Whenever the UFC comes to London, the UK and Europe have a fleeting opportunity to showcase the finest array of fighting ability from across the Atlantic. This means that a whole host of young talent will be on display this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 127.
But the co-main event sees two light heavyweight staples meet again as Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz face-off nearly three years after their initial meeting. Both have had mixed success since Manuwa got the better of Blachowicz in the Pole’s homeland. Neither man can afford to drop another loss this weekend, which makes for an intriguing clash.
The “Poster Boy” gets the front cover once again
Come Saturday night, it will have been 364 days since Jimi Manuwa’s successful headliner in London last year. Manuwa rocked the O2 Arena as he flatlined Corey Anderson with a touch-of-death left hook. It’s devastating performances such as that one that mean that Manuwa, in spite of his UFC 214 loss to Volkan Oezdemir in his last outing, has been called upon once again to perform at the top of the bill this weekend. Playing second fiddle only to an enthralling heavyweight main event.
Manuwa, 38, has the kind of earth-shattering power that can be relied upon to provide truly spectacular knockouts. Just ask Anderson and Ovince Saint Preux how the potholes in the right sides of their heads are getting along. Whether he strings his combinations together and catapults a giant knee at his opponent’s face, or stalks them to find the perfect spot for his fist, Manuwa always has and always will be a thoroughbred finisher. It’s hard not to be when you possess the kind of dynamite that he does in his hands.
Unsurprisingly, “Poster Boy” is eager to avoid the judges this weekend and get back to winning in his trademark style. A knockout would be a doubly sweet treat for him as well. He was unable finish Blachowicz in their first bout, producing a unanimous decision victory on that night. Blachowicz will undoubtedly be ready to avenge that defeat. But the London crowd will surely get behind their own and roar as they always do, giving Manuwa a boost as he prepares to defend his turf.
Polished performances for the Pole
Whilst Jan Blachowicz has sometimes lacked the ‘killer instinct’, his overall capabilities have been improving since his 2014 debut. His titanium frame has always made him a nightmare to put away (he hasn’t been stopped in seven years). And now he appears to be displaying the characteristics. An impressive showing against powerhouse Jared Cannonier capped off his 2017 with panache, but his prior performances were even better. His standing rear naked choke on Devin Clark was as applaudable as it was mortifying. Displaying a violent cocktail of impeccable technique and formidable strength. It is well worth your ten seconds, believe me.
Blachowicz takes that two-fight win streak into the O2 arena tomorrow night in a rematch that not only presents another shot at Manuwa, but also a fantastic chance to skip a few rungs on the light heavyweight ladder. Such is the absence of willing contenders at 205lbs, Blachowicz was essentially the only viable opponent for Manuwa. That means that a win for the Poznan native could see him march into the top eight of the division. An emphatic victory could usurp Manuwa’s position at number four if the UFC is feeling generous.
Victory is, as a result, a non-negotiable for Blachowicz in London. Now is the perfect time for the 35-year-old to truly make his stamp on the division. With Daniel Cormier penciled in to face Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, the UFC matchmakers would love nothing more than a new contender to emerge and make some noise in his absence. Blachowicz has the tools to be that contender, but it all starts with grabbing a win behind enemy lines in London
Time to put on a show
Unfortunately, the towering main event and entertaining young British talent on the card leaves the co-main event with little buzz. Thankfully for the two men involved, in fighting, there is a sure-fire way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to them again in the future: put on the best possible show that they physically can. Manuwa will try and get the vicious knockout that he has become so accustomed to. And Blachowicz will work harder than he ever has before to come out on top. Both men are desperate to prove their worth and leave their opponent stiff, even if it means risking it all in the process. This stand-up war could very well be fireworks.