Jimi Manuwa (Piotr Pedziszewski/Sherdog)

Toe-to-Toe: UFC Fight Night 107 Preview and Predictions

If you haven’t renewed your UFC Fight Pass subscription in a while, the promotion is making a strong push towards convincing you to do so with a fun set of fights on the streaming network this weekend. A card full of international fighters and prospects airs live from London this Saturday, giving U.S. fight fans the always appreciated afternoon fight card that frees up the evening for shenanigans.

The main event features U.K. favorite Jimi Manuwa, who is seeking to add another knockout to his resume when he takes on up-and-comer Corey Anderson in a battle of top-10 light heavyweights. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for this event.

The co-headliner features welterweight grappling expert Gunnar Nelson against fan-favorite Alan Jouban in what should be an excellent match-up, and the rest of the lineup fills out nicely as well. Top up-and-comers Makwan Amirkhani and Joe Duffy stand out as fighters to keep an eye on, and perennial “Fight of the Night” nominee Brad Pickett is lurking on the main card as well.


UFC Fight Night 107 streams via UFC Fight Pass at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, starting with nine preliminary fights before the main card. The main card action airs live at 5 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass. Combat Press writers Zach Aittama and Vince Carey break down the card in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Corey Anderson is 9-2, but he has suffered UFC losses to Gian Villante and a declining Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jimi Manuwa also has two UFC losses, but they came against title contenders Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Will either man be in line for a title shot with a win? Can Anderson finally add a signature victory to his resume?

Aittama: The light heavyweight belt is on the line when Daniel Cormier defends his title against the aforementioned Rumble at UFC 210 on April 8 in Buffalo, N.Y. The fight will signify the first time the title has been defended since Cormier edged out Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 in October 2015. Yes, it’s been over 17 months.

The time frame following this championship bout scheduled for April will allow for Jon Jones to be reinstated following his USADA violation from UFC 200, and the winner of the UFC 210 bout will face him in the third quarter of 2017. If Rumble beats Cormier in the interim, then Cormier will want another crack to earn the title back. The third fight could take place as soon as June or July. The time frame allows a few months to recover for the winner to face Jones in August or September. This doesn’t leave much room for any other potential title challengers.

Anderson and Manuwa both would need at least another win following a victory in this bout. Glover Teixeira is ranked No. 3 in the UFC light heavyweight rankings and is scheduled to face the No. 2 Gustafsson at UFC Fight Night 109 in May. This bout will likely determine the next top contender before Jones is reinstated. Neither man is likely to get a second crack at Rumble, who put both men away in the first round, but Cormier was in an extremely close, back-and-forth tussle with Gustafsson and has never fought Teixeira. The aforementioned Shogun is due to move up into the top five of the rankings after dispatching of light heavyweight gatekeeper Villante at UFC Fight Night 106 last weekend.

This really doesn’t leave much room for Manuwa or Anderson to crack the list of title challengers. If Manuwa gets by Anderson, a potential match-up with Shogun would be absolute fireworks. Rua just moved into the into the top three for knockouts of all time between UFC, Pride, Strikeforce and the WEC. Manuwa has finished 15 of his 16 career wins, with 14 of those by way of knockout. On the other hand, Anderson and Rua have fought before. The fight was a closely contested bout where Rua edged out on the controversial scorecards. If Anderson can get past Manuwa, potential match-ups with Volkan Oezdemir and Ilir Latifi could be what’s next.

As for the fight, Anderson won’t be able to stick to the game plan for 15 minutes. He’s had issues with consistency in his past bouts that led to his losses against Villante and Rua. He’s shown a lack of fight IQ and the inability to adjust when his opponent finds a weakness in his game. He is a raw talent. Anderson is still gaining experience while flirting with the top guys just outside the elite in the division. However, he hadn’t put together a complete fight until his last outing with Sean O’Connell at UFC Fight Night 102 in December. Even then, Anderson usually leaves himself open to take damage and potentially get behind on the scorecards. Manuwa has the style to take advantage of these mistakes.

