Jimi Manuwa may not be ranked in the UFC’s top ten light-heavyweight rankings, but the undefeated fighter has been handed a huge opportunity, as he’ll battle #1 contender Alexander Gustafsson, March 8th. The booking comes not long after “The Mauler’s” original opponent, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, had to withdraw because of a back injury.
If you watched UFC Fight Night 30, then you’ll recall that Manuwa defeated Ryan Jimmo at the event, as the latter couldn’t continue after suffering a leg injury in round two. The victory was Manuwa’s third straight with the UFC, as the British fighter has also defeated Kyle Kingsbury and Cyrille Diabate in the Octagon. Since the “Poster Boy” turned pro in 2008, Manuwa has won all 14 of his scraps via TKO, KO or submission.
Manuwa was quoted saying in the official announcement (via BT Sports):
“Gustafsson is a big test for me but that’s what I’m in the UFC for. He’s coming off an incredibly close loss to Jon Jones but I feel I have the power to stop him. This is what I’ve been training so hard for and I can’t wait until March 8th in London.”
Gustafsson, as Manuwa noted, battled the champion Jones to a tightly contested, decision loss at UFC 165. The defeat was Gustafsson’s first since 2010 and ended a six fight win streak, which included wins over Thiago Silva and “Shogun” Rua.
“I am looking forward to fight Jimi Manuwa in his hometown and I am happy that the UFC could find such an exciting opponent as Jimi so quickly,” said Gustafsson.
So, although Manuwa isn’t a top ranked opponent (and it remains to be seen if Jones is a fan of the match-up), the UFC doesn’t have a lot of options right now. Daniel Cormier doesn’t want to fight overseas in his first bout at 205, and Gustafsson and teammate Phil Davis apparently won’t fight unless a title is on the line. All that aside, it should be an interesting scrap.
The March 8th event will be hosted by London’s O2 Arena and will be broadcast on FOX Sports 2. Stay tuned to Caged Insider.com for all your UFC news and coverage.