Tom Watson and Jimi Manuwa prepare for their UFC debuts, does success await?

Two popular and accomplished luminaries of the UKMMA scene are making their jump to the big league at UFC: Nottingham on September 29th. Tom ‘Kong’ Watson and Jimmy ‘Poster Boy’ Manuwa are both used to being big fish in a small pond. Are they ready for the choppy waters of the UFC? Let’s find out.

Middleweight Tom Watson (19-4) is a long time stalwart of the British scene, beginning his career in the iconic Cage Rage promotion before becoming the unofficial face of BAMMA.

Coming from a pro boxing background, he has gradually evolved into a dangerous MMA fighter who’s powerful muay thai and relentless cardio stack up well with anyone at 185. Kong shot to prominence when he faced fellow veteran and reality TV star Alex Reid in what was probably the biggest and most hyped domestic fight the UK has seen to date. After being caught on the back font in round 1 by Reid’s quick and aggressive start, Tom steadily took over the fight with his superior power and conditioning over the course of 5 entertaining rounds to pick up a unanimous 49-46 victory.

It was likely his merciless dismantling of ‘Ninja’ Rua that garnered the attention of the UFC top brass though. Many believed that Watson had bitten off more than he could chew leading into the fight but they were firmly silenced once the cage door shut. Tom dished out a savage beating to the Brazilian legend before finishing him by TKO. ‘Ninja’ retired immediately after the bout and Watson was thrust into the international spotlight. For those that haven't seen it, this is worth a look:

Tom 'Kong' Watson vs Murilo 'Ninja' Rua (via OldSchoolRasslin)

Putting all impartiality aside for a moment, I’m a huge Kong fan. I’ve seen him fight live several times and hope he does well in the UFC. However I have my concerns. Tom’s standup is top notch and he’s shown some submission skills throughout his career but, despite regular trips to the States to train with great camps like Greg Jackson’s, his takedown defence remains horribly porous. Watson’s very much the stereotypical British fighter – fantastic standup, okay BJJ, terrible wrestling. Even a semi-conscious Rua was able to take him down during their fight, which doesn’t bode well for his move to a division where guys like Chris Weidman and Yushin Okami are waiting for him. Nonetheless he should be an entertaining addition to the UFC MW roster.

After the jump we'll take a look at Jimi 'Poster Boy' Manuwa

Undefeated Jimi Manuwa (11-0) may not have the length of service behind him that Watson boasts but he’s certainly made a splash in his relatively short career thus far, finishing every one of his 11 fights within the distance. Here's some footage of Jimi doing his thing:

Jimi Manuwa "The Poster Boy" Highlights 2012 (via josh igoe)

Manuwa earned the UCMMA LHW belt and defended it 5 times before jumping ship to BAMMA and destroying Anthony Rea in a one-sided contest. Interestingly, the ‘Poster Boy’ turned down a UFC contract back in 2010, citing a lack of experience. He evidently feels that he’s ready for MMA’s premier league now though and will be facing Kyle Kingsbury in his debut.

While he’s still very much a work in progress, I have high hopes for Manuwa in the UFC. His thai clinch is one of the most dangerous in the sport and he has KO power in his hands, feet, knees and elbows. 205 is also a good division for him as it contains a lot of strikers who will be willing to play Jimi’s game. I fully expect him to flatten Kingsbury and look very good doing it.

Both of these fighters will be wanting to make an impression in Nottingham and hopefully follow in the footsteps of fellow Brits such as Michael Bisping or Brad Pickett who have managed to establish themselves as top talents in their divisions. Whether Watson and Manuwa can do the same remains to be seen but it should definitely be fun finding out.

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