Jimi Manuwa’s last fight was, in many ways, a defining one. He’d either be forever defined as a hard hitter unable to break into the elite group or he’d leave the cage as a top 5 Light Heavyweight contender. Well when push came to shove, Manuwa delivered in a big, big way. Taking on Ovince Saint Preux in Manchester, the ‘Poster Boy’ got through the early grappling exchanges before taking advantage of his fatiguing foe in devastating fashion. Landing shots to the head and body, Manuwa’s striking superiority was clear and he eventually closed the show, violently knocking Saint Preux out in the second round.
The win had been a massive one, not just due to its nature but also the opponent it had come against. Just six months prior, Saint Preux had gone the distance with a returning Jon Jones but Manuwa had wiped him out in under eight minutes after over a year out of action. Inactivity has been a trend throughout Manuwa’s UFC stint with the Brit struggling to really build any momentum or consistency inside the octagon. However, this most recent win represents a chance for change. It was undeniably Manuwa’s most impressive showing thus far and just five months later, he’s back and returning this Saturday night, fighting Corey Anderson in the main event.
The scenario on paper was similar, a fight night main event at the O2 Arena in London. The feeling going in was very different though, on that night Manuwa entered the major underdog, taking on Alexander Gustafsson fresh off his heroic classic with Jon Jones. Whilst undefeated at that time, Manuwa’s pedigree and resume simply didn’t compare to his Swedish counterpart and it showed on fight night. Gustafsson scored an early takedown to somewhat lessen Manuwa’s firepower before finishing the fight with a sharp knee in the clinch. There were a couple of successful moments for the ‘Poster Boy’ but a solitary mistake had cost him in an instant and his potential coming out party had been ended in the blink of an eye.
It would be over a year later when Manuwa next entered the octagon, scoring a somewhat forgettable points victory over Jan Blachowicz. Nonetheless, the win would secure Manuwa a major opportunity as he was next booked to fight the division’s most feared puncher in Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. To his credit, Manuwa backed his own power and immediately began to trade with Johnson. However, unfortunately he was hurt early and seemed outgunned en route to being stopped by the hulking contender early in the second round. And that brings us back to where we started, October 8th 2016 in Manchester, England. It was on that night Manuwa reinvigorated his career with that emphatic ‘OSP’ win.
Just like last time, Manuwa’s upcoming fight is a defining one. Three years after his first foray in the main event, Manuwa now either solidifies his spot as a top contender or goes back to where he was before. Unlike the Gustafsson bout, this time the pressure is all on the ‘Poster Boy’ as his home crowd expects and awaits another knockout that could shoot him into stardom. Whilst Corey Anderson isn’t the flashiest opponent for a headline fight, he’s a dangerous one and in many ways mirrors Manuwa, a man desperate to shatter the glass ceiling and make waves in the stagnant 205lbs division. Regardless, this Saturday night in London we find out a lot about Manuwa. Will he be back to square one or will he finally become a true top contender?