Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight knockout artists Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir will go to war this Saturday (July 29, 2017) at UFC 214 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
When Manuwa lost to a pair of top contenders a couple years back, it was largely assumed that the 37-year-old Brit would not develop into a potential title contender. However, “Poster Boy” surpassed expectations with two brutal knockout wins that raised him into the Top 5. Meanwhile, Oezdemir was a complete unknown in his UFC debut but still managed to knock off a Top 10-ranked fighter. That could be written off as a fluke, sure, but “Cousin” followed it up with a 28-second knockout win that cemented his position as a top Light Heavyweight.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Corey Anderson (UFC Fight Night 107), Ovince St. Preux (UFC 204), Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 64), Ryan Jimmo (UFC Fight Night 30)
Key Losses: Anthony Johnson (UFC 191), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 37)
Keys to Victory: There’s not all that complicated about Manuwa’s game. He’s a sharp boxer with some smart set ups, but more than that he’s a physical beast. In the last couple years, Manuwa has figured out how to effectively put forth devastating punches without giving away easy takedowns, and that makes all the difference.
He doesn’t have to worry much about takedowns in this bout.
This is a match up between strikers who tend to be comfortable at every range. They both can kick well, box effectively, and make use of the clinch. In fights like this, whichever man is able to employ more of his tricks and find his timing first is likely to come out on top.
For Manuwa, his best work is done at boxing range. To get there, chopping his opponent’s legs would be advised, either using kicks at range or in the clinch with his bizarrely devastating knees to the thigh. Once able to find his boxing range, Manuwa does best when mixing targets. When he’s snapping a hard jab, digging hooks to the mid-section, and suddenly coming up high with power punches, the Englishman is very difficult to deal with.
Key Wins: Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 109), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC Fight Night 104)
Key Losses: Kelly Anundson (Bellator 115)
Keys to Victory: From unranked and unheard of to top five in two fights, Oezdemir is still something of an unknown. What we do know, however, is that Oezdemir is an effective kickboxer with sneaky power, and so far his takedown defense has held up well.
Though the fighters are similarly sized, Oezdemir has shown more of a flair for outside kickboxing. He did a lot of work at range opposite Saint Preux, kicking him then attacking with combinations when his opponent was vulnerable. In his last fight, Oezdemir didn’t have much of a chance to establish his distance, but he did end the fight with a single shot when his opponent tried to get close.
Meanwhile, Manuwa is a more stationary striker. If Oezdemir puts a focus on movement and kicks, there’s a fair chance he’ll be able to frustrate his opponent. Manuwa isn’t going to run into a counter quite so easily, but openings will still arise for the Swiss athlete to score and return to his movement. Plus, being a moving target opposite someone with Manuwa’s power isn’t such a bad thing.
Bottom Line: It’s a potential title eliminator.
If Manuwa wins, he’ll very likely receive a title shot. He’s older, and three straight Top 10 wins is nothing to scoff at in any division. The time for Manuwa to fight for a strap is now while at his most dangerous, rather than some vague time in the future when he could decline.
With that in mind, any setback is obviously a problem.
As for Oezdemir, the 27-year-old may just be the Light Heavyweight prospect we’ve all been hoping for. He’s young, talented, and with a strong camp. He also doesn’t fatigue after five minutes, which makes him a 205-pound standout already. And if Oezdemir pulls off yet another upset here, the mixed martial arts (MMA) world will be forced to take him seriously as a title contender.
At UFC 214, Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir will open the main card with a kickboxing match. Which man will have his hand raised?