Europeans Star in London (UFC Fight Night 37 Review)

ufc_fn37The UFC would return to England for UFC Fight Night 37 and would be headlined by a big Light Heavyweight fight. It would originally feature one of the biggest stars in Europe against a Brazilian legend. #1 contender Alexander Gustafsson would take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in UFC’s return to England in a match that would go a long way in determining the next title contender in the Light Heavyweight Division. Just days after the fight Nogueira would go down with an injury and drop out of the fight creating an opportunity for a British star to take on the top contender in the division. Jimi Manuwa was a thing of legend before he made his UFC debut in 2012 as he had become known as the best British fighter not in the UFC. The legend would come from his ability to KO his opponents and finish fights through the English circuit. It would also come from his upbringing as Manuwa was far from a UFC fighter while growing up as he was in and out of trouble for years. Born in Nigeria and growing up in London, England Manuwa would be regularly suspended from school and would even be banned from nightclubs for fighting. It would all come to a head when he was arrested for conspiracy to burgle in 2002. When released from prison Manuwa decided to join a friend at an MMA gym and his life was changed forever. He would begin fighting to earn money and move away from the issues that he had in the past. He would quickly become known for his work inside the ring as he would continue to finish fights and many times would force doctor’s to stop fights thanks to the damage that he had inflicted. Outside of the octagon Manuwa was a reformed man and began looking to change the lives of troubled youth like himself. He looks to take kids off of the street and bring them into the gym to show them that they can be like him and get away from that life if they can put their energy into something else. He looks to continue this work while becoming a major name in the UFC and at UFC Fight Night 37 he would get the opportunity to take another step towards that recognition. After spending years on the English circuit, amassing an 11-0 record with 10 knockouts and 1 submission, he would earn a UFC contract and begin his UFC career with a TKO win over Kyle Kingsbury. The fight would be ended by the doctor’s and it would begin a pattern for the English fighter who began to move up the division rankings. In two more UFC fights Manuwa would take TKO wins thanks to injuries to his opponents Cyrille Diabate and Ryan Jimmo. Thanks to those early finished in fights Manuwa would enter the top 15 in the light heavyweight division and thanks to an injury to Nogueira he would get the chance to vastly improve that ranking at home during UFC Fight Night 37. Manuwa would step into the octagon with the sold out O2 Arena behind him in the biggest fight of his career against the top contender in the division. He would look to end the fight early once again against Alexander Gustafsson but Gustafsson would have other plans as he was looking for another shot at the title. After coming very close to beating Jon Jones Gustafsson needed to beat Manuwa to take another shot at the title after Jones and Glover Teixeira face off next month. For Manuwa the fight was all about showing the UFC that he belongs among the top fighters in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. For Gustafsson the fight was entirely about the title and earning another shot to earn the light heavyweight title. The fight promised to be a stand up war between the heavy hitting Manuwa and the rangy Gustafsson as the two strikers with very different styles would face off looking to get the upper hand on each other to prove that they belong. Both fighters would start the fight on the feet but Gustafsson would look to take the smart approach and put the fight on the mat to avoid the strength of Manuwa. The fight would be brought back up to the feet and Gustafsson would begin using his reach and keeping Manuwa on the outside not letting him use his power. The strategy would work even better in the second round as Gustafsson would get on a roll and eventually would pin Manuawa against the fence and unleash some big shots. Those shots would end the fight as Manuwa would go down and Gustafsson would take the TKO win. Manuwa would take the loss but will not fall completely off the radar as he was the #11 fighter taking on the best fighter without the belt in the division and wasn’t truly expected to win. He will drop in rankings and will need to learn from his first loss to become a better fighter and make a run at the title. Gustafsson took the win in impressive fashion leaving no doubt where his next fight will be as he will fight for the title. Whether it will be against Jon Jones or Glover Teixeira remains to be seen as both will fight for the light heavyweight title in April with Gustafsson now waiting in the wings.

