Though not a banner date in MMA history March 18th has a couple of incidents worthy of looking back on. It was this day, three years ago, that a British ‘Poster Boy’ came closest to getting in on the UFC light heavyweight title picture.
March 18, 2017: Jimi Manuwa knocks out Corey Anderson, Gunnar Nelson taps Alan Jouban and Brad Pickett retires from MMA
For a while now the depth, or lack thereof, in the light heavyweight division has been a topic of discussion among MMA watchers. However, with such a clear separation between the division’s champs (Jon Jones and sometimes Daniel Cormier) and the others at 205 lbs, there have been plenty of fighters who could propel themselves into a title fight off the back of two or three impressive performances.
The UK’s Jimi Manuwa was one of those guys. In his inconsistent career he was able to wow with brutal KOs, before coming unstuck just when it seemed he might garner enough momentum to fight for a title.
He joined the UFC in 2012 and put together back-to-back-to-back TKOs over Kyle Kingsbury, Cyrille Diabate and Ryan Jimmo. Then he lost an fierce battle versus Alexander Gustafsson. Knockout wins over Jan Blachowicz and Ovince Saint Preux followed, sandwiched between a KO loss to Anthony Johnson.
On March 18, 2017 Manuwa — coming off the win over OSP — headlined UFC Fight Night 107 at London’s O2 Arena. Across the cage from him was Corey Anderson, who had just TKO’d Sean O’Connell and lost a split decision to Shogun Rua.
Manuwa vs. Anderson would not last one round and it ended in emphatic fashion.
Here’s how BE’s Tim Burke recorded the action as it went down:
Round 1 - Inside leg kick from Anderson. Manuwa with a jab. Maunwa digs to the body off of a kick. Another jab. Anderson with a right hook. He’s faked a couple of takedown attempts in there as well. Manuwa with a body kick. Anderson with another takedown attempt and he lands a right on the way out when it’s unsuccessful. Nice left hook from Anderson. Left hook from Manuwa AND ANDERSON IS OUT COLD! ONE SHOT! THAT WAS CRAZY! WALK OFF KO!
After beating Anderson, Manuwa was matched up with Volkan Oezdemir in a UFC light heavyweight title eliminator. Unfortunately for Manuwa, it was Oezdemir who would come out of that victorious (after a 42 second KO). Manuwa would then lose his next three contests and retire from MMA.
Anderson lost his next bout, to OSP, but then won four straight over Glover Teixeira, Ilir Latifi and Johnny Walker. His hopes for a title shot were scuppered in February when he was KO’d by Jan Blachowicz.
The same night Manuwa KO’d Anderson, Gunnar Nelson tapped out Alan Jouban and Marlon Vera TKO’d Brad Pickett.
Nelson scooped Performance of the Night honours for his guillotine choke on Jouban. Here’s Tim Burke’s instant reaction to that finish:
Round 2 - Jouban throws a flurry of strikes. Belson fires back. Straight right stuns Jouban! Head kick! He drags him to the floor, right to mount, and choked him out. That was awesome!
For Pickett vs. Vera, everyone knew this would be Brad Pickett’s last fight. The Englishman had chosen London’s O2 Arena as the perfect venue for his swansong. Unfortunately for him, the UFC and WEC veteran was unable to go out on a win. It was the Ecuadorian Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera who took the victory, with a head kick in the third round.
Here’s the live play-by-play from that final round:
Round 3 - They’re brawling to start the round. Vera with two body kicks and a head kick. Pickett with low kicks and flurries. Just missed with the left hook. Connects with it the second time. Vera with leg kicks, inside and out. More kicks. Pickett can’t find his range. Pickett with an uppercut. Vera really chopping the legs. Body kick now. Pickett looking for the home run shot. He landed two rights. Jab from Pickett. Vera with a head kick that dropped Pickett! Hammerfists and it’s over! That’ll quiet the crowd!