Brooding Light Heavyweight contenders will let the leather fly TONIGHT (Sat. Sept. 5, 2015) at UFC 191 (full fight card here) when former No. 1-ranked title contender Anthony Johnson takes on upstart Jimi Manuwa inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Rumble” and “Poster Boy” possess eerily similar fight styles and would love to get the knockout to cement — or continue — their climb toward the 205-pound title.
The pay-per-view (PPV) card, which also features a Flyweight title headliner between division champion Demetrious Johnson and “mental midget” John Dodson, is sure to receive a jolt when the aforementioned Johnson and Manuwa collide in the center of the Octagon.
Let’s dig deeper and find out what each fighter needs to do to get his hand raised tonight.
#1 Avoid the clinch …
Old habits die hard — real hard in the case of Johnson. The 31-year-old took a beating from current 205-pound champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 187 back in May.
Johnson was flustered in the clinch and put on his behind, where he would eventually succumb to a rear-naked choke in the third round.
Now Manuwa doesn’t come close to harnessing the wrestling skill-set that “DC” possesses, but he does have an underrated clinch game. You won’t see the former British mixed martial arts (MMA) champion shooting for a double-leg.
Instead, the 35-year-old will nullify any sort of grappling attempt — usually done by foes to avoid his powerful hands — by scoring a trip or throw. For the most part, Manuwa has decent takedown defense and an ability to sprawl, so he can maintain the clinch position when the need presents itself.
Johnson will want to ensure he stays planted on the ground, or establishes underhooks first and foremost, because one small shift in weight could mean the difference between a takedown surrendered and a powerful knee strike.
#2 Come up the middle …
One pitfall we saw of Manuwa in his technical knockout (TKO) loss to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC Fight Night 37 in March 2014 was that he can be a bit lackadaisical with his striking. This is something Johnson can use to his advantage.
By luring the Brit out of his comfort zone, he opens up the defense of the former, which in-turn means more striking opportunities. At 6’2,” Johnson can land devastating knees from inside the clinch, as well as uppercuts on the way in.
What was the strike that set up the picture perfect knee by “The Mauler” in London, England 18 months ago? An uppercut.
#3 Fake low, go high …
While Johnson is capable of bull rushing his opponents, he would be wise to stick to a disciplined game plan here. There will be openings to attack Manuwa in the fight, but he just needs to remain patient.
Similarly to his approach against Phil Davis at UFC 172, Johnson needs to set up Manuwa and a great way to do that would be with leg kicks.
If he sends one your way? Well, return the favor.
Leg kicks will undoubtedly come from Manuwa and he needs to make the latter pay. In the past, when Johnson has gone with a head kick, he’s had great success as he knocked out Charlie Brenneman and Kevin Burns both with head kicks.
This will be the second high-level striker that Manuwa faces in UFC and Johnson is no joke. It’s put up or shut up time.
#1 Trip or throw …
If Manuwa has watched any tape of Johnson, he has to be thinking how can I get this fight to the floor? The answer would be to use Johnson’s momentum against him.
Johnson rarely, if ever, moves backwards, which means these two are either going to slug it out in the center of the cage, or Manuwa will be forced into counter striking.
The Blackzilian representative goes to the body and leg on enough occasions, which will allow Manuwa to lock up the clinch and go to work. Then, of course, Manuwa also fancies himself a sweet, lead left hook and can also find his way into the clinch on his own.
#2 Leg kicks …
One way to stop a freight train like Johnson is to halt his momentum with leg kicks, which happen to be one of Manuwa’s best techniques.
He landed 31 leg strikes (most of them were knees) in a win over Ryan Jimmo in Oct. 2013 at UFC Fight Night 30.
Power lies not only in his hands, but in his feet and Manuwa is best when he diversifies his attack. Throw a leg kick and mask one of those blistering overhand rights, or left hooks, behind it and you’ve got a recipe for a knockout.
#3 Circle right …
I know, this should be obvious, but for some fighters, this isn’t always clear. Johnson’s best strikes come via his right hand; he’s not as ambidextrous as his light heavyweight counterpart.
He’s going to have his right hand cocked back at all times, intending on finding Manuwa’s chin like a heat-seeking missile. Manuwa has a solid lead left hook and he does a good job of working the body of his opponents.
His head movement was also point in his last Octagon appearance — a win over Jan Blachowicz at UFC Fight Night 64 back in April — which should pay dividends against Johnson.. Manuwa should be able to counter often by ducking punches and checking some of Johnson’s kicks.
Prediction: Manuwa via second-round technical knockout
There’s no telling what kind of Johnson is going to show up tonight. He was on a nine-fight win streak heading into his tussle with Cormier, but how will he handle such a debilitating loss?
Did it cause Johnson to doubt himself, or perhaps make unnecessary changes in his camp? Did he improve upon his takedown defense?
There are several questions Johnson needs to answer and he could use a finish to get back on the saddle and ride on towards gold once again.
Manuwa has everything to gain by being in the position he’s in. Even if he puts forth a considerable effort, his stock should somewhat rise.
If he were to come out and dismantle the former top contender Johnson, well, he would cement himself as the newest member of the 205-pound elite.
For the full UFC 191: “Johnson vs. Dodson 2″ fight card, click here, and remember to stay with MMAmania for all of your fight night coverage, including live updates and play-by-play, post-fight recaps and analysis … plus much more!