UFC Fight Night 37 Play: Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (-450) vs Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa (+360)

Jimi ManuwaUFC Fight Night 37 Date: March 8, 2014 Arena: O2 Arena City: London, England Light Heavyweight bout: Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (-450) vs Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa (+360) Fight Breakdown: The main event for UFC Fight Night 37 on UFC Fight Pass will be a war between a pair of talented strikers and it is scheduled for five rounds, should the fight go the distance. Recent light heavyweight title challenger Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson looks to get another shot at the belt with a win, when he steps inside the Octagon against England’s own, Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa. “The Mauler” is the favorite heading into this fight at -450 ($450 to win $100), with the return on “Poster Boy” at +360 ($100 to win $360) Several Bookmakerss. ALEXANDER “THE MAULER” GUSTAFSSON (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is making his return to the Octagon following his first career light heavyweight title fight, where he came up short in a closely contested unanimous decision against champion Jon “Bones” Bones. In fact, Gustafsson feels as if he beat Jones, as did a number of fans watching the fight. The UFC feels the fight was so close, that with a win over Manuwa, they promised him another crack at the 205 pound gold. “The Mauler” is a talented striker who possesses excellent boxing skills, having been practicing the sweet science for 16 years, well before ever getting started in MMA. He likes to use his reach and jab to keep opponents out of their striking range, while simultaneously scoring points. Wrestling was a weakness for Gustafsson early in his career, but he has since improved his game. After being outgrappled by “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis in his second UFC fight, which resulted in the first loss of his professional mixed martial arts career, “The Mauler” packed his bags and moved from snowy Sweden to sunny San Diego, CA to train with Davis at Alliance MMA. We saw the fruits and labor of his hard work in the Jones fight, where he not only defended takedown attempts by Jones, but also became the first fighter to score a takedown over the champ inside the Octagon. The 27-year old native of Sweden has excellent takedown defense and his offensive wrestling has certainly become noteworthy. Gustafsson is a very good submission grappler and even owns a submission grappling championship. He has tremendous conditioning and will be certainly have the advantage in that department, as he heads into this main event match-up against an undefeated knockout artist in Manuwa. Knowing that with a win, he will have another chance at taking the UFC light heavyweight title home to Sweden, Gustafsson will either be looking to play it super safe, or he will be looking to make a statement. We won’t know until that Octagon closes shut. JIMI “POSTER BOY” MANUWA (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is set to make his fourth Octagon appearance coming off consecutive TKO victories over Kyle Kingsbury, Cyrille Diabate, and most recently Ryan Jimmo. He beat the trio of light heavyweights to the point where they were no longer able to continue. Manuwa is one of my favorite fighters to watch in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, as I am a big fan of his brutal striking. He hits as strong as he looks and is faster than he seems. The 34-year old Nigerian-Englishman does serious damage on the feet, and has finished all 14 opponents in his professional mixed martial arts career; 13 by TKO/KO, and only one by submission. He loves to throw powerful hooks and overhands from range, and devastating knees and elbows from inside the clinch, when he closes the distance on his opponents. The Brit throws a nice high kick, and works the inside legs really well. He also likes to throw a leaping left hook, which he is continuously successful in doing damage with. It is worth noting that he is very resilient, and capable of taking heavy shots without flinching. “Poster Boy” likes to move forward and has never seen the third round in his career, as he has always managed to get the finish. That said, he has shown signs of fatigue, even as early has the tail end of the very first round. Manuwa starts off very strong, but slows down as the fight progresses. I expect he has made improvements in that department, especially considering he is getting ready for a five round war against a tough-to-finish light heavyweight who will have a height and reach advantage over him, not to mention an undoubted advantage in cardio. The undefeated knockout artist has average takedown defense, but generally does not have good wrestling skills. However, he has been showing improvements in that department, as he has been displaying powerful takedowns and improved defense. That said, I think he can be controlled by a talented wrestler, especially one without cardio issues. Considering how great and improved the Swede’s wrestling has been looking, it is a likely possibility he could use that as his route to victory in this match-up against Manuwa, whose own wrestling can be credited largely in part to his incredible strength, which will be one of the few advantages he has over Gustafsson as he heads into the first main event bout of his Octagon career. Another advantage he will have that is worth noting will be a hometown advantage. The crowd will be on his side, and their energy may be enough to push him to the five round finish line. Fight Prediction: Gustafsson is going to use his range to score points, and then he will look to take the fight to the mat, where he figures to have an advantage. If he finds success with the takedown, he will likely be in search for a submission, but I am not sure if he will get it. It is possible, but I know Manuwa is tough, and I expect he has been working on his grappling defense, all around. He should be prepared to defend takedowns, and if taken down, immediately get back to his feet. He should also, and most importantly have been drilling submission defense, which I expect he has. He will go into this fight looking for the knockout. If he doesn’t find it, then “The Mauler” will outpoint him en route to a unanimous decision, or end up getting the tap, especially in later rounds when Manuwa might be too tired to defend the submission attempts. Gabe’s Pick: Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46) but I think a 4th or 5th round submission is a real possibility, as well. Gabe’s Recommended Play: Jimi Manuwa (+335) .25u to win .9u for a very small value play.

Written by Gabe Killian

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