Two extremely dangerous light heavyweight strikers will battle for supremacy this Saturday (Feb. 16, 2013) as British bomber Jimi Manuwa takes on lanky kickboxer Cyrille Diabate on the UFC on FUEL TV 7 main card in London, England.
Manuwa took his time getting to the UFC, turning down multiple invites until he felt he was ready and when he finally made his debut, he made mincemeat out of Kyle Kingsbury's face, forcing a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round last September. Now, he's looking to prove he belongs with the best by defeating Diabate.
Diabate has been there and done that in his combat fighting career, battling all sorts of opponents in multiple avenues. "The Snake" is currently riding his first consecutive win streak in the UFC and he's hoping to make it three straight by taking out a top prospect on his home turf.
Will Manuwa's star continue to rise? Can Diabate utilize his veteran experience to pound the top prospect? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 12-0 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Kyle Kingsbury (UFC on FUEL TV 4),
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Manuwa was a troubled youth, but found discipline through martial arts training, working his way into MMA by 2003 and officially making his pro debut in 2007. He got off to a fast start, smashing his first two opponents in five minutes which earned him an invite to the UCMMA promotion.
Manuwa earned the UCMMA light heavyweight title in just his fifth pro bout and would defend it a whopping five times over a dominant two year stretch, finishing every single one of his opponents and never seeing the third round.
After turning down an opportunity to fight in the UFC, "The Poster Boy" finished Anthony Rea after one round at BAMMA 8 and finally signed a UFC contract, making his debut against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on Fuel TV 4, where he battered his opponent's eye and forced a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round.
Now, he's looking to not only remain unbeaten, but to keep that stoppage streak alive.
How he gets it done: Manuwa is a very powerful puncher and that's by far his biggest strength. He's got some solid boxing skills and he'll need to close the distance against the lanky Diabate, potentially turning this fight into a form of "technical brawling."
Manuwa slowed down drastically by the end of the second round against Kingsbury so he'll want to really try to put the heat on Diabate early and try to make the veteran wilt under his constant pressure. When you've got an opponent who's as long as Diabate, his body is going to be a bit more exposed and Manuwa should really mix up his boxing attack with heavy shots to the liver and solar plexus.
If he gets Diabate to think body, it'll open up the head and that's where "The Poster Boy" is most dangerous of all.
Record: 19-8-1 overall, 4-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Cyrille Diabate has been fighting for well over a decade. The 39-year old Frenchman has competed in all sorts of striking arts including shoot boxing, Muay Thai and of course mixed martial arts throughout a lengthy combat career.
After a rough four fight losing streak early in his career, "The Snake" really began to put it all together, utilizing his 6'6 frame and pounding on opponents with his length and technical striking. He found a home competing in Japan, earning four straight wins to score a fight against Mauricio Rua, but his night was quickly ended when "Shogun" stomped him into submission.
After scoring five straight victories around the world, he was invited to the UFC where he made quick work of Luiz Cane, smashing "Baha" inside the first round with his crisp technical striking. Diabate experienced a pair of setbacks via submission to Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Perosh, but has since put on a solid display of striking en route to impressive wins against the likes of Chad Griggs and Tom DeBlass in his last two bouts.
He's looking to earn his third straight UFC victory against Manuwa on Saturday.
How he gets it done: Diabate has plenty of tools, but most effective will likely be the diversity of his attack. At 6'6, he can potentially keep Manuwa at the end of his jab, and it's a pretty damn stiff jab considering he dropped the notoriously hard-headed Chad Griggs with it in his last bout.
If the fight enters close quarters, look for Diabate to utilize his Muay Thai skills as those long limbs will give him an advantage on the inside with some brutal elbows and knees. He just has to avoid letting Manuwa enter the pocket and tagging him with heavy punches.
If all else fails, "The Snake" could either drag this fight to the ground, where he will likely have a slight edge especially in regards to the submission realm, or he can try to get this fight into the second and third round, where Manuwa has very little experience.
Diabate has plenty of avenues to win this fight, he just has to keep Manuwa from blasting him in the pocket with those powerful fists of his.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is conditioning. Manuwa is an absolute wrecking ball, having finished every opponent he's ever faced, but he could have been in trouble against Kingsbury had the fight not been stopped by the doctors at the end of the second round. He looked to be gasping for air and that's never a good sign when you're competing against the best fighters in the world.
If Diabate can force Manuwa to see the third round for the first time in his career, this fight will get significantly more interesting.
Bottom Line: When you have a battle between two very talented strikers, there's always the potential for a great slugfest. While Diabate has not been prone to get into huge striking exchanges, instead preferring to work his technical attacks from the outside, there's no telling how he's going to react if Manuwa forces the issue and lands a big blow. He might throw caution to the wind and try to match "The Poster Boy" blow for blow. This bout has all the potential in the world to be extremely entertaining and is a very real contender for "Fight of the Night."
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 7? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!