The UFC’s famous octagon returns to the capital this Saturday night as a host of Brits get set for action at The O2 Arena.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson…
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) March 17, 2017
THE MAIN EVENT
London light heavyweight Jimi ‘Poster Boy’ Manuwa takes top billing at The O2 as he takes on rising contender and former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Corey ‘Overtime’ Anderson.
It’s a battle between two dangerous contenders in the UFC’s 205lb division, with the winner set to progress one step closer to a shot at the world title, currently held by former Olympic wrestler Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier.
YOU DON’T GET PAID FOR OVERTIME
Anderson’s nickname of ‘Overtime’ (he recently changed it from the brilliant “Beastin’ 25-8”) hints a little about his fighting style.
He’s gone the distance in five of his eight UFC contests so far, often using his wrestling skills to dominate his opponents on the mat.
Don’t sleep on his ability to finish a fight, though. He won The Ultimate Fighter with a 61-second TKO of Matt Van Buren, and in his most recent outing he finished Sean O’Connell by TKO with powerful ground strikes in the second round at UFC Fight Night in Albany in December.
POSTER BOY POWER
While Anderson has a somewhat grinding, wrestling-heavy style, Manuwa is 205lb human wrecking ball.
Of his 16 victims, only one (teak-tough Pole Jan Blachowicz) took Manuwa the distance, while another (Jamie Hearn) was finished by submission.
They were the lucky ones.
The remaining 14 were dispatched either by TKO or knockout, with Manuwa’s special brand of heavy-handed demolition seeing him rack up an impressive list of fight finishes that continues to this day.
Manuwa’s most recent outing saw his most spectacular UFC performance to date. American Ovince Saint-Preux had previously taken pound-for-pound great Jon ‘Bones’ Jones all the way to the scorecards in an interim title fight, despite suffering a broken arm early in the fight.
But against Manuwa it was an entirely different story.
‘The Poster Boy’ battered ‘OSP’, knocking him out clean with a vicious left hook that left his opponent crumpled in a heap right in front of UFC president Dana White sat at cageside. Not a bad way to impress the boss.
That stunning knockout at UFC 204 saw Manuwa pocket a cool $50,000 ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus as he served notice to the other contenders at the top of the light-heavyweight division.
BACK THE BRITS
Manuwa isn’t the only Brit in action on Saturday night. In fact there are ELEVEN Brits on the card, including two all-British bouts that are all set to kick off the preliminary card.
Middleweights Brad Scott and Scott Askham will get the party started in the first fight of the night. Askham always brings a huge travelling support with him wherever he fights (ook out for the fans dressed as medieval knights).
And at UFC London last year Askham registered his contender for knockout of the year as he put Chris Dempsey into airplane mode with this ridiculous head-kick KO.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) February 27, 2016
FAREWELL TO A LEGEND
The night will be a bittersweet one for the most beloved British fighter on the card, as London’s own Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett will bring the curtain down on his all-action MMA career after his bout with Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera.
Pickett has been fighting at the highest level for the last seven years, winning a legion of fans for his come-forward, exciting fighting style.
UFC president Dana White is a self-confessed fan, and the trilby-toting Brit, who walks to the octagon to Chas n Dave classic ‘Gertcha’, will make that walk one more time as he looks to go out win a big win in his home town.
And if you were wondering why he’s known as ‘One Punch’, well…
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT CONTENDERS
The UFC matchmakers have conjured up some fascinating matchups for London, but perhaps none deliver a bigger promise of fireworks than the welterweight bout between Brit Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards and Brazilian Vicente Luque.
Both men have formidable punch power and both are in excellent form.
As the third fight on the prelims, the fight takes place pretty early in the night’s festivities, so make sure you’re in front of the TV for this one.
Brad Pickett v Marlon Vera bout looks nailed on to turn into a wild slugfest, too.
LOOK OUT FOR…
Marc ‘Bonecrusher’ Diakiese. With so many Brits to keep an eye out for, you’ll be wondering if there’s anyone in particular we should be watching closely. Look no further than ‘The Bonecrusher’ Marc Diakiese.
A pair of stunning back-to-back knockouts for British promotion BAMMA earned him his spot in the UFC, and he’s impressed hugely in his first two appearances in the octagon since.
He’s arguably our most exciting UFC prospect, and he’s must-watch TV whenever he fights.
Jimi Manuwa TWICE turned down offers from the UFC earlier in his career because he felt he wasn’t ready.
The third time the UFC came calling, he answered. Now he’s the number four-ranked light-heavyweight on the planet.
Marc Diakiese won his last TWO fights before joining the UFC in a combined total of just 60 seconds.
Brad Pickett made it into the Guinness Book of Records, but not for his MMA…
— Simon Head (@simonhead) March 17, 2017
HOW TO WATCH
UFC Fight Night London is split into two parts, the main card and the preliminary card. Both will be shown live on BT Sport on Saturday night. Check your listings for broadcast times.
Simon Head is a sports journalist and MMA reporter who has covered the UFC for over eight years. Follow him on Twitter @simonhead.