After stopping Ovince Saint Preux in stunning fashion at UFC 204, Jimi Manuwa found himself ranked at #5 in the UFC Light Heavyweight rankings. In his career, the only blemishes are defeats from the latest challenger, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, who has on two occasions had a shot at the 205lb gold and lost both via decision.
Now he finds himself in a great position, potentially maybe one win away from a title shot! Let’s take a look at five potential opponents for Jimi.
5. Jon Jones
The best ever light heavyweight in UFC history continues with his personal plight after being suspended for failing a drugs test just three days before he was due to headline UFC 200. Jones cannot compete inside the Octagon until July 2017 with Dana White going as far as saying he would never let Jones headline an event again. It would be a long wait to fight for Jimi Manuwa, so maybe this is more a fight for the future! Jones has beat every person on this list and has won his last thirteen fights inside the Octagon since losing to Matt Hamill by disqualification back in 2013. Looking at this as a fight for Jones, he’s faced and defeated every other highly ranked light heavyweight except for Manuwa… so maybe this has more potential than you may think!
4. Mauricio Rua
Shogun became the light heavyweight king back in 2010 after defeating Lyoto Machida in the first round at UFC 113 and has since gone 5-6 in the Octagon. he had only won one in five, a James Te Huna knockout in the middle of a sandwich of defeats to Gustafsson, Sonnen, Henderson and St Preux. He may have considered his ability to compete with the best in the division over until decision wins over Antonio Nogueira and Corey Anderson at UFC 190 and 198 respectively propelled Rua back into contention. It would be a good match up for Manuwa and he’d fancy his chances against Shogun, but would it be a fight that the winner would warrant a title shot?… Possibly not.
3. Alexander Gustafsson
One of the blemishes on Manuwa’s record came when he took on “The Mauler” in the main event of UFC Fight Night 37 at the O2 Arena in his hometown of London, England. Manuwa was 14-0 going into the fight but was still considered an underdog against Gustafsson who had lost six months previously to Jon Jones in an enthralling fight. Gustafsson might just be one of the best 205lb’s to have never won the belt, coming so close on both occasions to beating Cormier and Jones, taking both to a decision with narrow wins. This would be a chance for Jimi to avenge one of only two losses on his record. Would we like to see this in London, March 2017?… Take my money.
2. Ryan Bader
It feels like he has been around forever and he has never fought for the 205lb title. Bader won TUF 8 back in 2008 and fast forward eight years and he has gone 15-5 in the UFC and has only ever lost to some of the best around in Jones, Otiz, Machida, Teixeira and Anthony Johnson. Throw in a few wins over the likes of Quinton Jackson, St Preux, Rashad Evans and Ilir Latifi and we have a fighter with serious pedigree. It may all just be coming together just at the right time for Bader following on from his stoppage of Antonio Nogueira at UFC Fight Night: Sao Paulo as he finds himself ranked at #4 in the division. You’d consider Bader a good benchmark to see how far Manuwa has come and you’d expect a potential fight of the night. It is definitely a fight I can see happening as there are not many light heavyweights Bader hasn’t faced in his UFC career.
1. Glover Teixeira
After three stoppages over Saint Preux, Patrick Cummins and Rashad Evans in less than 9 months, you finally thought Glover was going to get his shot at the light heavyweight gold, after falling short against Jones at UFC 172 in April 2014. The only problem he faced was he had to get past one of the hardest hitting fighters in the UFC, Anthony Johnson who since moving to light heavyweight has pretty much demolished every fighter in his path except for his title challenge defeat to Daniel Cormier. Thirteen seconds in, and it was all over. Glover was stunned and as he said in the UFC 202: The Thrill and the Agony, he didn’t even see it coming. This for me is the perfect challenge for Jimi Manuwa and for sure the perfect headliner for UFC London in March 2017. A mix of experience and a very highly ranked fighter. With Jones out until July, you could see the winner of this fight getting the next shot at DC.