If last Saturday’s The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale wasn’t quite exciting enough to get you to sign up for UFC’s digital subscription service—Fight Pass—then the UFC has the answer with a much stronger lineup ready to go from England this weekend.

Airing live on Fight Pass from The O2 Arena in London, UFC Fight Night 37 has the UFC sending its No. 1-ranked light heavyweight into enemy territory this Saturday when former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson takes on England’s undefeated Jimi Manuwa in the main event.
Gustafsson hasn’t been seen since a close decision loss to 205-pound champion Jon Jones in September of 2013, but he’ll be able to jump right back into the title scene with a win over Manuwa in London. He’ll have a tough test ahead of him, though. Manuwa brings real power and explosiveness to the cage and has won 13 of his 14 fights by knockout.

Also on the card is a co-headlining lightweight battle between Melvin Guillard and Michael Johnson. Johnson finds himself in the UFC rankings after scoring back-to-back wins over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau, but he’ll have to avoid the lethal striking of Guillard in order to move towards a spot in the top 10. For “The Young Assassin,” a win over a ranked opponent like Johnson would go a long way towards moving Guillard into the top 10 as well.

Welterweights Omari Akhmedov and Gunnar Nelson are set to kick off the main card in a fantastic match-up between two of the division’s brightest up-and-coming fighters, and Brad Pickett makes his flyweight debut against UFC newcomer Neil Seery to fill out the main card.

The entire event is set to air live on UFC Fight Pass, with the six-fight preliminary card kicking off at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by the main card at 3 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s RJ Gardner, Trey Downey and Vince Carey break down the card in the latest addition of the Round Table.

WW: Omari Akhmedov (12-1) vs. Gunnar Nelson (11-0-1)

Gardner: This welterweight showdown between two young up-and-comers jockeying for position in arguably the deepest division in all of MMA should prove to be a lot of fun.

Omari Akhmedov and Gunnar Nelson are exciting prospects with contrasting styles. Nelson is an accomplished grappler with seven of his 11 wins coming by way of submission, whereas Akhmedov has six knockout victories to his credit.

The edge in this match-up goes to Akhmedov. The Russian is the more well-rounded and complete fighter. I expect this one to be exciting, and it will likely be in the discussion for “Fight of the Night.” Look for Akhmedov to win via TKO midway through the second round.

Downey: I can’t say that I side with RJ in his breakdown of this one. Both of these men are certainly up-and-coming fighters in the division, but Akhmedov is not the clear favorite in this one at all.

Akhmedov is coming off a great debut in Brazil last year. His striking will certainly come into play against Nelson’s great ground game. The Master of Sports in sambo has a mix of TKO and submission victories to his credit, but, given Nelson’s submissions, the smart approach for the 26-year-old is to use the clinch game to muscle Nelson to the cage and utilize dirty boxing.

Nelson had a ton of hype surrounding him after his first two bouts inside the Octagon. He scored big wins over well-known guys like Jorge Santiago and DaMarques Johnson. Nelson hasn’t fought in over a year now due to injuries and a recent near-fatal car accident. Nelson has an almost Fedor-like mystique surrounding him and he always stays eerily calm in the cage, yet turns out with great results.

I was immensely impressed by Nelson’s first two performances, but his lengthy layoff is the one thing that casts some doubt on his chances in this fight. Akhmedov is a tough challenge, but Nelson will improve to 3-0 in the UFC with a submission in the third round.

Carey: This is my early pick for “Fight of the Night.”

Nelson has been considered one of the brightest prospects in the welterweight division for a while now, but he’s been stuck on the sidelines for over a year with injuries and has seen a lot of his momentum die off as a result. In order to gain some of that hype back, Nelson is going to have to perform well after a long layoff, and that’s not going to be easy against a tough fighter like Akhmedov. The Russian is a finisher and was equal parts aggressive and insane in his slugfest debut against Thiago Perpetuo. If he brings that style into the cage against the methodical Nelson, things could get interesting in a hurry.

The combination of Nelson’s long layoff and Akhmedov’s finishing prowess are almost enough for me to side with RJ and go with the upset here, but Nelson’s grappling skills make it a little too difficult. I’ll take Nelson by a close—and possibly controversial—decision.

