Gustafsson vs. Manuwa: A Complete Guide to Full UFC Fight Night 37 Card

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 3, 2014

Gustafsson vs. Manuwa: A Complete Guide to Full UFC Fight Night 37 Card

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    Alexander Gustafsson
    Alexander GustafssonGregory Payan/Associated Press

    When the spotlight last hovered over Alexander Gustafsson, he had just given MMA's pound-for-pound kingpin the fight of his professional career.

    That was in September. And though UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones ultimately pulled out the decision, Gustafsson's stirring performance put him in a whole new stratum of popularity.

    Like the stoniest of riverboat gamblers, the UFC immediately gathered up that new popularity and placed it all on one square. That piece of the felt is called UFC Fight Pass. This Saturday, Gustafsson headlines UFC Fight Night 37 from London. It is the most prominent event to be featured entirely and exclusively on the company's new subscription-only digital streaming service.

    The exciting and likable Swede is one of the faces of MMA in Europe and the UFC overall. But will fans in the U.S. and elsewhere sign up and tune in to see him face a heavy underdog in British slugger Jimi Manuwa?

    In confining Gustafsson and this event to Fight Pass, the UFC may be embracing some long odds of its own, but they could pay off if people turn out to opt in.

    We shall see. In the meantime, there is plenty of intrigue up and down the slate. Here are information capsules, predictions and other information for each and every contest on Saturday's card, which starts with the prelims at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Phil Harris vs. Louis Gaudinot

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    Louis Gaudinot
    Louis GaudinotGregory Payan/Associated Press

    Division: Flyweight
    Records: Phil Harris (22-11), Louis Gaudinot (6-3)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    You know the green hair will make an appearance. After that, it's kind of a crapshoot.

    Will it be the Louis Gaudinot who scrambled his way into a chokeout of John Lineker—or the Gaudinot who was thoroughly out-chess-matched by Tim Elliott?

    Harris fell to Lineker last October. His judo black belt provides a clean foil to Gaudinot's corresponding karate credential and sets up what should be a solid grappler-striker battle. 

    Both men also have identical 2-1 UFC records and haven't yet shown they can consistently threaten UFC-caliber opponents. My guess here is that Gaudinot stays grounded and Harris rides the hometown crowd and Gaudinot to a decision win.

    Prediction: Harris, unanimous decision

Igor Araujo vs. Danny Mitchell

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    Igor Araujo
    Igor AraujoJason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Igor Araujo (24-6), Danny Mitchell (14-4-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Mitchell is the most recent piece of bait pressed into service in the UFC's fishing expedition for more British fans. "The Cheesecake Assassin" from Yorkshire is a submissions expert who has faced UFC-level competition several times before, albeit with varying levels of success.

    In his UFC debut proper, Araujo pulled a big upset over Ildemar Alcantara. The veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 16 also is a grappler and shouldn't be taken lightly. He's on a five-fight win streak, with his last defeat coming to Rashid Magomedov, who is now on Zuffa's payroll.

    In fact, put me down for Araujo to spoil Mitchell's debut. Neither man does a lot of striking, so this one should be either a grappling fest or a clumsy kickboxing event. Araujo should win the position battles on the ground and pull out a fight that isn't so scintillating on paper.

    Prediction: Araujo, unanimous decision

Davey Grant vs. Roland Delorme

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    Roland Delorme
    Roland DelormeBruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Davey Grant (8-2), Roland Delorme (9-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Is it win or go home for Davey Grant?

    The likable Grant won fans and fights on TUF 18, but on the show's finale against super prospect Chris Holdsworth, Grant showed that he, like many European fighters, doesn't have the ground game to handle a heavy North American grappler.

    The Canadian Delorme has the credentials to expose Grant again. But the flip side of that coin is that Grant should have the kickboxing to keep Delorme at bay and score points and damage with kicks and punches. 

    But part of me can't escape the thought of Delorme getting inside and taking this to the ground. Unless Grant's mat acumen has massively improved, Delorme should work his way to a win.

    Prediction: Delorme, submission, Rd. 2

Brad Scott vs. Claudio Henrique Da Silva

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Brad Scott (9-2), Claudio Henrique da Silva (9-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Englishman Scott, the runner-up on TUF: The Smashes, breathed new life into his UFC career when he shocked Michael Kuiper at UFC Fight Night 30. Scott has a solid submission game (especially when grading on the Englishman curve) and major knockout power in his hands.

    Da Silva will make his UFC debut at age 31. He is a submissions guy, pure and simple. He won't be able to threaten Scott on the feet, and that's all there is to it.

    Expect a pub brawl that will get uglier the longer it goes on. Luckily, I don't expect this one to go on for very long.

    Prediction: Scott, TKO, Rd. 1

Luke Barnatt vs. Mats Nilsson

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    Luke Barnatt (right) defeated Collin Hart last April.
    Luke Barnatt (right) defeated Collin Hart last April.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Luke Barnatt (7-0), Mats Nilsson (11-2-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    All right, all right, all right. Now we are talking.

    All Barnatt has done since joining the UFC is bull his way to a 2-0 record, including a battering of Andrew Craig in October. He semi-endeared himself to fans in that fight by nearly earning a knockout twice but celebrating prematurely on both occasions.

    Who needs Rousimar Palhares?

