The UFC returns to London, England for their 7th UFC event in the city, and 15th event in the United Kingdom overall. UFC Fight Night 37: Gustafsson vs Manuwa will take place at The O2 Arena, and is just the 2nd Fight Night event in London. The main event features two exciting light heavyweight fighters, one a contender, and one, a prospect in hopes of being a contender. The co-main event pits two veteran lightweights in a fun stylistical matchup between youth and experience. One of the hometown favourites and long time bantamweight contender makes a change in weight class against an Irish new comer. The 4-fight main card rounds off with a highly anticipated return of one of MMA’s brightest prospects against another one of Russians great Dagestani fighters.
Like last weekend’s, TUF China Finale, this card will only be available on UFC Fight Pass to those in North America.
Main Card (UFC Fight Pass, 3 pm EST)
Alexander Gustafsson (15-2) (-380) vs Jimi Manuwa (14-0) (+315)
Alexander Gustafsson had his real breakout performance in the UFC, and in his MMA career when he took champion Jon Jones the distance in a close split decision loss at UFC 165. That tremendous fight, which ended up winning Fighters’ Only Fight of the Year for 2013, catapulted Gustafsson’s star to the next level. The Mauler also won European fighter of the year for 2013.
In the title fight in September, Gustafsson–who was a huge underdog–not only shocked and surprised many viewers, but he also came the closest to ever dethroning the current #1 pound-for-pound king in the UFC. Prior to this fight, the talk was all about Gustafsson’s ability to match the exceptional size and reach of the champion, which proved to be a true statement in the fight. Prior to suffering the title loss, Gustafsson defeated his past 6 opponents in the UFC, including winning via stoppage in 4 of the bouts.
His opponent, Jimi Manuwa (14-0) is undefeated and has absolutely demolished all of the competition in his career, specifically his 3 opponents in the UFC. Manuwa has had two of his UFC victories come by injury and one by doctor stoppage, while bizarre and unfortunate at first glance, the cause of these stoppages has been Jimi Manuwa himself. Against Diabate, Manuwa nearly decapitated him in the first round before Diabate suffered an unfortunate injury. Same can be said for the other two unfortunate victims to ‘Poster Boy’, Kyle Kingsbury, and Ryan Jimmo.
But Gustafsson is unlikely any of his previous opponents, in the Swede, Manuwa faces the toughest test in his career and a huge step up in competition against the #1 ranked light heavyweight in the world.
This main event features two primarily striking based fighters, which two completely different styles. Gustafsson, relies a lot on technique, footwork, and–like the current light heavyweight champion–utilities his huge reach advantage to the fullest. Gustafsson lands an average of 4.11 strikes per minute (SLpM) but at a surprisingly low 37% accuracy.
While Manuwa displays freakish punching power, an ability to knockout an opponent or change the fight with just one punch. Of the 34 year old’s 14 career victories, 13 of them have come by KO or TKO and 9 in the first round. Manuwa in his 3 UFC fights has an astonishing 64% striking accuracy to go with that scary power.
The reach however may not be as big a difference in this fight as first thought, Manuwa possesses a 79 inch reach to Gustafsson’s 81.2″ (as he claims, while FightMetric has it listed at 76.5″), this also does not include the all important leg reach, which is not measured. When it comes to defensive standup, Gustafsson is by far the better fighter at avoiding getting hit at 49% to Manuwa’s 35%.
And of course, the one improved skill that made Gustafsson the contender that he is today, is his wrestling ability, which was lacking at the beginning of his career. Using the title fight as an example, Gustafsson was able to defend all but one of Jones’ 11 takedown attempts in the fight, and even taking down the champion for the first time in his career. It would seem that the wrestling and takedown advantage should favour the Swede, while it will not be an easy task if either fighter decides to take the other fighter to the mat–both are in the higher class when it comes to takedown defense percentage.
