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Fighter Of The Week: Jimi Manuwa

In this week’s edition of Pundit Arena’s  ‘Fighter Of The Week’ we’re going to take a closer look at the man who could well possess the best lead left-hook in the business, Jimi ‘Poster-Boy’ Manuwa.

Jimi Manuwa brought a lot of well-deserved and completely overdue attention to himself when he demolished the former Ultimate Fighter-winner Corey Anderson at last weekend’s UFC London, but for those in-the-know, the talents that this hard-hitting Brit brings to the table have been beyond doubt for some time now.

Joe Rogan, in a recent promo video for the aforementioned UFC London, declared Manuwa to be the most devastating knockout artist in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division with the exception of Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson and even though that claim was made prior to last weekend’s show, it’s an argument that has even more merit in the wake of his impressive win.

With his name now firmly within the 205lb division’s title discussion, the time is perfect to examine the exhilarating rise of the man who many consider to be Britain’s next hope for UFC gold.

Jimi Manuwa’s earliest pro-fight came in 2008 when he was 28 years of age. Now when you consider that he began training in MMA just one year prior to that in 2007, it makes the fact that he’s now the fourth-ranked light-heavyweight in the world that bit more interesting. By interesting, I mean that it does beg the question as to what exactly would have happened if Manuwa had, in fact, began training in mixed martial arts at a younger age, say even five years earlier.

His strengths, as evidenced by his 94.1% finishing rate, lie primarily in his stand-up attack. His lead left-hook at this stage has to be considered as one of the most devastating weapons on the current roster, and when you see the way in which Manuwa explodes forward to land it, you can’t deny that there’s a certain Mike Tyson-esque feel to it all.

Manuwa’s run on the local circuit saw him compile a perfect 11-0 record where he established himself as Britain’s most feared knockout artist and faced little-to-no challenge to his power. What was interesting to note about these contests is that Jimi did, in fact, utilize his takedowns and grappling to a much greater extent against the British opposition than he would in his later career, with him taking advantage of the undeniably inferior wrestling pedigree of those who trained in the UK in comparison to those in the US.

11 wins saw Manuwa take home 11 finishes and sure enough, after five consecutive UCMMA Light Heavyweight Championship defences, the UFC came a’knocking and the Poster Boy was given the chance to compete on the world’s biggest stage.

Kyle Kingsbury was the one tasked with welcoming Manuwa to the UFC octagon and posed a very different challenge to the Englishman than he would have faced overseas. Kingsbury, the tough, durable wrestler, did exploit the somewhat questionable takedown defence of the Poster Boy at times but Manuwa’s power was not to be denied. It was as brutal a beatdown as you’ll see in mixed martial arts and to his credit, the always-game Kingsbury displayed one hell of a chin and an infinite supply of heart.

Jimi Manuwa was victorious in his UFC debut after the doctor deemed the damage done to Kyle Kingsbury’s eye to be too severe to continue. It was a strong opener to the Brit’s UFC account and though it ended by TKO due to the doctor’s stoppage, it was a performance that did enough to make the rest of the division take note.

Strangely enough, two more victories by doctor’s stoppage followed the Kingsbury win, setting the Poster Boy up for a hometown main-event with the man who had just taken the champ Jon Jones to the edge, Alexander ‘the Mauler’ Gustafsson.

Now, if you anything about the Swede Gustafsson, you’ll know he presents a very tricky puzzle to solve for anybody he fights. At 6’5, he towered over the hometown boy Manuwa, and though Jimi’s power is most definitely more than enough to put anyone away, when he faced Gustafsson, the distance just proved too much for him. The Mauler took out Manuwa in the second round and despite earning himself his first ‘Fight of the Night’ honour, he also took home his first defeat as a professional.

With his unbeaten record now a thing of the past, Manuwa went into his next bout – a meeting with the Polish Jan Blachowicz – and experienced his first ever 15-minute contest. Blachowicz – to this day – remains the only fighter that has tasted defeat at the hands of the Poster Boy who did not require intervention from the either the doctor or the referee.

That’s a pretty scary fighter right there, win, lose or draw.

Like I said before, the UFC’s colour-commentator Joe Rogan bestowed Manuwa with the honour of being called the 205lb division’s most lethal knockout artist with the exception of one particularly fearsome light-heavyweight and sure enough, the second and most recent loss of his career came at the hands of the man who proved himself to be the #1 beyond all doubt, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Two pretty conclusive demolition jobs of both Ovince St. Preux and Corey Anderson followed Manuwa’s second defeat and now, with him falling behind only Glover Teixeira, Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson in the official UFC rankings, he seems destined for a title-eliminator in his next matchup. Of course, he has fallen short against two of the four men who sit above him in the queue, but with the type of power he brings to the table, you really can’t write off this guy’s title-aspirations.

Two losses from nineteen pro-contests ain’t bad, though. The pair of blemishes that have marked the impressive career of the Poster Boy came against two of the best fighters the admittedly top-heavy light-heavyweight roster has had to offer over the years and now, with him perhaps closer to 40 than he’d like, Manuwa’s mileage in this sport still definitely does not match up with his 37 years on this planet and with a left-hook as lethal as his, you just might see Jimi Manuwa with a belt around his waist before all is said and done.

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena

 

About Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at cillian@punditarena.com.