To put it plainly, the Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson vs. Jimi "Poster Boy" Manuwa bout looks like an exceptional fight.
As it relates to potential and future impact in the promotion, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more compelling main event on a Fight Night card.
Gustafsson is the man who pushed light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones to his limits in September.
His assignment this time isn't an easy one. Manuwa is a dangerous striker who has compiled a spotless 14-0 MMA record.
His last three wins have come in the UFC, and 13 of them have come by KO. Manuwa makes no bones about what his approach is. He wants to strike hard and fast, as he told Brett Okamoto of ESPN.co.uk: "My technique has come along by leaps and bounds. I throw some of the hardest kicks now; those are some of my main weapons. My punches are harder and faster. I'm just a wrecking machine at the moment."
Manuwa will be giving up five inches to The Mauler, but he has the power to chop down a tree.
Will he pull the major upset? Not if Gustafsson can help it.
The Mauler's reputation has grown about as quickly as his wingspan and reach since he battled Jones. Here's what Connor Ruebusch of Bloody Elbow wrote about Gustafsson's growing talent and notoriety:
Gustafsson has picked up considerably more hype after nearly taking the belt from one of the UFC's most dominant champions, but a lot of that buzz still centers around the Swede's impressive 6'5" frame and considerable wingspan which, despite some miraculous and nature-defying fluctuation, now seems to have settled at about 81".
Will Manuwa get an opportunity to test the chin of Gustafsson, or will the long arm of The Mauler keep him at bay?
The card also features an intriguing lightweight scrap between a rejuvenated Michael "The Menace" Johnson and Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard as well as eight other bouts.
UFC Fight Night 37 is available only via UFC Fight Pass. Here's the full card with predictions for each fight and information on how you can watch the action. Below, you'll find breakdowns of the top two fights on the card.
|UFC Fight Night 37 Card|
|UFC Fight Pass Prelims at 12:30 p.m. EST|
|Phil Harris vs. Louis Gaudinot||Flyweight||Gaudinot by decision|
|Igor Araujo vs. Danny Mitchell||Welterweight||Araujo by decision|
|David Grant vs. Roland Delorme||Bantamweight||Grant by submission|
|Bradley Scott vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva||Middleweight||da Silva by decision|
|Luke Barnatt vs. Mats Nilsson||Middleweight||Barnatt by decision|
|Cyrille Diabate vs. Ilir Latifi||Light Heavyweight||Diabate by decision|
|UFC Fight Pass Main Card at 3 p.m. ET|
|Gunnar Nelson vs. Omari Akhmedov||Welterweight||Akhmedov by KO|
|Brad Pickett vs. Neil Seery||Flyweight||Pickett by submission|
|Michael Johnson vs. Melvin Guillard||Lightweight||Johnson by decision|
|Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa||Light Heavyweight||Gustafsson by KO|
|Infor per UFC, picks from Brian Mazique|
When: Saturday, March 8 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: O2 Arena in London, England
Live Stream: UFC Fight Pass (subscription needed)
Pickett Will Submit Seery
Neil Seery is making his UFC debut, and he's stepping up in competition, facing Brad "One Punch" Pickett. The UFC veteran is just as dangerous with his fist as he is as a wrestler. He is dropping to flyweight for the first time in his career.
It's a risky proposition for a fighter his age (35). That said, Seery doesn't possess the kind of speed that can expose Pickett at the lower weight class.
It would seem Pickett's biggest advantage in this matchup is on the ground. Once he's able to engage Seery on the mat, it's only a matter of time before he gains the advantage.
He should hand Seery his sixth loss via submission in his career.
Michael Johnson's Ascension Will Continue
When Michael Johnson lost to Reza Madadi in April 2013, it looked as if his career was just about over. It was his second loss in a row and the sixth time he'd been submitted in his MMA career. He couldn't seem to conquer his demons on the mat.
The submission game always seemed to get the best of him.
To make matters worse, his next bout was against renowned submission master Joe Lauzon. Surprisingly, Johnson not only avoided being submitted against Lauzon, but he also won a unanimous decision in Aug. 2013. He followed up that win with a spectacular KO of the tough and rugged Gleison Tibau in December 2013.
He's on a roll, and Melvin Guillard isn't going to stop him.
Guillard has all the talent in the world, but poor strategy and stamina have been his downfall. Johnson will be more prepared and well-rounded on Saturday. He'd be wise to take Guillard to the mat, where he can wear him down.
Once he does, he'll have an opportunity to submit him or win by a lopsided decision. I'll bet on the latter.
Gustafsson Is Too Big for Manuwa
The Nigerian-English Manuwa will likely have his share of support at the O2 Arena, but what he really needs is about three more inches of height and reach.
Gustafsson's combination of athleticism and length will be too much for Manuwa to conquer. Were the 6'2" Manuwa a more dangerous grappler, he might have a better chance of pulling off the massive upset. Because he does his work primarily as a striker, it seems unlikely he wins a stand-up battle against Gustafsson.
Manuwa definitely has night-changing power, but he won't land flush against Gustafsson. The Mauler will continue his path toward a rematch with Jones by scoring a second-round KO victory.
Record and stat references per Sherdog.com.
Follow me. I dig combat sports. @BMaziqueFPBR
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