FlyW: Brad Pickett (23-8) vs. Neil Seery (13-9)

Downey: Since it was announced, Brad Pickett’s flyweight debut has had plenty of intrigue. Pickett was originally slated to face top-five contender Ian McCall. However, McCall dropped out due to an injury. Irish fans campaigned online for Neil Seery to get the fight, and the campaign worked—the UFC signed Seery and matched him with Pickett.

Pickett’s drop in weight classes is a big deal for a multitude of reasons. Pickett was a fan-favorite at bantamweight, and he is admittedly one of UFC President Dana White’s favorites. Pickett holds a win at bantamweight over current flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson. All of those factors make it seem like “One Punch” can’t be too far off from a title shot. A win over McCall would almost certainly have gotten him that shot. A win over Seery more than likely won’t do that, but it is probably a more fitting match-up for his first at 125 pounds. It will be interesting to see how the weight cut goes for Pickett. How much will it take out of him, and will he carry that power that made him such a dangerous opponent at bantamweight down with him to flyweight?

Just getting to the UFC is an amazing accomplishment for Seery. He started his career with a 1-4 record through his first five fights and was 4-6 at one point. Since that point, he has gone an impressive 9-3 and is currently boasting a career-best four-fight winning streak with all of those wins coming in rising European promotion Cage Warriors. Seery’s nickname is “2 Tap,” and it is fitting given that the majority of his victories have come by submission. He will definitely look to take the fight to the mat against the striking power of Pickett.

Seery is an interesting test for Pickett in his flyweight debut. He has faced some decent competition in Cage Warriors and even fought fellow UFC flyweight Phil Harris in BAMMA. He just isn’t on the level of a guy like Pickett, though. “One Punch” starts off his flyweight run with a one-punch knockout in the first round.

Carey: Let’s face it, Pickett’s the heavy favorite in this bout for a reason. Anything other than a stoppage win for “One Punch” in his flyweight debut is going to be considered a bit of a letdown. Although Seery is definitely a game fighter, Pickett’s going to get his stoppage on Saturday.

Pickett’s aforementioned past win over “Mighty Mouse” puts him right into the thick of the flyweight title picture, assuming he takes out Seery this weekend. That should lead to an incredibly focused Englishman looking to make a statement against Seery, and don’t be surprised to see a combination of Octagon jitters and Pickett’s attack overwhelm the Dublin native.

There’s a chance that Seery can pick up a win or two in the UFC and stick around for a while, but UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby really threw “2 Tap” into the deep end for his UFC debut. Seery won’t have his lights turned out, but Pickett will land enough to send a rocked Irishman to the mat and eventually finish the job with a first-round submission.

Gardner: Trey and Vince both make great points on this match-up, and I really can’t disagree anywhere. However, I am a little worried about how the weight cut is going to affect Pickett.

When you are that size, going from 135 pounds to 125 pounds is a big jump, and cutting weight only gets more difficult as you age. Seery doesn’t really pose a true threat to Pickett, so this should be a good fight for Pickett to get his bearings at flyweight. If the cut is too hard on his body, then Seery could beat Pickett. However, that’s not likely to happen.

Barring a bad weight cut, Pickett should win this fight, and in emphatic fashion. Pickett didn’t get the moniker “One Punch” for nothing—look for him to turn Seery’s lights out. Pickett wins by second-round knockout.

LW: Melvin Guillard (31-12-2) vs. Michael Johnson (14-8)

Carey: Since his debut on The Ultimate Fighter 2 roughly, oh, 600 years ago, I’ve picked Melvin Guillard nearly every time he’s stepped into the cage. More than a few times, his performance has left me feeling more than a little stupid. Luckily, I don’t mind looking stupid every once in a while, so I’m sticking with my usual instincts and taking Guillard in this fight against Michael Johnson.

There’s no denying how good Johnson has looked in his last couple of performances. His dominant win over Joe Lauzon in Boston last August was one of the more surprising outcomes of any fight in 2013, and his follow-up knockout of Gleison Tibau was even more impressive.

However, much like Guillard, Johnson has been extremely inconsistent in his UFC career. It’s tough to gauge whether or not he’s put it all together yet. Guillard may have troubles putting wins together in the UFC, but he usually gets it done against mid-tier competition. Mid-tier competition is still what Johnson represents at this point in his career. Guillard by second-round TKO.

Gardner: I have to disagree with my colleague on this one. Johnson is a step above mid-tier. He is coming off the two biggest wins of his career, and I expect him to keep the momentum.

