UFC 181 preview: Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa

Anthony Johnson WinsThe UFC returns to Las Vegas this weekend for UFC 191.  We’ll be taking a look at a few fights on the card, so let’s jump right in with a light heavyweight match up between Anthony Johnson (19-5) vs. Jimi Manuwa (15-1).

Johnson returns to the Octagon for the first time since he lost to Daniel Cormier in May of this year.  Prior to that, he was on a nine fight win streak that included T/KO wins over Alexander Gustafson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Manuwa comes into the fight off a unanimous decision win over Jan Blachowicz.  Immediately prior to that, he dropped a second-round TKO loss to Alexander Gustafson, the first loss of his professional career.

The oddsmakers give Johnson a definitive edge in the fight and he is the favorite at -650 while Manuwa is the underdog at +475.  The odds are farther apart than I expected them to be as both men are exceptionally dangerous strikers.

Both men have solid power and technique, but Johnson will have a slight power edge while Manuwa has a slight technique edge, especially when it comes to landing knees.  The key for both men here is to be the one to push the pace from beginning to end.  Johnson needs to use his power and speed to get the better of the early exchanges and overwhelm Manuwa.  It’s unlikely that Manuwa would go for a takedown if in danger, but Johnson’s wrestling should allow him to keep it on the feet.

Manuwa, on the other hand, needs to be more precise with his shots and resist the temptation to go completely toe to toe with Johnson.  If Johnson’s power does start taking an effect, Manuwa needs to work his way in, land 3-4 punch combos and move back out.  By mixing it up and not settling into any rhythm, he could frustrate Johnson and perhaps throw him off balance just enough to prevent Johnson from landing effectively.

Both men are extremely athletic, and all the factors in this fight make it possible that the winner will walk away with a KO of the Night bonus.  Despite the fact that the odds are farther apart than is probably warranted, look for Johnson to prevail.  His speed and power can overwhelm Manuwa, but he’ll have to do it sooner rather than later to prevent Manuwa from outlasting him on the cardio front.  Johnson has been known to fade later in fights, so look for him to use his speed and power to overwhelm Manuwa early, winning by T/KO late in the first round.