Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight kickboxers Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz will collide this Saturday (March 17, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 127 inside The 02 Arena in London, England.
Manuwa’s overall UFC career has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The knockout artist put together the two best victories of his career in stoppages of Corey Anderson and Ovince Saint Preux and finally seemed to be hitting his stride, but his rise resulted in a quick stoppage loss in his first title eliminator match up. Meanwhile, Blachowicz largely underperformed for most of his UFC career. Thankfully, the tide finally seems to be changing, as Blachowicz has shown the conditioning to go more than one round without falling apart. With his cardio seemingly fixed, Blachowicz can once again be looked at as a potential contender.
Let’s take a 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: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC 214), Anthony Johnson (UFC 191), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 37)
Keys to Victory: Manuwa is a physical talent. “Poster Boy” didn’t begin his mixed martial arts (MMA) training until his late 20s, but he quickly realized his potential and terrorized the English scene for years before getting scooped up by UFC.
Fifteen of his professional victories come via knockout.
In this bout, Manuwa is the harder hitter and cleaner boxer. Blachowicz prefers to strike from the kickboxing range, where his heavy left kick is likely his best weapon. To shut that down, Manuwa will want to advance into a closer range. This is often the case for Manuwa, who pursues his opponents with the intent of finding the boxing range before instead landing in the clinch. If that happens opposite Blachowicz, that’s just fine. Manuwa can tire his foe out a bit by roughing him up along the fence and digging knees into the thigh ... it will only benefit him here.
So long as Manuwa patiently works his offensive boxing, he’s at a major advantage on the feet.
Key Wins: Ilir Latifi (UFC Fight Night 53), Jared Cannonier (UFC on FOX 26), Devin Clark (UFC Fight Night 118), Igor Pokrajac (UFC Fight Night 86)
Key Losses: Alexander Gustafsson (UFC Fight Night 93), Jimi Manuwa (UFC Fight Night 64), Corey Anderson (UFC 191)
Keys to Victory: For at least a couple years, Blachowicz problem was that his effectiveness dropped off terribly in the second round. That hasn’t been a problem in his last two fights, and his improved conditioning allowed his very legitimate well-rounded skill set to shine.
Blachowicz should have a pair of goals leading up to this scrap: maintain distance and put hard shots on Manuwa’s chin.
First and foremost, denying Manuwa the ability to box on his terms will be important. I’ll explain in a moment why Blachowicz doesn’t completely have to avoid trading shots with Manuwa, but forcing Manuwa to advance through his punishing kicks is a much wiser strategy that should help slow the 38 year old despite his impressive athleticism.
It must be admitted that Manuwa definitely packs a bigger punch, which adds to the risk of trading with him. That said, Blachowicz has historically shown a stiff beard against hard-hitting foes, and each of Manuwa’s three losses came via knockout. If he can convince Manuwa to really pressure — hard kicks being the best motivator — there’s a real chance that Blachowicz can land a fight-changing counter shot on the way in.
Bottom Line: Light Heavyweight is empty of contenders, so the winner is in a pretty good position.
There’s a reason that Daniel Cormier has been able to take six months to challenge for the Heavyweight title, as no one really deserves a title shot right now. Gustafsson has an okay argument, but really needs another win, and other top fivers like Ilir Latifi and Glover Teixeira are in a similar position.
What does the victor of this bout stand to gain? A potential title eliminator with any of those men. Even if it doesn’t work out quite so cleanly, the winner here is definitely in the immediate title mix. Meanwhile, defeat would mean a big drop in the rankings for Manuwa, who enters at the No. 4 spot. Alternatively, Blachowicz is outside the Top 10 and stepping up in competition, so there’s little risk for him.
At UFC Fight Night 127, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz will square off in the co-main event. Which Light Heavyweight will see his hand raised?