UFC President Dana White has came out and stated in the past that if Gustafsson were successful in defeating Jimi Manuwa, he would earn himself another shot at the light heavyweight title, which is being contested between Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira at UFC 172.
|TALE OF THE TAPE|
|Average Fight Time||09:17||08:14|
|Height||6′ 5″ (196 cm)||6′ 1″ (185 cm)|
|Weight||205 lb. (93 kg)||205 lb. (93 kg)|
|Reach||76.5″ (194.31 cm)||79.50″ (201.93 cm)|
|STRIKING (Significant Strikes)|
|Strikes Landed per Min. (SLpM)||4.11||4.82|
|Strikes Absorbed per Min. (SApM)||3.21||2.96|
|Takedowns Average/15 min.||1.98||1.82|
|Submission Average/15 min.||0.9||0.61|
Melvin Guillard (31-12-2, 2 NC) (-105) vs Michael Johnson (14-8) (-135)
On the last UK event (in Manchester, England), Melvin Guillard took on Ross Pearson and the finish of the fight resulted in controversy when the referee stepped in on an illegal knee thrown by Guillard, on already dazed Pearson. The fight was stopped, and the ruling was that the illegal knee was what deemed to have forced Pearson to be unable to continue. A rematch was expected between Melvin Guillard and previous opponent Ross Pearson, until Pearson had suffered a scrotum tear. In stepped Blackzillians’ Michael Johnson, who had previously been clamering for a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, but was not granted said fight.
These two lightweights make for a very intriguing matchup, both are exceptionally athletic and quick fighters. The age difference may be minimal, but there is a huge experience factor in this fight between the two.
Melvin has long been hovering around the top 10 of the lightweight division, hard to believe the ‘Young Assassin’ is just 30 years old. He enters his 48th career fight (22nd fight in the UFC) on Saturday. Guillard was well on his way to victory in his previous bout against Pearson before the unfortunate illegal knee, he also comes off a knockout of Mac Danzig in 2013. Guillard continues to climb the lightweight ladder in search of that coveted title shot. He had his ups and downs from 2010-2012, first winning 5 straight fights, then losing 4 of his next 5.
Michael Johnson continues to show glimpses of his improvement in his striking as he did before suffering back to back losses to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi. That improvement was apparent in his last fight against Gleison Tibau at UFC 168 in December, the fight resulted in a knockout for Michael Johnson when he was able to defend all of the takedown attempts from Tibau. That win over a wily veteran really pushed Johnson’s stock into the upper tier of the lightweight division, he will look to do the same against another long time veteran of the sport.
Guillard is one of the most powerful strikers in the lightweight division, which Johnson will no doubt have to be cautious of. ‘The Menace’ has been relying a lot more on his footwork, speed, and continually developing technicality in his standup, in addition to being able to defend takedown attempts. Both are equally great offensively in striking, both landing around 40% accuracy and landing approximately the same SLpM. On the defensive end, one is greater than the other at not getting hit, the veteran Guillard absorbs less than 2 strikes per minute and has a defense of 68%.
Although he possesses the ability to do so, whether for lack of attempts or defends, Melvin has only landed one successful takedown in his last 12 fights. Safe to say he has all but abandoned that part of his game. This is interesting because he lands takedowns at a very high percentage, 70%.
Also interesting is his opponent has done the exact same thing, Michael Johnson who began his career in the UFC using more of his wrestling, has now also abandoned that part of his game, attempting and successfully landed 2 total takedowns in his last 6 fights.
A takedown attempt by either fighter in this fight would surprise me, which may also be a good thing, since it may surprise their opponent as well.
“THE YOUNG ASSASSIN”
|TALE OF THE TAPE|
|Average Fight Time||10:41||06:15|
|Height||5′ 11″ (180 cm)||5′ 9″ (175 cm)|
|Weight||155 lb. (70 kg)||155 lb. (70 kg)|
|Reach||74.0″ (187.96 cm)||71.5″ (181.61 cm)|
|STRIKING (Significant Strikes)|
|Strikes Landed per Min. (SLpM)||3.53||3.24|
|Strikes Absorbed per Min. (SApM)||2.77||1.67|
|Takedowns Average/15 min.||0.56||1.6|
|Submission Average/15 min.||0||0.23|
Brad Pickett (23-8) (-600) vs Neil Seery (13-9) (+400)
One of the few British fighters on the card, Brad Pickett will make his flyweight debut after a semi-successful career at bantamweight, with a record of 6-4 between WEC and UFC. Flyweight will be Pickett’s 4th different weight class in his career. After losing 2 of his last 3 fights to Top 5 contenders in the division (Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland), the number 6th ranked bantamweight has decided to switch things up.
