Alexander Gustafsson swarmed on Jimi Manuwa at UFC Fight Night 38. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Alexander Gustafsson made his case for a rematch with Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones with resounding clarity.
Gustafsson -- who failed in his bid to unseat Jones in September -- stopped the previously undefeated Jimi Manuwa with a second-round knee strike from the clinch and follow-up punches in the UFC Fight Night 38 headliner on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. Manuwa (14-1, 3-1 UFC) met his end 78 seconds into round two, his 14-fight winning streak a thing of the past.
Under duress from an aggressive and confident adversary, Gustafsson turned to his wrestling in the first round. He struck for a takedown inside the first minute and tagged Manuwa with mild ground-and-pound in full guard. Little damage was done, but Gustafsson had effectively neutralized the knockout-minded Brit. Early in round two, the Swede zapped Manuwa with a brutal knee from the Thai plum, followed with a pair of crushing right uppercuts and polished off his latest conquest with hammerfists on the mat.
“It feels amazing. We’ve been working so hard,” Gustafsson said. “This guy was so dangerous, I thought maybe I should take him down, but I felt good standing, too.”
Blackzilians’ Johnson Bests Guillard
In the co-main event, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 finalist Michael Johnson won for the third time in as many appearances, as he earned a unanimous nod over Melvin Guillard. All three cageside judges scored it for Johnson (15-8, 7-4 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Guillard (31-13-2, 12-9 UFC) surrendered the center of the cage to the Blackzilians representative and spent a majority of his time circling on the outside. Johnson eventually established his range and seized control of the bout. He staggered Guillard with a knee strike from the Thai plum and follow-up left hook in the second round and forced him to retreat again in the third, swarming him with punches with roughly a minute remaining.
“I’m extremely frustrated,” said Johnson, who replaced the injured Ross Pearson on short notice. “For all the BS he was talking before the fight, I thought he would come out here and try to finish me, but he was pretty much running the whole time. I wasn’t going to leave myself open. I think I have the best standup in this division, and I’m willing to show that against anybody in this division. I tried to stay disciplined and win the fight.”
Pickett Successful in Flyweight Debut
American Top Team’s Brad Pickett made a successful flyweight debut, as he took a unanimous decision over reigning Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Neil Seery. All three judges scored it for Pickett (24-8, 4-3 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
A replacement for the injured Ian McCall, Seery (13-10, 0-1 UFC) proved he belonged in the Octagon. The 34-year-old Irishman worked punches to the body, countered effectively to the head and had Pickett reeling with a striking burst in the third round. However, Seery had issues staying upright. Pickett struck for takedowns in all three rounds and exacted enough of an advantage on the ground to overshadow what his game opponent had done on the feet.
“He’s a tough guy. I appreciate him taking the fight. He was a very tough opponent,” Pickett said. “I knew my wrestling would be [on] a different level than his. For MMA, my wrestling is pretty good, I think. I tried to let the fans have a bit of a brawl. I felt great making weight.”
Nelson Choke Dismisses Akhmedov
Surging Icelandic export Gunnar Nelson submitted Omari Akhmedov with a first-round guillotine choke in a one-sided welterweight showcase. Nelson (12-0-1, 3-0 UFC) drew the curtain 4:36 into round one, as he posted his 12th straight victory.
Akhmedov (12-2, 1-1 UFC) was never a factor. Nelson drove the Dagestani fighter to the canvas behind a stiff straight left, moved immediately to mount and tore into him with a series of wicked elbows. Akhmedov was virtually defenseless. Nelson snatched the guillotine during a subsequent scramble, forcing the tapout.
“I feel lovely. I love to fight here in England. It feels amazing,” Nelson said. “Like always, I didn’t have a strict game plan. I kind of take the fight where it goes and [improvise]. I was confident [I would finish once I had the guillotine].”
Latifi Guillotine Submits Diabate
Swedish powerhouse Ilir Latifi submitted Cyrille Diabate with a crushing first-round guillotine choke in an undercard matchup at 205 pounds. His neck contorted at a nightmarish angle, Diabate (19-10-1, 4-4 UFC) asked out of the cage 3:02 into round one.
Latifi (8-3, 1-1 UFC) swooped in for a double-leg takedown a little more than a minute into the bout. From there, the 30-year-old went to work from top position, threatening Diabate with a brabo choke before transitioning to the power guillotine for the finish. Latifi has recorded four wins in his last five appearances, losing only to former Dream and Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi.
Unbeaten Barnatt Stops Nilsson
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 quarterfinalist Luke Barnatt dispatched Mats Nilsson with a first-round head kick and follow-up punches in a preliminary middleweight duel. Nilsson (11-3-1, 0-1 UFC) succumbed to the blows 3:24 into round one.
Barnatt (8-0, 3-0 UFC) kept the Swedish grappler on the end of a stiff jab and straight punching combinations throughout their brief encounter. The undefeated 25-year-old rattled Nilsson with a left head kick, pursued him to the cage and finished it there with a volley of punches to the head and body.
The loss halted Nilsson’s two-fight winning streak.
Da Silva Wins 10th Straight
Decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Claudio Henrique da Silva recorded his 10th consecutive victory with a unanimous verdict over “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner Brad Scott in an undercard clash at 185 pounds. Da Silva (10-1, 1-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with identical 29-28 marks.
Da Silva controlled rounds one and three through takedowns and superior topside grappling. Scott (9-3, 1-2 UFC) did his best work in the middle frame, where he utilized an effective sprawl to keep the fight standing. The 24-year-old MMA Lab representative assaulted the London-based Brazilian’s body with high-impact punches and kicks, seizing control of the match. However, Scott failed to maintain the momentum. Despite fatigue and a badly damaged left eye, da Silva kept the Brit bottled up over the final five minutes.
Araujo Downs Newcomer Mitchell
Takedowns, ground-and-pound and an active top game carried Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Igor Araujo to a unanimous decision over Danny Mitchell in a preliminary welterweight affair. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Araujo (25-6, 2-0 UFC), who has won 14 of his last 15 fights.
Mitchell (14-5-1, 0-1 UFC) always seemed a step behind, his offense limited to occasional upkicks and a few ill-advised submission attempts. Araujo assumed top position in all three rounds, moving briefly to mount in the first and scoring with effective ground-and-pound in the second. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt did not scale back his attack in round three, where he threatened Mitchell with a triangle choke before exchanging a series of wild Donkey Kong punches with the Englishman.
Gaudinot Guillotine Finishes Harris
Former Ring of Combat champion Louis Gaudinot submitted Phil Harris with a first-round guillotine choke in an undercard scrap at 125 pounds. Harris (22-12, 1-3 UFC) conceded defeat 1:13 into round one, losing for the third time in four appearances.
Patience paid for Gaudinot (7-3, 2-2 UFC). Harris pressed into the clinch in search of a takedown and wandered carelessly into the guillotine. Once Gaudinot was confident he had the choke secured, the Team Tiger Schulmann representative jumped to full guard and nodded his head. Harris attempted to roll free from danger, only to find himself mounted with no choice but to tap out.