Welcome to the UFC, "Poster Boy" Jimi Manuwa.
Arguably one of the most dangerous light heavyweight prospects in Europe right now, the Nigerian-English phenomenon cut his teeth in his home country before signing on to a UFC contract this past summer. Now, Manuwa looks to make a major statement in the UFC's light heavyweight division at the expense of TUF 8 contestant Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham, England Sept. 29.
The UFC on Fuel 5 card will see a headliner of undefeated Stipe Miocic taking on Stefan Struve, while Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy fights Amir Sadollah in the night's co-headliner. Manuwa vs. Kingsbury will take place on the night's Facebook undercard.
We know what "Kingsbu" can do, as he owned a four-fight win streak prior to his current two-fight skid. Not only did Kingsbury put a nice streak together, with wins over Ricardo Romero and Fabio Maldonado, and we've already given you some of the bits and pieces about Manuwa, but take some time out with me, if you will, so we can completely comprehend exactly what Kingsbury must contend with tomorrow night.
Trust me, you will thank yourself later.
Growing up, Manuwa found himself getting into trouble, to say the least.
Ask him, and he may recall a fight or two outside of a few nightclubs in the South London town of Croydon as well as a few burglary rings. In 2002, the man actually served time in prison for conspiracy to burgle.
The trouble came to a halt after Manuwa exited prison in 2003, when Manuwa saw one of his best friends in a cage fight. After that, Manuwa would go on to begin training, winning a few fights along the way before going pro in July of 2008.
Not only that, but he also helps teach kids how to avoid the path on which he himself once traveled.
When fans picked up on Jimi Manuwa last year, he ranked as one of the Top 3 names to watch in the light heavyweight division.
His ground game had come a long way, but his offense, defense, and Fight IQ stood out in the minds of those who witnessed him in action.
Manuwa's defenses shine best on the feet. Though he has dropped his hands on a few occasions, he does do a stellar job in reading his opponent's strikes and blocking them almost at will.
Offensively, Manuwa's striking and Muay Thai techniques prove his most superior weapons. Armed with one-punch power and a violent Muay Thai clinch game, Manuwa knows how to end fights on his terms.
Not much can be said about his submission game, as he hunts harder for knockouts than he does for submissions. If he sees an opening to force a tap, though, don't think he won't take it. He may catch some flak for fighting like a knockout artist and nothing more, but rest assured, he has done some work in shoring up the holes that once existed in his ground game.
Also of note is "The Manuwa Rule." Manuwa's operated his entire career by this rule, and only two men can say they pushed Manuwa hard enough to force him to break his own rule.
What is The Manuwa Rule exactly?
The Manuwa Rule is as follows:
Manuwa doesn't fight for points. He doesn't like decisions. He prefers leaving little to no doubt about his victories.
Check his record, boys and girls: 11 fights, 11 wins, and 11 devastating finishes, and Manuwa likes it that way.
Not bad for a UFC newcomer.
Professionally, the road began for Manuwa in July of 2008, when Manuwa only had about three weeks of training.
Despite such little training, Manuwa took on Tom King in his pro debut. King, who also made his debut in the fight with Manuwa, took Manuwa down multiple times, with Manuwa struggling to regress to a vertical position. As the first round wore on, however Manuwa found opportunities of his own to stick takedowns and land some clean ground-and-pound despite not being able to implement his stand-up.
Eventually, Manuwa would finish King after King lost an attempt at a triangle choke. The win came at 2:20 of the first round, and it established an ominous prelude for what lied ahead.
What can you say about Manuwa's win over Dave Rintal, other than "Manuwa dominated the fight"?
Rintal tried to clinch with Manuwa, but once the fight went to the ground, Manuwa did a good job of keeping control of the top position and finding the opportunity to mount Rintal before laying in some ground and pound.
Rintal giving Manuwa his back didn't help matters. As a matter of fact, once Manuwa got Rintal's back, Manuwa forced the referee to intervene after delivering more ground and pound, with Rintal not looking in any position to defend Manuwa's best shots.
At just 2-0, Manuwa took his talents to Ultimate Challenge MMA's inaugural event, where Chris Greig felt confident in his ability to push Manuwa harder than he'd ever been pushed.
To Greig's credit, he did provide a good test of Manuwa's takedown defense, and he did keep Manuwa down for almost the last minute of the first round. However, Greig's problems started when Manuwa laid in some ground and pound in closing seconds of the first round. As the second round began, things got worse for Greig as Manuwa pressured Greig into forcing single-leg takedown attempts.
After defending attempt after attempt for the first minute of round two, a fatigued Greig gave up his back and allowed Manuwa to find a home for three well-telegraphed lefts to the ear before the referee intervened.
When Jimi Manuwa entered the Ultimate Challenge cage for UCMMA 4 on May 9, 2009, he came off of the strength of a submission win over Jamie Hearn.
His opponent was 6-6-1 Ryan Robinson. Robinson came off of a loss to Denniston Sutherland to make his UCMMA debut against Manuwa in a bout for the UCMMA light heavyweight title, if you can believe it. One could still make the argument that Robinson's losses up to that point impressed more than his victories, but that's another story.
The fight lasted only two minutes and three seconds, and Manuwa dominated that whole duration with not only his striking, but also his ground-and-pound. Robinson moved as though he felt okay to continue, but the referee made the executive decision to stop the fight as Robinson's face sported heavy damage and bled profusely as a result of Manuwa's offense.
Watch the fight and judge for yourself. Do you think the ref stoppage came on time or too early?
Manuwa made the first defense of his new crown against Luke Blythe, who rode a two-fight win streak before challenging for Manuwa's title.
