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Friday, 03/07/2014, 04:27 pm

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Crushing Title Hopes – Jimi Manuwa, A Worthy Opponent

Tomorrow, Jimi Manuwa can go from just another fighter in the UFC’s light heavyweight division to an immediate title-contender.

Manuwa gets his shot at greatness when he faces Alexander Gustafsson Saturday at UFC Fight Night from London’s O2 Arena.

While “The Mauler” is the consensus and overwhelming favorite, Manuwa and his “Poster Boy” nickname have one thing going for them: power.

Born N’Jimi M’Bouba Tuluki Manuwa, the list of fighters left in his wake is as long as his name.

Manuwa has yet to leave his native country of England, and yet has stopped three UFC veterans in Ryan Jimmo, Cyrille Diabate and Kyle Kingsbury. He wasn’t the first pick for this fight with Gustafsson either, stepping in when Antonio Rogerio Nogueira declined.

That, though, could ultimately be a blessing for Manuwa and a nightmare for Gustafsson.

On paper, Gustafsson has all the edges. He is coming off a close decision loss to current UFC champion Jon Jones. He has defeated the likes of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Thiago Silva and Matt Hamill. He is the decisive favorite.

Manuwa counters with 13 career knockout wins, and one more via submission. He hurt Jimmo and Diabate so bad that both fights were ended when neither could continue.

In his Octagon debut back in 2012, the Brit injured Kingsbury so badly that a doctor had to step in after the second round and call things off.

Competing in London has been very, very good to Poster Boy, as he owns nine wins there, including a 2009 first round TKO to win the UCMMA light heavyweight title. Of his 13 knockout finishes, nine have come in the first round.

Gustafsson proved he has quite the capable chin, taking everything Jones had to offer. But this is a different breed of fighter than “Bones.”

Manuwa knows his best shot at the upset is early with a thunderous attack, stunning Gustafsson and possibly catching him overlooking his opponent. It said that much during an interview on “UFC Tonight” recently.

“It ends with a stoppage. Violently. Within the distance,” Manuwa firmly stated.

Can it happen? It’s unlikely, but we must remember one thing: this is MMA, the same sport that gave us Matt Serra, Chris Weidman and a host of other unbelievable upsets.

By Dana Becker | Twitter

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