World MMA Light Heavyweight Scouting Report: #3 - Jimi Manuwa

The British mixed martial arts scene has long been thought to be lacking in terms of technique and skill. The infancy of the sport in the region provided fans with what most would liken to your local mixed martial arts scene... sloppy bar brawls, failing gas tanks inside two minutes of action, and a lot of flopping around on the ground with very minimal grappling acumen. With the entry of the UFC and the influx of credentialed coaches and training centers, those typical performances turned into much more technical chess matches on the feet and on the ground. The scene is still growing and isn't quite up to snuff with Japan, the United States, and Brazil, but it is progressing in the right direction.

But that isn't to say Britain hasn't produced quality prospects. Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, a handful of fighters at Team Rough House, and many others have made their names known inside the Octagon. At #3 on our 2011 World MMA Light Heavyweight Scouting Report, Jimi Manuwa (9-0) adds his name to that list of great talent in the coming year. His ferocious Muay Thai techniques and devastating counter-striking abilities make him one of the most dangerous fighters on our countdown.

Offensive Skills: Manuwa's stand-up game is one of the best we've seen in the current crop of prospects at 205 pounds. He possesses one-punch knockout power, a high-level of technique in his strikes, and great speed. Most of his success stems from a counter-striking strategy, using powerful hooks and uppercuts to catch opponents as they try to press him to the cage or shoot for takedowns. When he's the aggressor, his speed and power usually causes a lot of damage, and it's rare to see someone survive one of Jimi's rushes.

As a supplement to that striking prowess, he has proven Muay Thai skills that are becoming a staple of his skill-set as he progresses. Most of his opponents succumb to his strength in the clinch, and that has allowed him to tie up opponents in the Thai plum and go to work on the body with knees. If you're a fan of the clinch game, Manuwa is one of the best I've seen in a long time, even among current UFC fighters. He has no problems throwing devastating knee strikes to his opponent's midsection, as evident in his impressive win over Valentino Petrescu in August.

Defensive Skills: Manuwa has impeccable defense in the stand-up game. While he does keep his hands down when he's throwing strikes from distance, he quickly reads incoming artillery and puts his hands up immediately to block. Jimi does all the right things when it comes to protecting his chin, and that's a great sight to see from a British mixed martial artist. After years of watching Cage Rage, it's hard to believe defensively solid fighters exist, but Team Rough House and a guy like Jimi Manuwa could change a few opinions.

Progression: Jimi has come a long way from his early days in the sport. If you watch his first professional bout against Tom King, you can see all the mistakes he makes in trying to defend takedowns and roll with King on the floor. What is evident in that video, however, is the fact that he is physically superior to King. King has no answer to being tossed around by Manuwa, and as Jimi has continued to train -- he's now a much more well-rounded fighter who has the knowledge on top of the skills to succeed.

On the ground, Jimi continues to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling, but he is by no means at a level that would rival an upper-tier grappler or wrestler. Fortunately for him, there aren't a load of accomplished grapplers and wrestlers in the region in his weight class. The UFC is a different story, and he'll need to continue developing that area of his game.

Lightweight Welterweight Middleweight
#1 - Thiago Michel
#2 - Ricardo Tirloni
#3 - Magno Almeida
#4 - Ui Cheol Nam
#5 - Henrique Mello
#6 - Reza Madadi
#7 - Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 - Ole Laursen
#9 - Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 - Al Iaquinta
#1 - Yuri Villefort
#2 - Alex Garcia
#3 - Erick Silva
#4 - Douglas Lima
#5 - Luis "Sapo" Santos
#6 - Jesse Juarez
#7 - Gunnar Nelson
#8 - Quinn Mulhern
#9 - Alberto Mina
#10 - Joe Ray
#1 - Papy Abedi
#2 - Chris Weidman
#3 - Vitor Vianna
#4 - Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
#5 - Bruno Santos
#6 - Costantinos Philippou
#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie

Light Heavyweight
#3 - Jimi Manuwa
#4 - Glover Teixeira
#5 - Jan Blachowicz
#6 - Yoel Romero
#7 - Ryan Jimmo
#8 - Nik Fekete
#9 - Marcus Vanttinen
#10 - Ronny Markes

Environment: Manuwa currently trains out of Keddles Gym, which houses Tom "Kong" Watson along with a number of heavily-credentialed Muay Thai champions and MMA fighters. There is quite a bit of experience coming through the gym, although I'm not too confident that the type of training he can receive there will help him progress to the next level. He does have some world class Muay Thai trainers at his disposal however, and his more recent fights have proven that he's soaking up the knowledge they've given him.

He also trains at Nova Forca BJJ under Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ricardo Da Silva. The last update I had read was that Jimi was only a blue belt at this stage in his career, but he had begun training in wrestling and Judo to add a little more versatility to his game.

Potential: I'm a bit surprised to see Manuwa still fighting in the regional British mixed martial arts scene, but there were rumors he had turned down a UFC contract for a fight at UFC 105 in Manchester. If that's the case, it was a smart move. Despite being one of the most devastating strikers on our list, Jimi's ground game needs to develop to a point where he can stifle the prominent wrestlers of the UFC and avoid being submitted by the better grapplers. He's rather new to both areas of the sport, and his continued focus on those areas should guarantee some success in the UFC in the future.

In the context of our ranking, I don't have a defense against anyone claiming that Blachowicz or Glover deserve a higher ranking. Blachowicz is much more well-rounded, but he doesn't have the power that Manuwa possesses. Glover is also more well-rounded, but I think our issues with him stem from the fact that his defensive capabilities in his stand-up game leave him wide open for counters. A guy like Manuwa could take advantage of both men on the feet.

Look for Manuwa to make his way into the UFC in 2011. I have no doubt in my mind that if a contract is offered to him, he'll take it at this point in his career.

Video:

Jimi "The Poster Boy" Manuwa vs. Valentino Petrescu - Ultimate Challenge MMA - Invincible

Jimi Manuwa vs Ryan Robinson at Ultimate Challenge UK Relentless

Jimi Manuwa vs Jamie Hearn at Ultimate Challenge UK, Unbreakable

Jimi Manuwa vs Tom King - professional debut after only two weeks of actual MMA training

UCMMA 12: Reza Meldavian Vs Jimi "The Poster Boy" Manuwa

Jimi Manuwa vs Shaun Lomas @ Ultimate Challenge UK, 'Fighting for Heroes'

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