Anderson will be best served to mix in his takedown attempts and feints to keep Manuwa guessing. An aggressive, high-output offensive attack could keep Manuwa from setting his feet to throw. Anderson needs to get gritty, get dirty inside the clinch and make sure he scores whenever the two clash. These exchanges are extremely dangerous for Anderson if he doesn’t remain defensively responsible for the entirety of the fight. That’s where Manuwa will find an opening and take home the win.

Manuwa showcased his power punching against former title challenger Ovince Saint Preux. He finds the sweet spot with his work to the body, but he’ll put Anderson away with a combination and a big left hook. Pretty specific right? Manuwa moves his name up the light heavyweight ladder and into a fight with former UFC champ Shogun.

Carey: I’ve got to agree with my colleague.

While the winner of this fight is definitely in a good spot in the division, they’re still going to have a hard time getting a shot at gold without knocking off one of the guys in front of them. Between Cormier, Rumble, Jones and both parties of the Gustafsson/Teixeira fight in May, the light heavyweight division’s top five has looked the same for quite a while now. These five guys are always going to be part of the pecking order for as long as they remain in their prime. The only way to break into this group is to fight your way in, something Manuwa has found out the hard way on multiple occasions. This is a fun fight that should provide the fans with a highlight-reel finish to end the show. However, it is probably close to the ceiling for both Manuwa and Anderson in the UFC.

Manuwa may not look it, but he is 37 years old and has yet to earn a career-defining victory. A win over Anderson isn’t going to cut it. A fight with Shogun seems likely if the Brit steps away victorious this weekend, but that isn’t going to cut it either. Manuwa will add value to the division for a few more years, but it’s time to give up on the idea of Manuwa as a true contender. He might not have the time to pull it off before his age starts to become a factor.

Anderson is just 27 years old and still shows enough raw potential that fight fans haven’t given up on him as a contender of the future. A close loss in a fight with Shogun last May robbed him of what would have been the biggest win of his young career, but a victory over Manuwa would be equally impressive at this point for the former TUF winner. This is a tremendous opportunity for Anderson to prove the doubters wrong and give something back to those who are still riding the hype train that is “Beastin 25/8,” but don’t count on it happening.

Like so many others, I’m waiting for a blow-away performance from Anderson that proves his flashes of brilliance are going to become something more than just flashes. It’s hard to bank on Anderson pulling off the performance of his career against Manuwa, but that’s what he’ll need to emerge victorious.

Anderson will put himself in harm’s way just a bit too often against the hard-hitting Manuwa. The Brit will capitalize on these mistakes en route to the win.

The other two stars of this UFC Fight Pass card are welterweight Gunnar Nelson and featherweight Makwan Amirkhani. Nelson has had a roller-coaster ride of recent wins and losses, whereas Amirkhani is perfect since arriving inside the Octagon. Will both fighters add a victory to their records on Saturday?

Carey: Nelson is one of the better welterweights in the world, despite a couple of rocky performances lately, and he’s going to have the chance to use his world-class grappling against Alan Jouban, who’s primarily a striker. Meanwhile, Amirkhani is possibly the most intriguing featherweight prospect the casual fans haven’t met quite yet, and after missing over a year of action, he has the chance to reintroduce himself to the masses with a good performance against solid up-and-comer Arnold Allen. On paper, these fights look like they’re made for Nelson and Amirkhani, but I’m not completely confident in either of these two — especially “Mr. Finland” — leaving with a victory in London.

Along with having maybe the best Tapology profile picture in the sport, Amirkhani has had one of the fastest rises to UFC fame we’ve seen over the last couple of years. He scored an eight-second knockout win in his debut and delivered a couple of incredibly charming post-fight interviews. That’s all it took for “Mr. Finland” to become one of the most likeable newcomers in the sport, and the fact that he’s opened his UFC career with three straight wins has placed him firmly on the featherweight radar. However, while Amirkhani may have a ton of hype behind him, his opponent, Allen, is a 23-year-old prospect with quite a bit of talent himself. Currently boasting a 2-0 UFC record, Allen has impressed in his pair of UFC wins. I’m excited to see how much he’s grown as a fighter after missing most of 2016. Amirkhani is the rightful favorite, but Allen is going to raise some eyebrows this weekend.