Pickett, originally scheduled to face Ian McCall, will now take on newcomer Irish flyweight Neil “2 Tap” Seery (13-9), veteran of Cage Warriors Fighting Championships, the 34 year old will make his debut on a 4-fight win streak. Seery is a very good boxer with the ability to submit his opponents, with 11 of his 13 wins coming by way of stoppage (6 ko/tko, 5 submissions), however 5 of his losses have also come via submission.
Pickett is a very well rounded fighter, but in this fight against Seery, one aspect of his game should be focused on more than the others. ‘One Punch’ does indeed possess that one punch knockout ability as shown in his fight against Yves Jabouin, but overall as a striker, he absorbs more strikes than he lands (3.36 to 4.77 ratio). With only a 31% accuracy this may not bode well for the 35 year old, if he chooses to stand with “2 Tap”.
Seery likes use his boxing by mixing his hands, the southpaw shows great hand speed and willingness to throw heavy haymakers. He seems to get off first in the standup exchanges, and uses his head movement to get out the way before the opponent can respond. However he is susceptible to the takedown, and is not the best at scrambling to get back up to his feet.
Fans could be in store for a fight full of fireworks, if the two fighters decided to stand and trade on the feet, but Pickett would be wise to take this one to the mat. Landing almost 3 takedowns per 15 minutes, at a high 58% rate, it is clear the advantage in the wrestling would go to Pickett.
Gunnar Nelson (11-0-1) (-310) vs Omari Akhmedov (12-1) (+230)
The 25 year old Gunnar Nelson was one of the best kept secrets in MMA fighting in Europe, before making his debut in the UFC in late 2012. In his two UFC bouts, he defeated DaMarques Johnson (submission) and Jorge Santiago (UD), both in very impressive fashion, resulting in some pegging him with attributes fitting a future champion in the UFC. However a knee injury suffered in a car crash–forcing him to pull out of the scheduled fight with Mike Pyle at UFC 160–has sidelined ‘Gunni’ for an entire calender year. The Renzo Gracie black belt will look to make up for lost time when he makes his highly anticipated return this Saturday.
Omari Akhmedov, one of the many promising fighters coming out of Dagestan, made his UFC debut against Thiago Perpetuo at UFC Fight Night 32 back in November, and the fight was certainly an adventure. Akhmedov was on the brink of being finished early in the first round, being rocked by Perpetuo, but used his takedowns to recover and eventually he would knockout the Brazilian in the first round.
It will be vastly superior technique of Gunnar Nelson against the brute force and power of Omari Akhmedov when the two welterweights collide to open the card. Nelson’s despite his smaller stature for the weight class is able to use his speed and unorthodox striking to throw his opponents off guard, and that doesn’t even include his high level ground game. Akhmedov, the Dagestan Sambo Champion, does have one advantaged in being able to dictate where the fight will take place, he has been awarded with the honor of Internation Master of Sports in Sambo and in Hand-to-Hand Combat.
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass, 12:30 pm ET)
Cyrile Diabate (19-9-1) (-135) vs Ilir Latifi (7-2, 1 NC) (-105)
Latifi, most known for being the man that stepped in on a few days notice for teammate Alexander Gustafsson, to take on Gegard Mousasi at the last UFC event in Sweden. He returns 11 months later, to make his 2nd appearance in the UFC against veteran Cyrile Diabate, who last suffered a loss to the other main eventer, Jimi Manuwa. There will be a huge size discrepancy in this fight between the striker and the grappler, Diabate has a 8 inch height and 7.5 inch reach advantage over Latifi.
