This past weekend at UFC Fight Night 37 Alexander Gustafsson did exactly what many fans and pundits thought that he’d do; walk right through Jimi Manuwa after Manuwa displayed his talents and failed to make a dent into Gustafsson. Yet there was still a groundswell of support in the MMA community for Jimi Manuwa to be the guy to defeat Alexander Gustafsson and put himself on the map at Light Heavyweight. This isn’t an isolated incident at all, especially considering that Jon Jones will be defending his title next against Glover Teixeira, a guy who should remind you a lot of Jimi Manuwa.
Both Jimi Manuwa and Glover Teixeira deserve our respect, that is for sure, but the fact that so many fans are pinning their hopes onto these guys shows how strange of an ecosystem that the UFC has right now. Fans are trying to latch onto the next great thing at every turn, especially after seeing Chris Weidman’s handling of Anderson Silva that completely turned the Middleweight division around. Fans want something new, something that the UFC hasn’t already been feeding them a steady diet of.
That’s okay, in fact, it’s pretty cool, because the fans should have their voices heard. Sadly, the other part of this is that these guys are being sold to fans by Dana White and the UFC to fill up card space in what is a rather shallow division. UFC’s Light Heavyweight division was once one of the most talent-rich divisions in the world, but father time either wore down the legends or pushed them into Middleweight, leaving Jon Jones all-but unchallenged. This should make fights with Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier that much more intriguing for fans, seeing as though both men are a serious threat to Jon Jones where the rest of the division probably isn’t.
Jimi Manuwa had a puncher’s chance against Alexander Gustafsson, but the high hopes of him knocking off a guy who went five rounds with Jon Jones and made us all believe that he had beaten him was probably a step too far. If the UFC really believed that Jimi Manuwa had a chance of defeating Alexander Gustafsson chances are that this fight would not have been tucked away from American PPV-buying audiences like it was, it would have been featured on one of their rather thin PPV line-ups, helping to bolster it. The UFC needed to keep Alexander Gustafsson busy while Jon Jones prepared for Glover Teixeira.
Manuwa and Glover have a lot in common, as both men hit very hard and are in their mid-30’s. Both men have also been thrown into the deep end of the pool possibly a little bit before they were ready. It is a conundrum as both men are in their mid-30’s, which means that the UFC doesn’t have ten years to build them up to be stars, but both have been thrust into big fights. In the case of Jimi Manuwa, he wasn’t quite on the level of Alexander Gustafsson just yet, he needed some more seasoning. When Glover Teixeira steps into the ring with Jon Jones I fear that he might find himself in a very similar position, then we have two Light Heavyweights who have been damaged by getting pushed too far, too soon.