This weekend the Octagon returns to the 'Big Smoke' for its annual UFC Fight Night at The O2. As always, the UFC make an effort to bring together all of the best British fighters that the country has to offer, and matches them with world class talent from around the globe. With the surge in popularity of mixed martial arts, we now find ourselves with a lot of great athletes fighting out of the British Isles and they will be on show this weekend.
The main event features none other than the London wrecking-ball, Jimi "Posterboy" Manuwa. He will attempt to secure another dramatic finish, pushing him a little closer to that UFC light heavyweight gold. The man in his way is Ultimate Fighter winner and tough wrestler, Corey "Overtime'" Anderson. Working alongside greats like Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez, Anderson is adding good footwork and striking to his game. This opportunity to face Jimi could launch him into the spotlight and move him up the rankings, should he be successful.
With Jimi having such a high knockout percentage, it will take a smart game plan from Anderson if he is to avoid Manuwa's powerful striking. With Anderson's ability to strike moving backwards and shoot a powerful double leg takedown, he may be able to slow Jimi down and maybe time a shot to force a grappling exchange. With Manuwa working out at Allstars in Stockholm, alongside top contenders like Alex Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi, he should be well prepared for that eventuality.
In the co-main event we have Gunnar Nelson facing rising star Alan Jouban. Nelson is a slick submission artist with crisp, pin-point striking. His karate background has given him the ability to dart in with one or two punches and will hurt or stun his foe, buying him a second to drag them to the floor. From there he progresses to a dominant position and starts looking to constrict the airways of his opponent. Jouban is an excellent Thai boxer but is also no slouch on the ground either.
Fighting out of Southern California, Jouban is surrounded by great coaches and training partners. His 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu brown belt will give him the skills to threaten and create scrambles. This may help him get back to his feet and force a striking exchange. With his work rate higher when trading punches, Jouban could push Nelson at this range. He must focus on his defense though as Gunnar is very quick and very tricky. I feel like this is the most intriguing match-up on the card, as they are both very different and both have the skills to keep climbing the rankings.
The whole card from top to bottom has excellent bouts scheduled. We have some really interesting local battles like Scott Askham and Brad Scott - two middleweight prospects attempting to slow each other down and steal that momentum for themselves.
The real star of the show on this occasion though, will be a UK MMA legend and a pioneer for British fighters. Brad "One Punch" Pickett, the much loved local Londoner that went on to become one of the best in the world, will be hanging up his gloves for good after tonight's event. He is facing late replacement Marlon Vera and will be fighting back the emotions as he makes his last walk to the Octagon. Such a great night for the UK athletes and a lot to be gained with successful outings.
Watch UFC Fight Night: Manuwa vs. Anderson live in the UK on BT Sport from 9pm GMT on Saturday, March 18, or catch the UFC FIGHT PASS Prelims from 5:30pm GMT.