Jimi Manuwa calls for a title shot, and the crazy thing is it's not that crazy
Everything you need to know about the current state of the UFCs light heavyweight division can be summed up by the goings-on in the UFC Fight Night 107 main event. Not so much what happened in the actual fight, which saw Jimi Manuwa starch Corey Anderson with a single left hook in the first round, but rather what happened right after that.I want the winner of (UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier) and (Anthony Johnson), Manuwa said in his post-fight interview. Its time for a title shot now.
Whats crazy is not simply the fact that a fighter who now has his first winning streak since 2013 would think he might be in line for the next title shot. Whats crazy is that he might actually be right.
Which is not to say that Manuwa(17-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) didnt acquit himself well against Anderson (9-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC). He was never in any real danger of being taken down, even though thats at least two-thirds of Andersons game. He was nowhere near as busy as Anderson was on the feet, but then he didnt need to be.
Manuwa spent most of the fight walking slowly forward like a man who was approaching the front of the line at the ice cream parlor, unsure what he wanted to order but absolutely determined to end up with a cone in his hand one way or another. He gradually closed off the space, squeezing Anderson tighter to the cage, backing up only when he needed to shut down a takedown attempt, and then it was right back to work.
This is how he caught Anderson, clipping him with the hook as he tried to slip away along the inner perimeter of the fence in a desperate dash for wide open space. It was like you could feel Manuwa slowly suffocating him. Then he went ahead and put him all the way to sleep.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, lets remind ourselves where things stand in this division. Manuwa came into this bout ranked fourth in the UFCs official rankings, though we all know how those can change the minute you sign certain contracts or refuse to sign others. His win comes against a guy whos now lost two of his past three, and it finally gives him back-to-back victories after he spent the last few years winning one and dropping the next.
Ideally, youd like to get a little more of a running start before you start calling out the champ. This seems especially true if you have a recent knockout loss to one of the two participants in the divisions next scheduled title fight.
But if not Manuwa, then who? Thats where things get tricky.A lot depends, as it usually does in the light heavyweight class, on Jon Jones. He hasnt fought in nearly a year and wont be eligible to until June, yet he still remains the most important man in the weight class. He still has to be considered the best, at least until someone proves otherwise, and without him the division feels like one big consolation bracket, just a bunch of guys fighting to determine whod be the top dog in the event that Jones is struck by lightning.
The complicating factor is Jones tendency to be his own worst enemy in that regard. Even when his comeback inches closer on the calendar, you can never rule out the possibility that hell find some new way to screw it all up.
That leaves the other fighters in the division in a weird spot. If Jones comes back this summer, as expected, the title shot is his the moment he asks for it. If his return is delayed and come on, you could name at least half a dozen factors on both sides of the law that might delay it then guys like Manuwa actually have a shot at seeing their dreams come true after all of two straight victories. Theres just not a lot else for UFC officials to choose from.
If youre Manuwa, thats what opportunity looks like. Hes 37. Hes been in the UFC for nearly five years now. If something special is going to happen for him, it needs to happen soon. Hes posted losses to Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, two of the best fighters in the division, but hes got the same punchers chance that prior challengers had.
Its just that, if memory serves, that chance proved to be no chance once they were actually in the cage with the champ. Still, at least they got their moment. At least they got what there was to get by being the best available at the time even if that still put them a long way from being the best.For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 107, check out the UFC Events section of the site.
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