Three sophomores who were victorious in their freshman appearance in the Octagon will be entering the cage this Saturday night looking to extend their promotional records to 2-0.  Jimi Manuwa, Gunnar Nelson and Ryan Jimmo all won their respective first fights with the UFC, all by different means.  Manuwa earned a TKO by doctor’s stoppage, Nelson earned a submission choke and Jimmo knocked out his opponent.

The question from here is whether or not they will continue their winning ways.  Looking back at their first fights, none of them took on stiff competition.  Kyle Kingsbury, DaMarques Johnson and Anthony Perosh are not exactly names that jump off of the page at you, nor should they.

When Kingsbury lost to Manuwa, it was his third consecutive defeat.  The fact that Johnson was even allowed to fight against Nelson was a little dicey because it had been about a month after a stiff knockout by the hands of Mike Swick, but “Darkness” was choked out, suffered his third consecutive loss and was cut from the promotion afterwards.  Perosh, on the other hand, had a 3-0 UFC record as a light heavyweight entering the fight, but all three of his victories were against fellow lower-tier opponents.  When the Aussie was knocked out in seven seconds by “Big Deal,” it seemed reasonable at the time considering exactly who he had defeated previously in his UFC career.

But as reasonable as that victory was, it also failed to truly show how good Jimmo is.  Not that the knockout punch thrown by the Canadian was a fluke, but it really didn’t give anyone an opportunity to see what he was all about.  When Johny Hendricks knocked out Jon Fitch with the first punch of the fight, it was thought to be a fluke.  However, when Hendricks followed it up with a decision victory over Josh Koscheck and a similar looking knockout versus Martin Kampmann, it changed from fluke to skilled and precise. Jimmo, whose career mark sits at 17-1, could follow an identical route to proving himself within the confines of the Octagon.

To a similar degree, the victories that “Poster Boy” Manuwa and “Gunni” Nelson churned out were not exactly overly impressive, as they both took on fighters that were riding two-fight losing streaks.  They earned their victories fair and square, and were able to showcase their abilities on a wider scale than Jimmo was able to, but they were taking on fighters who had vultures circling their careers. Yet, despite the level of competition they faced, Manuwa and Nelson each hold unblemished records (Manuwa at 12-0 and Nelson at 10-0-1), and that makes them difficult to overlook.

In any event, the stars have aligned to put these three sophomores on the same card for their second outings.  By the looks of things, all three fighters will be taking a step up in competition. However, none of them will be taking on a task that they will not be able to handle.

Cyrille Diabate lines up opposite Manuwa in an interesting match-up between two strikers.  Diabate has gone 4-2 in the Octagon, but only recently was able to string consecutive victories together.  Both fighters are capable of getting the job done on the feet, but considering Diabate’s inconsistent track record, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him lose again.

Opposing Nelson will be Jorge Santiago.  The former Sengoku middleweight champion is riding a two-fight winning streak, but that came against two unknowns while fighting in Titan FC.  He was fighting in that promotion because of the fact that he dropped two straight in what was his second stint with the UFC.  While Santiago has never been submitted and Nelson has tapped out seven opponents, the Icelandic fighter gets a slight edge in the fight based on the recent activity inside their respective careers.

Probably the most even fight of the three is that of Jimmo, who will be battling James Te Huna.  The Kiwi enters the fight with a 4-1 UFC mark and has proven his skills despite the quality of his opponents.  Considering that the Canadian has only fought for seven seconds at the top level of his career, it still leaves some unknowns as to how he will be able to hang with UFC-caliber fighters in deep waters.  Picking a decisive winner in this fight is the toughest of the three.

Due to the law of averages, it would be difficult for these three fighters to make their combined total UFC record 6-0 after Saturday night.  That being said, the beauty of sports proves time and time again that such laws are always able to be torn up at any given time.  It made sense that these three fighters combined to go 3-0 after their first outings, but it doesn’t look so promising for them to all stay perfect come Saturday.

Photo: Ryan Jimmo (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.