In a night full of finishes there was one fight that promised to have a fight bonus attached when it was announced. Michael Johnson and Melvin Guillard were two fighters known for their power and their ability to end fights quickly and when they were announced on the card of Fight Night 37 everyone believed there was a KO on the way. For both fighters it was a chance to put their names among the top in the lightweight division. For Guillard it was an attempt at a comeback but for Michael Johnson it meant another chance to continue his climb up the division ladder. Johnson had won both of his last two fights against some major names. He would beat Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision while he would KO Gleison Tibau and for both wins he became a fighter to keep an eye on. Johnson seemed to be coming into his own leading into UFC Fight Night 37 as he had been an up and down fighter since entering the UFC as a member of The Ultimate Fighter 12 when he lost in the finals to Jonathan Brookins. Since then Johnson has put together a few wins but could never get too far losing a number of fights. This fight against Guillard would be the chance for Johnson to show that he has what it takes and show that he is a better fighter than he was in the past. Both fighters had little interest in taking the fight to the mat but one fighter would look to bide his time and wait to take his shots. The fight was expected to be a barn burner between two aggressive fighters but Melvin Guillard would stay back choosing to pick his shots. Every time Guillard did unleash something he would land it in a big way hurting Johnson multiple times throughout the fight. Still Johnson would hurt Guillard too and would remain busier than Guillard throughout the fight. For that reason Johnson would take home the win and earn his third straight victory. With the loss Guillard remains the fighter with the most fights under his belt, 22, but has not been able to string together many wins meaning he will be on a short rope heading into his next fight as his time in the UFC may be coming to an end sooner rather than later. For Johnson the win means a move up the rankings, although not too far, and likely a chance against a top 10 opponent to see if he belongs among the top lightweights in the UFC.

 

Fight Bonuses

Performance of the Night
Alexander Gustafsson entered the O2 Arena trying to make an impression on the UFC to show that he deserved another title shot and he did just that earning a performance of the night bonus for his KO over Jimi Manuwa

Performance of the Night
The night would open with a rising star from Iceland putting on another great show as Gunnar Nelson would earn a Submission win over Omari Akhmedov that would also earn Nelson and extra $50,000 bonus

Fight of the Night
Alexander Gustafsson would not only collect a bonus for his knockout win over Jimi Manuwa but would earn another $50,000 along with Jimi Manuwa for the fight of the night bringing Gustafsson’s total to $100,000 in bonuses for two rounds of work

 

Fight Results

Main Event:
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson def. Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa
(TKO; Rd. 2)

Main Card:
Michael “The Menace” Johnson def. Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard
(Unanimous Decision)

Brad “One Punch” Pickett def. Neil “2Tap” Seery
(Unanimous Decision)

Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson def. Omari “Lakec” Akhmedov
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd .1)

Undercard:
Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi def. Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate
(Submission; D’Arce Choke, Rd. 1)

Luke “The BigSlow” Barnatt def. Mats Nilsson
(TKO; Rd. 1)

Claudio “Hannibal” Silva def. Bradley “Bear” Scott
(Unanimous Decision)

Igor Araujo def. Danny “The Cheesecake Assassin” Mitchell
(Unanimous Decision)

Louis “Goodnight” Gaudinot def. Phil “Billy” Harris
(Submission; Guillotine Choke, Rd. 1)

 

Upcoming Events:

UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler (Saturday March 15th; 10:00 pm ET)
Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center)
Main Event: Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks vs. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler [Welterweight Title]
Notable: Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit vs. Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley
Notable: Diego “The Dream” Sanchez vs. Myles “Fury” Jury

UFC Fight Night 38: Shogun vs. Henderson 2 (Sunday March 23rd; 7:00 pm ET)
Natal, Brazil (Ginásio Nélio Dias)
Main Event: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson
Notable: CB “The Doberman” Dolloway vs. Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira
Notable: “Stormin” Norman Parke vs. Leonardo “Nenhum” Santos

UFC Fight Night 39: Minotauro vs. Nelson (Friday April 11th; 2:00 pm ET)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Yas Island)
Main Event: Minotauro Nogueira vs. Roy “Big Country” Nelson
Notable: Clay “The Carpenter” Guida vs. Tatsuya “The Crusher” Kawajiri
Notable: Thales Leites vs. Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith

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