The light heavyweight division takes center stage, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to London with UFC Fight Night 107 and features a main event pitting knockout artist Jimi Manuwa against “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner Corey Anderson. Meanwhile, Gunnar Nelson squares off with Alan Jouban in the three-round co-headliner at 170 pounds.
The rest of the four-fight main draw sees the retiring American Top Team standout Brad Pickett take on Marlon Vera in a bantamweight clash and Arnold Allen collide with Makwan Amirkhani in a featherweight tilt.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Manuwa vs. Anderson” matchup, with analysis and picks:
Light HeavyweightsJimi Manuwa (16-2) vs. Corey Anderson (9-2)
THE MATCHUP: At 37, Manuwa is almost certainly not going to make his way to the title. His brief stint as fringe contender appears to be done, but he may still be in the best form of his career. Now positioned as a gatekeeper, Manuwa looks to interrupt the ascent of Anderson, a 27-year-old prospect who won Season 19 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Old versus young, striker versus wrestler, it should be fun.
Manuwa is a striker, and if he wants to strike in this fight, he will need to stuff Anderson’s takedowns. Manuwa’s takedown defense is far from terrible, but there are few layers to it and he is forced to use a lot of energy in the process of stopping the shot. Often this consists of Manuwa grabbing an instinctive arm-in guillotine and trying to sprawl as hard as he can. Beyond that, Manuwa can be driven off his feet by a more technical wrestler or simply a more persistent one. Anderson is both. Whether shooting from long range or attacking on multiple levels in the clinch, he takes down nearly everyone he fights.
One of Anderson’s biggest weaknesses is his lack of discipline. He has only been fighting for four years, and he will still make rookie mistakes, like chasing after his opponents with hooks rather than working behind his excellent jab. The other is Anderson’s wrestle-boxing. He is a capable boxer and a very good wrestler. Yet when he fights, he is either boxing or wrestling, very rarely effectively combining the two. Anderson will need to wrestle “Poster Boy,” but his takedowns must meld perfectly into a striking attack in order to get through the Manuwa’s powerful initial defense.
If Anderson cannot set up his takedowns, his adolescent boxing game may be a problem. Manuwa rarely throws combinations, rarely leads with a jab and rarely feints. Nonetheless, he is an exceptionally dangerous striker. Manuwa’s punches and kicks are explosive and lightning-fast. Single shots are the order of the day, but Manuwa does pick his shots intelligently, threatening the body to open up the head, attacking the legs to punish lateral movement and so on. Anderson is capable of sticking and moving like teammates Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza, but he lacks the experience and know-how necessary to maintain that style for 15 minutes or more. If he strikes for long, Manuwa will most likely get to him.
THE ODDS: Manuwa (-150), Anderson (+130)
THE PICK: Manuwa is a dangerous man, and Anderson seems to have a bit of a chin problem. He was knocked down twice by an old Mauricio Rua, staggered several times by former middleweight Tom Lawlor and of course knocked out by Gian Villante. All of these problems can be avoided if Anderson does two things: throw quick, straight punches while circling and use those punches to set up takedowns. On the ground, Manuwa does not stand a chance against Anderson’s tight top control and vicious ground-and-pound. Once Anderson gets his takedowns going, he should be able to break Manuwa in the later rounds with pressure and pace. The pick is Anderson by fourth-round TKO.
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