    He'll need to be a lot headier against one of the division's better grapplers in Nilsson. The Swede is physical on the ground with both strikes and submissions, knows how to get takedowns and understands how to seize and hold advantages. Barnatt, while exciting, may not have the stuff to stay ahead of Nilsson, who will know to avoid the Englishman's power, carry him out of his comfort zone and hand him his first professional defeat.

    Prediction: Nilsson, unanimous decision

Cyrille Diabate vs. Ilir Latifi

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    Cyrille Diabate
    Cyrille DiabateEric Jamison/Associated Press

    Division: Light heavyweight
    Records: Cyrille Diabate (19-9-1), Ilir Latifi (7-3)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    The prelims versus the main card is more of an academic distinction when the full slate is airing in the same place. Nevertheless, this battle between two veterans stands as the main event of the undercard.

    And veterans is the operative word for this one, as the grizzle factor is quite high. These two men have a combined age of 70, and both need a win to keep grinding in the middle of the UFC light heavyweight roster.

    The 40-year-old Diabate, a former kickboxer, has defied the odds by lasting this long. And while his ground game has advanced, a submission of Chad Griggs does not a Metamoris contender create.

    Latifi, meanwhile, is a fine wrestler who should seek to horizontalize the action, especially given his deer-in-headlights striking against Gegard Mousasi.

    Experience should win the day, and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the UFC will keep on kicking along.

    Prediction: Diabate, unanimous decision 

Gunnar Nelson vs. Omari Akhmedov

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Gunnar Nelson (11-0-1), Omari Akhmedov (12-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    The quick gut reaction says Nelson. But a closer look shows that Akhmedov is nobody's easy out.

    The 26-year-old is just the latest impressive MMA prospect to emerge from the Dagestan region of Russia. In the fashion of a true Dagestani, he brutally and impersonally dispatched Thiago de Oliveira Perpetuo by first-round knockout in his November UFC debut.

    But his skills and stoicism will be met in kind by Nelson, who is so laid back he doesn't appear to practice personal grooming or possess what a human might refer to as a "heartbeat." And yet, he may be one of the five or six best grapplers in the entire UFC. 

    In short, this will be a fight to watch. Both men are well-rounded, with Nelson having a slight edge on the ground but Akhmedov probably giving away less there than Nelson gives away on the feet.

    So with that in mind, I will hereby sound the upset alarms. The Nelson hype train slows a bit with this one, while the Dagestani train once again bursts into the red.

    Prediction: Akhmedov, TKO, Rd. 2

Brad Pickett vs. Neil Seery

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    Brad Pickett
    Brad PickettWinslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Flyweight
    Record: Brad Pickett (23-8), Neil Seery (13-8)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    I don't mean to disrespect a fine veteran in Neil Seery, but this is what lawyers call an open-and-shut case.

    Pickett is one of the UFC's most marketable British stars, and the promotion wants him to remain that way. Unfortunately, the well-rounded grappler has dropped two of his last three, even though his last two earned him Fight of the Night honors.

    To reinvigorate his career, he dropped down to flyweight, and this marks his debut in the division. And the UFC is playing along by offering him some red meat in the form of the 34-year-old Seery, who makes his Octagon debut here. This one almost guarantees Londoners will have something to cheer about on Saturday.

    Prediction: Pickett, TKO, Rd. 1 

Michael Johnson vs. Melvin Guillard

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    Michael Johnson (right) defeated Gleison Tibau in December.
    Michael Johnson (right) defeated Gleison Tibau in December.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Michael Johnson (14-8), Melvin Guillard (31-12-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    At this point, if you don't know the book on Guillard, shame on you.

    A world of talent. A world of knockout power. A guaranteed exciting fight. Also, inconsistency. Deficient cage acumen. An over-reliance on the home run strike. An afterthought of a ground game.

    Meanwhile, Johnson is a much tougher opponent for Guillard than the original matchup, which was to be a rematch with Ross Pearson before the Brit bowed out with an injury. Johnson is putting it all together these days, and wins over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau have him poised to enter contender status.

    He'll get it done on Saturday against Guillard by using good movement to avoid the knockout blow, landing one of those powerful takedowns and controlling Guillard on the mat for the victory. 

    Prediction: Johnson, submission, Rd. 2

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa

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    Alexander Gustafsson (left) exchanges blows with Jon Jones at UFC 165.
    Alexander Gustafsson (left) exchanges blows with Jon Jones at UFC 165.Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Division: Light heavyweight
    Records: Alexander Gustafsson (15-2), Jimi Manuwa (14-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Jimi Manuwa has had a weird UFC career.

    The exciting knockout artist has three knockout victories in three UFC bouts, but all came under unusual circumstances.

    Is he a good fighter? Yes, he's a good fighter. Thanks to that sharp power-striking game, he'll always have what they call a puncher's chance.

    But Gustafsson is a different animal. He'll have better grappling, and he'll be able to tie up Manuwa and diversify his strikes to keep the Brit off balance and out of rhythm.

    Though the matchup is not without its dangers for him, Gustafsson will bully the bully into the deep cardiovascular waters for a convincing win. It will be convincing enough to convince everyone that another title shot is the only way to go for his next engagement.

    But if a title bout is reborn on a subscription web service, will it make a sound? That's the real question.

    Prediction: Gustafsson, unanimous decision


    Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter if you feel so inclined.