayed his high fight IQ, breaking up Jourdain's success with well-timed takedowns, including trips from the clinch. In the first round, he landed plenty of chopping leg kicks and rocked Jourdain with a huge right hand in the middle of the round. The second round was closer, with Jourdain firing back with his own shots, but Wood still outstruck the Canadian and kept finding success in the clinch and with his takedowns. In the third round, it was apparent Wood wasn't content with losing another close decision and stuck to the same grueling pace to pull ahead in the round, having a much wider striking differential than the first two rounds. After the bout, he was announced the winner via unanimous decision, his sixth octagon victory to date.
This weekend, Wood will face Andre Fili on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs. Tybura. How do you see the bout going down? As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know your prediction in the comments below.