When Alexander Gustafsson versus Jimi Manuwa was announced as the headlining bout for UFC Fight Night 37 – a card that would be broadcast entirely on UFC Fight Pass – there was a great deal of head-scratching. After all, Gustafsson had just lost a narrow decision to Jon Jones at UFC 165, and had delivered to the champ a beating the likes of which none had given him before. So why they hell was he fighting a virtual nobody on a throwaway card? Why weren’t the Swede and the champ going right back at it in an immediate rematch? Although the answer probably has more to do with recovery times and schedules than it does grand conspiracies, now that the dust has settled in London and Manuwa has been revived and checked over by the doctors, one fact supersedes any questions as to why Gustafsson had to fight someone else: Gustafsson MUST fight for the light-heavyweight title soon. He’s without question one of the division’s best.
Manuwa of course came into Saturday’s bout as an underdog. Despite having a spotless 14-0 record, three of which came in the Octagon, the Nigerian-born slugger had yet to take on the upper echelon of competition the UFC had to offer. Sure, he was a hard-hitter and capable of putting anyone to sleep if he landed, but regularly TKOing locals means little when that talent is nowhere near the level possessed by the UFC’s top-caliber fighters. And without a doubt, Gustafsson is among that latter group of athletes.
In terms of action, Manuwa did what was expected. He came out throwing kicks and punches, looking to maybe chop the taller Swede down or distract him with low-kicks before delivering a punch high. Gustafsson in turn took him down – almost too easily – and with some attempted Kimuras and Americanas, put Manuwa on the defensive. If Gustafsson was dominant on the ground in Round 1, Round 2 saw him dominant on the feet, blasting Manuwa in the jaw with a knee and an uppercut, and following him down with fists. The stoppage came seconds later.
There were inspired performances and some less-than-inspired performances elsewhere on the card. Michael Johnson employed superior footwork and tighter combinations to wear down Melvin Guillard, and Brad Pickett wisely sought his fortunes on the ground in lieu of getting into a punch-festival with Neil Seery. Gunnar Nelson, meanwhile, pretty much ate his Russian opponent for dinner.
But the evening – as well as a Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night bonus – belonged to Gustafsson, and if his almost too-easy handling of Manuwa tells us anything, it’s that he should be fighting Jones tomorrow.
- Alexander Gustafsson def. Jimi Manuwa via TKO (Strikes) at 1:18, R2
- Michael Johnson def. Melvin Guillard via Unanimous Decision
- Brad Pickett def. Neil Seery via Unanimous Decision
- Gunnar Nelson def. Omar Akhmedov via Submission (Guillotine) at 4:36, R1
- Ilir Latifi def. Cyrille Diabate via Submission (Front Choke) at 3:02, R1
- Luke Barnatt def. Mats Nilsson via TKO (Strikes) at 4:24, R1
- Claudio Silva def. Brad Scott via Unanimous Decision
- Igor Araujo def. Danny Mitchell via Unanimous Decision
- Louis Gaudinot def. Phil Harris via Submission (Guillotine) at 1:13, R1