Luke Barnatt (7-0) (-280) vs Mats Nilsson (11-2) (+200)
Luke Barnatt, coming off TUF 17, has gone 2-0 in the UFC including a recent fight of the night performance in which had to finish opponent Andrew Craig a total 3 times due to premature celebrations. That last fight was the best the 25 year old has looked in his career, since training with his TUF coach, Chael Sonnen. In his two fights in the UFC, ‘Bigslow’ has an landed incredible 6.85 SLpM, but at the same time absorbing 5.45 SApM.
Mats Nilsson, the 3rd Swedish fighter on this UFC Fight Night 37 card, will be making his UFC debut at 30 years old. Nilsson, an accomplished grappler, winning gold in 3 consecutive years in his weight class at the FILA Grappling World Championships. The 6’1″ Nilsson makes his debut after back to back wins in Cage Warriors, he will look to take the fight to the ground against the much bigger 6’6″ Luke Barnatt. Barnatt was able to defend 10 of 12 takedowns in his UFC debut fight against fellow castmate Collin Hart.
Brad Scott (9-2) (-190) vs Cláudio Henrique da Silva (9-1) (+150)
TUF Smashes welterweight finalist, Brad Scott, who bounced back from his finale loss to Robert Whittaker with a 1st round submission victory over Michael Kuiper. Brad Scott will look to avoid the ground game and use his striking against Claudio Henrique da Silva, who has won 9 straight fights (6 via submission) after losing his first career bout. The Brazilian fighter trains out of the London Shootfighters gym
Davey Grant (8-2) (-110) vs Roland Delormme (9-2) (-130)
Davey Grant returns to the UFC after losing the TUF 18 bantamweight finals to Chris Holdsworth, prior to that he had won 9 straight fights including his lone fight on the show against Louis Fisette–who is a teammate of Roland Delormme at Winnipeg Academy of MMA.
Roland Delormme was quietly building himself a nice streak in the UFC, winning 3 of his first 4 fights, but suffered a close split decision loss to Alex Caceres at UFC 165. He’ll look to bounce back against the Brit as well as avenge his teammate.
Both fighters being primarily grapplers, have a combined 13 submissions in their 17 wins. Delormme is an underrated wrestler, who when the fight gets to the ground is relentlessly looking for submissions. While Grant is similar, except he prefers to stay on top delivering ground and pound before his opponent gives up the submission. This fight will likely come down to who is the superior grappler.
Igor Araujo (24-6, 1 NC) (-190) vs Danny Mitchell (14-4-1) (+150)
Many were surprised when Igor Araujo got a call to return to the UFC, after previously not being given a fight at the TUF 16 finale, coming off the show. The BJJ black belt training out of Jackson’s MMA, was able to defeat Ildemar Alcantara in his debut back in October. He will face the British Danny “The Cheesecake Assassin” Mitchell, who will be making his UFC debut. Mitchell comes off back-to-back submission wins including one over former UFC fighter, Besam Yousef.
Louis Gaudinot (6-3) (-175) vs Phil Harris (22-11) (+135)
An action-packed flyweight fight will open the fight card, Louis Gaudinot will look to avoid the ground game of Phil Harris and keep the fight standing. Gaudinot’s UFC career to this point has not looked pretty, despite having a win over top flyweight John Lineker, a fight he had been losing up until the finish. Gaudinot has not dealt well with wrestlers, losing to John Bedford and Tim Elliot, leading to him having an atrocious 17% takedown defense.
Phil Harris, like-Gaudinot is 1-2 in the UFC, a win here would be crucial for either fighter. Harris had previously beaten Ulysses Gomez before becoming one of Lineker’s many knockout victims. Harris has been very successful in his takedowns–albeit a small sample size–landing 3 of 4 takedowns, and has yet to be taken down in the UFC.
Stats courtesy of FightMetric
Tags: Alexander Gustafsson Brad Pickett Brad Scott Claudio Henrique Da Silva Cyrille Diabate Danny Mitchell Davey Grant Gunnar Nelson Igor Araujo Ilir Latifi Jimi Manuwa Louis Gaudinot Luke Barnatt Mats Nilsson Melvin Guillard Michael Johnson MMA Neil Seery Omari Akhmedov Phil Harris Roland Delorme UFC UFC Fight Night Ufc Fight Night 37 Ufc London