Nelson has pretty much destroyed every fighter that wasn’t able to match his grappling acumen. His opponent, Jouban, is a dangerous fighter and one of the more exciting welterweights on the roster. It’s just hard to imagine Jouban avoiding Nelson’s ground game long enough to score a victory. “Gunni” is just 2-2 in his last four fights, but his losses came to Demian Maia, a top-three welterweight, and Rick Story, whose grind-it-out strategy is the exact opposite of Jouban’s flashy offense, there’s likely not much to worry about. Nelson by submission.

Aittama: Both of these fighters are indeed in tough fights with the realistic possibility of a loss.

Nelson will take home the victory in his fight with Jouban. I’m a fan of the style versus style match-up in this fight, but it’s clear what Nelson needs to do to land the victory. He will have a clear advantage if this fight hits the ground, and he won’t be out of his league on the feet. The problem for Nelson if it does stay standing is his offensive output. Jouban will be throwing a diverse array of strikes, but Nelson’s team has told him volume is what is going to win this fight on the feet. Jouban won’t have as easy of a time finding the openings as he did with the brawling Mike Perry, but he will find his successes in the contest.

Nelson’s unfortunate string of injuries aside, he is still a top welterweight in a division full of change. There is an opportunity to jump to the middle of the rankings for the winner in this bout. Nelson will revert to what got him to the dance — his ground game. Nelson will exchange enough on the feet to set up the takedown. That’s where Jouban will get caught being reckless on his way to the feet. Nelson will take Jouban’s back for the victory.

Amirkhani has certainly made an impression in his short time in the UFC, but calling him a star is a stretch. He has star qualities and still doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his grappling attack — the guy submitted the consensus top prospect in the world, Tom Duquesnoy, before making his UFC debut. That win, and not his three Octagon outings, was more telling of what exactly Amirkhani is. He’s an inexperienced striker with pretty damn good wrestling and even better top control. He will sometimes risk position in order to lock in a submission in a scramble, but he is mostly a very strong offensive, attack-oriented grappler.

This is why Amirkhani’s fight with Allen is not only dangerous, but has potential to be the “Fight of the Night” and another potentially star-making performance for “Mr. Finland.” Allen is a talented prospect and a fighter not afraid to engage in a ground war. He has more impressive wins in the UFC than Amirkhani in his short, two-fight stint with the promotion. He topped skilled competitors Yaotzin Meza and Alan Omer in his first two Octagon outings. These wins look better than Amirkhani’s victories over Andy Ogle, Masio Fullen and Mike Wilkinson. This fight will go back and forth. Allen certainly will turn heads, too. Whether or not Amirkhani can pull off the victory, both of these men’s stocks will go up after this potential barn-burner.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Aittama: I was going to talk about the number of prospects featured on this card, but instead I will talk about a fighter on his way out of the sport. Sure, guys like Marc Diakiese, Tom Breese and Brett Johns potentially have long UFC careers ahead of them, but one of England’s best fighters and iconic stars, known for his trilby hat and “One Punch” moniker, is exiting the sport.

Brad Pickett will retire from active competition following his 39th and final fight, which comes against Marlon Vera on Saturday. Pickett made his name fighting in the once great English promotion Cage Rage, which at one point featured the likes of Anderson Silva, Paul Daley, Vitor Belfort,and Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. Pickett made an exciting Zuffa debut at WEC 45 in late 2009, when he locked in a rarely seen Peruvian necktie on Kyle Dietz to win the “Submission of the Night.” That award wouldn’t be his last in a run of 17 fights under the WEC and UFC banners.

