Jimi Manuwa owns 10 first-round finishes. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Jimi Manuwa wanted one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s big fish, and the promotion granted his wish.
The undefeated Manuwa will lock horns with Alexander Gustafsson -- a man widely regarded as the No. 2 light heavyweight in the world -- in the UFC Fight Night 38 main event on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. A victory over Gustafsson would likely catapult the “Poster Boy” from fringe contender to the upper reaches of the 205-pound weight class.
A late bloomer at age 34, Manuwa has dispatched all 14 of his opponents inside two rounds, 13 of them by knockout or technical knockout. Consider it destruction by design.
“You have to tailor yourself to what type of fighter you are,” he said in a pre-fight interview with WoahTV.com. “If you’re a knockout specialist, you’ve got to train your cardio, your core, all your techniques and stuff. It’s all about being repetitive in your training technique, drilling your perfect shot, drilling your favorite shot and just drilling and sparring and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t work for you.”
Conquering Gustafsson will be no small feat. “The Mauler” has won six of his past seven bouts, a contentious unanimous decision loss to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 165 in September the lone misstep. An Alliance MMA representative, the 27-year-old Swede owns wins over 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio Rua, volatile Brazilian slugger Thiago Silva and onetime International Fight League champion Vladimir Matyushenko. In 17 career outings, Gustafsson has never been stopped by strikes.
Manuwa, meanwhile, has compiled a 3-0 mark since arriving in the UFC in September 2012, with victories over the American Kickboxing Academy’s Kyle Kingsbury, French kickboxer Cyrille Diabate and former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Ryan Jimmo. His propensity for the devastating knockout drew the UFC’s attention and made him one of Europe’s most sought-after talents.
“When you know you’ve hit your opponent with a good shot or he’s hurt or he’s wobbled or something, that’s when I go for the knockout,” Manuwa said. “Sometimes I set it up. It depends on the fighter or how the fight’s going. If I know the fighter’s tired, then I might decide to put on an onslaught of strikes to knock him out.”
BARNATT: BOREDOM NILSSON’S ONLY HOPE
Luke Barnatt’s climb on the middleweight ladder has led him to Mats Nilsson.
Barnatt will put his unblemished record on the line against the decorated Swedish grappler in a preliminary scrap at UFC Fight Night 38. A quarterfinalist on Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the 25-year-old Tsunami Gym export has finished four of his last five opponents. Barnatt last appeared at UFC Fight Night 30 in August, when he submitted onetime Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Andrew Craig with a second-round rear-naked choke at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England.
A judo black belt and Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, Nilsson was a three-time gold medalist at the FILA World Grappling Championships. The 30-year-old will enter his Octagon debut on a modest two-fight winning streak. Barnatt is not a fan of Nilsson’s approach.
“The guy is tough and talented, but he can’t cut it when he fights against a 100-percent dedicated athlete like me,” he said in a pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “I believe I’m more dangerous than him everywhere, and his only hope of a victory is to bore the UFC judges to death by laying on me until they beg for the fight to be stopped. I don’t like that fighting style.”
THIS & THAT
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has staged 13 previous events in England: UFC 38, UFC 70, UFC 75, UFC 80, UFC 85, UFC 89, UFC 95, UFC 105, UFC 120, UFC 138, UFC on Fuel TV 5, UFC on Fuel TV 7 and UFC Fight Night 30 ... According to FightMetric figures, Melvin Guillard has scored 13 knockdowns in his UFC career. That number ranks third on the all-time list behind only Anderson Silva (17) and Chuck Liddell (14) ... After his bout with Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Neil Seery, American Top Team’s Brad Pickett will have fought in four separate weight classes as a professional mixed martial artist: flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight ... Dagestani welterweight Omari Akhmedov is a two-time Russian national champion in pankration and hand-to-hand combat ... British Association of Mixed Martial Arts alum Danny Mitchell has finished fights with seven different submissions: rear-naked choke, twister, flying triangle choke, armbar, guillotine choke, heel hook and Achilles lock ... Former Ring of Combat champion Louis Gaudinot graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in criminal justice ... London-based Brazilian Claudio Henrique da Silva has recorded nine consecutive victories since being disqualified in his pro debut in November 2007 ... By the time “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 quarterfinalist Roland Delorme returns home to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, following his appearance at UFC Fight Night 38, he will have traveled nearly 8,000 miles ... Swedish light heavyweight Ilir Latifi lists Muhammad Ali as his hero.