Do you ever find your fight predictions coming down to an internal battle between who you hope will win and who you think will really win, even if you don’t fully admit it to yourself until after watching the opponent’s hand raised? Do you recall times when you picked against a fighter you didn’t like who you knew had the advantage all along, and you refused to acknowledge the fact?
When trying to keep an open mind leading up to a fight, many of us find ourselves making predictions on who will win based on who we want to win, even if it’s only on a subliminal level. The difficulty lies in separating your personal feelings towards a fighter, whether positive or negative, from a fighter’s proven ability and fight history.
In this column, I will delve into the main cards of key UFC events and explore that unending struggle of Brain vs. Heart.
The first in my series of articles this week looks at Saturday’s main card fight between Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa.
Despite having all but two of his victories coming by (T)KO, Jimi Manuwa has only scored injury TKOs and one decision in five years. Further to this, in Manuwa’s last three fights he has suffered the only two losses of his career, both by (T)KO and both to top five opponents. In his most recent bout against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Manuwa was particularly susceptible to Rumble’s cross-counter and ate a few too many overhand rights when his lead hand was lowered. However, as OSP is a southpaw; Manuwa may be let off lightly if that shortcoming repeats itself this weekend.
What has been a key component in Manuwa’s two losses is his ground game. Both Rumble and Alexander Gustafsson spent the majority of the first round on top of Manuwa in half guard. From the bottom, Manuwa focused on tying up his opponent and waiting for the referee to stand them up. Whilst in MMA this is a legitimate alternative to looking for sweeps and submissions, Rumble and Gustafsson were able to remain active enough to stay the referee’s hand. As a result, Manuwa lost both opening rounds and was tired after having carried his opponents weight for the better half of five minutes.
This strategy could certainly pay dividends for OSP if he were to build off this blueprint. After his loss to Jon Jones earlier this year it’s possible we see OSP approach this fight more tactically as opposed to relying on his rocking left hand. That being said, I still see OSP’s power left finishing things off, although only after a cautious first round.
Brain’s Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux via TKO in the second round.
Despite not being strongly invested in wanting to see a particular fighter win this matchup, this remains one of the most interesting fights for me this weekend. Jimi Manuwa has faced the two extremes of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, having competed against borderline top fifteen fighters and then jumping all the way up to fighting some of the best the division has to offer in Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson.
Ovince Saint Preux lies in the middle of these opponents, being in the bottom half of the division’s top ten and having fallen short against the elite. This makes OSP the perfect opponent for Manuwa at this moment in time, while the winner will get another chance to make a run at a title shot while the other will likely be relegated to gatekeeper status (although how many times has that been written about Michael Bisping in the past and just look at him now).
As I mentioned earlier, I’m playing Switzerland with this bout. However, if I was forced to choose, I’d like to see Manuwa work towards a title shot as we’ve seen OSP fight Jon Jones earlier this year and it wasn’t a memorable affair.
Heart’s Prediction: Jimi Manuwa via KO in the first round.
(Ross Clark is an MMATorch contributor from London, England. He has trained in MMA at the London Fight Factor and has attended classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and MMA. He attained his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last October. His “Heart vs. Brain” column is inspired by his night’s out talking with friends about upcoming fights, debating who will win, and seeing people struggle between rationally, objectively predicting an outcome versus and the emotions that come up regarding whom they want to see win. He analyzes upcoming big name fights by breaking down the two approaches and acknowledging when one approach leads to a different prediction.)