Picket went to war with current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson at WEC 48 in one of Pickett’s career-defining moments. Johnson went on to become one of the most dominant champions on the planet following Pickett’s three-round victory on the only WEC pay-per-view effort. Pickett fought a who’s who of the bantamweight division on his way to wins over Ivan Menjivar, Damacio Page, Mike Easton, Yves Jabouin, Francisco Rivera and Neil Seery. His legend will be as a well-rounded fighter who wouldn’t shy away from a fire fight despite having a strong wrestling and grappling game. The UFC obliged Pickett’s desires to retire with a fight in his home country.

Pickett’s final 15 minutes in the Octagon were initially scheduled to be shared with Mexico’s Enrique Briones. The 36-year-old was going to provide a fun match-up for the retiring great, as he too loves to engage in the stand-up game. Unfortunately, Briones suffered an injury just over a week before the fight, but the UFC found a late-replacement opponent.

Pickett now faces 24-year-old Ecuadorian-American Vera. The Jackson-Winkeljohn product picked up a win in his most recent outing against Guangyou Ning at UFC Fight Night 101 in November. He makes his return to England after dropping a decision to The Ultimate Fighter 18 runner-up Davey Grant. Vera is looking to play spoiler on Pickett’s final walk to the Octagon.

Carey: I’m loving the fight to close out the prelims between Joe Duffy and Reza Madadi.

Duffy is 3-1 since entering the Octagon. He’s scored three dominant first-round victorieswith the promotion, and his lone loss came against Dustin Poirier, one of the division’s finest. Needless to say, the Irishman has been impressive in a pretty short UFC career. He has a chance to add to his resume against Madadi.

Madadi is one of the more fun fighters to watch in the lightweight division, mostly because he brings a Diego Sanchez-esque crazy intensity to the cage. Every fight involving Madadi is guaranteed to be a high-energy affair ripe with wild exchanges, and that sounds like the kind of thing Duffy would enjoy as well.

Pair this card with…

Carey: The fight card this weekend might emanate from the United Kingdom and feature plenty of international flavor, but the only thing to pair this card with is good old-fashioned American college basketball. March Madness will already be in full swing by the time the fights roll around on Saturday, but the only thing more exciting than a UFC knockout might be a March Madness buzzer-beater. That’s more than enough of a reason to flip back and forth between the two sports.

Aittama: A cup of tea and a hearty breakfast. After a long night of celebrating another tradition from the neighboring Ireland the night before — Friday is St. Patrick’s Day, lest we forget — there are plenty of people who will need to re-charge after a long night of green beer and corned beef. Dice that leftover corned beef, toss in some potatoes and scramble up some eggs, because it’s time to celebrate an afternoon of fights in the best way possible: on UFC Fight Pass. No commercials will be essential as half the audience fights off the hangover from the night before. If you want to keep the festivities going, grab a few friends and make use of that $10 you spend every month.

Fight Picks

Fight Aittama’s Pick Carey’s Pick
Main Card (UFC Fight Pass, 5 p.m. ET)
LHW: Jimi Manuwa vs. Corey Anderson Manuwa Manuwa
WW: Gunnar Nelson vs. Alan Jouban Nelson Nelson
BW: Brad Pickett vs. Marlon Vera Pickett Pickett
FW: Makwan Amirkhani vs. Arnold Allen Amirkhani Amirkhani
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 1:30 p.m. ET)
LW: Joseph Duffy vs. Reza Madadi Duffy Duffy
LHW: Francimar Barroso vs. Darren Stewart Stewart Stewart
HW: Daniel Omielańczuk vs. Timothy Johnson Omielańczuk Johnson
LW: Marc Diakiese vs. Teemu Packalén Diakiese Diakiese
MW: Tom Breese vs. Oluwale Bamgbose Breese Breese
WW: Vicente Luque vs. Leon Edwards Edwards Edwards
BW: Ian Entwistle vs. Brett Johns Johns Johns
MW: Scott Askham vs. Brad Scott Askham Scott
Women’s BW: Lina Länsberg vs. Lucie Pudilová Länsberg Länsberg