Anthony Johnson vs Jimi Manuwa Preview and Analysis – UFC 191

WSOFThe main card of UFC 191 features a battle of two heavy-handed knockout artists. This is Johnson’s first fight back since losing to Daniel Cormier in a light-heavyweight title fight at UFC 187. Manuwa, on the other hand, bounced back from the first loss of his career by defeating Jan Blachowicz in April.   Anthon Johnson (19-5 MMA, 10-5 MMA, -550 favorite) Johnson first entered the UFC in 2007 as a welterweight, which is quite astonishing given how big his frame is. He still managed to have success as a welterweight but he had to spend more time cutting weight than training and improving his skills. Anthony also missed weigh three times in eleven UFC fights. Further, Johnson missed weight for his final with the promotion by a whopping eleven pounds. To make matters worse, he was fighting at middleweight for that fight and he still badly missed weight. That proved to be the final straw for the UFC, as they cut ties with him immediately. It took Rumble two years and six wins outside the promotion to get himself back into the UFC. However, once he did come back he came back with a vengeance. “Rumble” easily dispatched Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueiera, and Alexander Gustafsson, which earned him a crack at the light-heavyweight title. That title fight was supposed to be against Jon Jones, but Jones was ultimately stripped of the title and replaced by Daniel Cormier. Johnson had some success early against Cormier, but he faded in the second and third rounds and wound up getting submitted in the third stanza by rear-naked choke. The 31 year old Johnson is likely the most fearsome striker in the light-heavyweight division and perhaps all of the UFC. His brutal one-punch knockout power is terrifying for most of his opponents. There may not be a harder hitter at any weight, but that comes at a cost. Johnson is so explosive that he often tires if his opponent is able to survive the first round and make Johnson work hard in the later rounds. That has caused him to get taken down and submitted multiple times in his career. Early on, however, Anthony’s takedown defense is very good. He has excellent hips, balance, and also has an extensive wrestling background, even though he does not use his offensive wrestling much anymore. Johnson’s striking is fast, fluid, and powerful. Working with striking coach Henry Hooft at the Blackzilians camp in Boca Raton, Florida has done wonders for Anthony’s striking. He works a crisp jab, a devastating right hand, and left head kicks that seem to come from nowhere. He is also defensively sound and utilizes solid head movement and footwork. As I mentioned before, Johnson’s achilles heel has always been his conditioning. If he gets that under control he can easily make another run at the title.   Jimi Manuwa (15-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC, +425 underdog) Manuwa has an interesting story because the UFC attempted to sign him multiple times before he ultimately signed with the promotion in 2012. He turned down their offers because he did not feel like he was ready for that level of competition yet and wanted to stay in the UFC once he got there. Jimi showcased his striking skills in his UFC debut against Kyle Kingsbury in September of 2012. His first three UFC fights were stopped by either the doctor or because his opponent injured himself. Those wins earned him a crack at current number one contender Alexander Gustafsson, which he lost by second round knockout. After a year layoff, Jimi returned to beat Jan Blachowicz by decision this past April. He now looks to knock off Johnson, the number one ranked light-heavyweight in the UFC, this Saturday night. Like Johnson, the 35 year old Manuwa is a fierce striker with big power in both of his hands and feet. He is a knockout artist, but he has not really gotten to showcase his power as much in the UFC as he would have liked to because of the nature of some of his fights. Jimi’s trademark leaping left hook is his weapon of choice. However, he also has a nice straight right, kicks to all levels, and knees in the clinch. We have not seen Manuwa fight a wrestler in the UFC yet, so there are still questions about his wrestling and grappling. Kingsbury even took him down a few times and he did not show much from his back. Further, Jimi also has shaky conditioning, especially in high-paced fights.   Thoughts This is a fight between two heavy-handed strikers that approach each fight with the same game plan; to knock their opponent out cold. Johnson is younger, faster, and probably hits harder than Manuwa but -550 is a steep price to pay against someone with the power and striking credentials that Manuwa has. Still, I have to side with Johnson to get the job done. He has been putting in good work with Henry Hooft and Neil Melanson in Florida and I think we will see another highlight reel knockout by “Rumble” on Saturday night.   The Prediction: Anthony Johnson defeats Jimi Manuwa by knockout (round 1)

Written by Mike James

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