Blythe went the distance against Alfredo Achilli—who can brag about that win but not much else—while Manuwa hadn't gone past round two in a pro fight. Blythe also never succumbed to a finish in his career prior to fighting Manuwa, though he did have a verbal submission loss on his record. Needless to say, Blythe set out to make Manuwa work for that first successful title defense.
In the first round, Manuwa established his power early after getting the fight to the ground. Unquestionably, Manuwa took the first round with his ground-and-pound, but Blythe looked to change all that in round two with his standup. Manuwa would, however, do an excellent job pressuring Blythe while avoiding some of his best shots.
A takedown and a triangle choke attempt temporarily changed the momentum of the fight, but Manuwa showed some composure and escaped the hold with relative ease before ending up back in the dominant position.
Once they stood back up though, Manuwa took a few of Blythe's attempts at the head and the body, and threw an ice-cold left to knock Blythe down and out.
You know those rumors that go around—specifically, the ones that said that "Poster Boy" turned down an offer to fight at UFC 105 months after destroying Blythe?
Well, it's true—Manuwa did turn down the chance to debut at UFC 105 after he beat Blythe, but can you blame him?
Some prospects jump at UFC contracts without a second thought, but then they lose in devastating fashion and they wind up having to fight their way back into the UFC.
Imagine if Manuwa brought his 6-0 record into the UFC, lost at UFC 105, and lost one more fight before getting his walking papers. Would anyone (not including myself) pay much attention to him in that instance, since he went from a 6-0 prospect to "that dude who lost in the UFC"?
I doubt it. Hence, I wouldn't blame him for not wanting to try and dance with the wolves just two years into the sport when the dude wasn't even ready to get near the pack.
Other than a sweep and an escape from an armbar attempt, Shaun Lomas suffered a similar fate as Dave Rintal when he stepped up to face Jimi Manuwa at UCMMA 9.
Again, Manuwa clinched, got his man against the cage, took him down, mounted him, and looked to wrap it up with some ground-and-pound. However, Lomas did sweep Manuwa and looked to turn the tide from the dominant position. When he couldn't finish the job, Manuwa worked for an armbar, but couldn't come close to finding the tap.
Nevertheless, Manuwa found his way back on top and he pounded Lomas' face in before the referee finally intervened.
For those of you who may not know, Valentino Petrescu sports a 12-2 pro record, currently is on a 3-0 tear, and participates on "The Ultimate Fighter: Team Australia vs. Team UK."
Of course, he can thank a knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa for his current three-fight win streak.
Oddly enough, Manuwa came off of a TKO win over Reza Mahdavian to face a then-undefeated Petrescu, who choked out Shaun Lomas in the first round at UWC 12. Manuwa faced tough challenges prior to this defense, and he did have to put effort into "effortlessly" winning fights prior to facing Petrescu. However, the then-8-0 "Battista" would only go down on his shield, and up until Manuwa faced him, nobody had forced Petrescu to go out on his shield.
Manuwa and Petrescu engaged in an intense clinch battle for the majority of the bout, and the crowd definitely got their money's worth with both men opting to best the other in the clinch. However, Manuwa proved he could take a punch, and he dished out as serious an onslaught as he took.
The end result, to nobody's surprise, came in two forms: Manuwa's right hand putting Petrescu's lights out and Manuwa's vaunted left keeping Petrescu's lights out as he retained his UCMMA light heavyweight crown.
Cyrille Diabate and Anthony Perosh fought in UFC 138's lone light heavyweight bout, but before that fight became official, the UFC tried to get Manuwa to fight on a UK card again.
Remember, when he got the offer to fight at UFC 105, Manuwa only had fought two years as a pro—the dude never had an amateur career.
When UFC 138 started to roll around, Manuwa got the offer again, despite being out of action since August 2010 at the time. Manuwa declined again. Business went on as UFC business usually does.
Again, the guy wants to come in as a finished product—as an active opponent who actually has been training for what lies ahead. There lies no fault in a prospect wanting to come into the promotion and actually fight like his potential exists instead of just hopping on a card just because "it's the UFC calling."
After Manuwa turned down UFC 138, he took two fights. The first came in UCMMA, where Manuwa violently dismantled Nick "Headhunter" Chapman. In the process, Chapman took heavy knees to his midsection before the ref stepped in, thus causing Chapman to suffer his first pro loss.
Manuwa would vacate the belt and sign with BAMMA, but Manuwa would only fight once for the promotion. Manuwa's lone fight in BAMMA came in BAMMA 8's headliner opposite Antony "Wild Thing" Rea. Rea came in with a 22-13 pro record—again, the losses read like a who's who—but Rea carried a five-fight win streak into his fight with Manuwa.
In short, Manuwa dictated the action with his striking and worked to neutralize Rea's best efforts from up close. Rea proved a tough task, but by the end of the first round, Rea endured more than what he could handle from Manuwa, who won the fight by TKO when Rea couldn't answer the bell for the start of round two.
Most oddsmakers feel Kingsbury is the underdog, which means that either Manuwa really impresses the oddsmakers or Kingsbury's stock really took a plunge with back-to-back defeats to Stephan Bonnar and Glover Teixeira.
Of course, we shouldn't sleep on Kingsbury just yet. Remember, the last time he fought a man with an undefeated record, he made short work of Ricardo Romero. Also, Octagon jitters can happen to even the most promising prospects, and Octagon jitters can outweigh the home-field advantage a bit more than some may think.
However, Manuwa earned his shot in the UFC by making statements in all 11 of his pro wins. If he can make a statement against Kingsbury, it can only mean the beginning of the meteoric rise of one of the UK's most promising light heavyweights in recent memory.