Guillard is just too inconsistent, and he relies too heavily on his power. If he would ever get his footwork in order and utilize his wrestling, he could be a top-tier guy. However, he just doesn’t have the mental makeup to be elite.

Johnson will utilize his reach advantage to keep Guillard on the outside. He is the more refined striker, and he will pick Guillard apart from the outside before stunning him and submitting him. Johnson by second-round submission.

Downey: This fight is so tricky to peg, because both fighters have a tendency to be fairly inconsistent.

RJ already noted Guillard’s inconsistency, but Johnson has suffered from a similar curse. Johnson looked like he might be ready to step into the upper echelon of the lightweight division with three straight wins over Shane Roller, Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo. After those three great wins, though, he dropped two straight to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi. Those losses make what he has done in his past two fights all the more impressive. It seemed like Johnson got out of his own personal funk at the same time that his team, the Blackzilians, emerged from their own slump. Critics will still say that Lauzon just had a bad night in front of a hometown crowd. I would have said the same until Johnson disposed of Tibau late last year.

Guillard is in the middle of what could very well be his last best shot at a title run. He turned it all around with his victory over Mac Danzig, and then he looked good against Ross Pearson before the unfortunate stoppage. This fight was supposed to be a rematch of that bout, but Johnson has stepped in after an injury to Pearson. Johnson is an entirely different fighter than Pearson, so it will be interesting to see if Guillard has adjusted or if he just relies on his power.

Johnson’s advantage in some of his biggest wins has been his athleticism. It’s difficult to say how much of an advantage he has over Guillard in that department. Johnson does have a tendency to leave himself open in spots when he moves forward. That spells doom against a man like Guillard. Guillard keeps this last run going with a first-round TKO.

LHW: Alexander Gustafsson (15-2) vs. Jimi Manuwa (14-0)

Downey: This fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Jimi Manuwa is a huge deal. It has the highest stakes of any non-title fight so far in 2014.

Gustafsson was originally announced to face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but the Brazilian dropped out of the contest before the bout was made official. With most of the other top light heavyweights booked, the UFC inserted rising star Manuwa into the main event.

Gustafsson is making his return to the cage for the first time since last year’s “Fight of the Year” against Jon Jones. Gustafsson, with a win, is guaranteed a title shot against the winner of the fight between Jones and Glover Teixeira. The Swede certainly holds the experience advantage in this bout. He has been in main events and big fights before. Manuwa has never even been featured in a co-main event so far in his UFC career.

A lot of the promotion behind the Gustafsson and Jones fight had to do with the Swede’s height and reach. A lot of the MMA media brushed that aside and didn’t think Gustafsson had much of a shot against the champion. I was among that contingent, but Gustafsson proved all of us wrong when he took Jones to the limit. His reach was a big part of why he was able to do that. He was able to sneak in his jab over and over to bloody up the champion. Gustafsson will actually hold the reach advantage over Manuwa, so he could use a similar strategy here and have even more success.

Superstardom is what this fight holds for Manuwa, should he win. The Englishman holds a perfect professional record with not a single one of those wins going to the judges’ scorecards. Manuwa is going to have to try to use his power to get Gustafsson out early. Manuwa has never even entered the third round, so he has to be ready with his cardio entering a fight with a guy the caliber of Gustafsson.

Another question will be the crowd. Gustafsson is European, but this fight is taking place in Manuwa’s home country. The crowd could fuel him to a quick victory, or it could fuel him to take questionable risks and blow out that gas tank.

Simply put, Gustafsson is going to have to weather the storm early in this one. If he can avoid Manuwa’s power early, his main-event experience and slicker striking game should work him towards a TKO in round three.

Gardner: Indeed, this is easily the biggest non-title fight of 2014, and it has the potential to be one of the best light heavyweight fights of the year.

Manuwa is a devastating finisher, but this is a huge step up in competition for the Nigerian-born fighter. Gustafsson proved to the world that he was the real deal when he pushed UFC champ Jon Jones to the absolute limit. Although Manuwa has true knockout power and the ability to end the fight with a single shot, Gustafsson has proven that he is one of MMA’s elite. The Swede should be able to utilize his length and powerful jab to set the tone of this fight early.

For Manuwa to win this bout, he is going to have to close the distance and fight inside the pocket. On the inside, Manuwa’s power could prove to be a game changer, but it’s unlikely. Gustafsson has fought and defeated much better competition, and I see him winning this fight decidedly to earn another shot at the UFC light heavyweight strap. Gustafsson by third-round TKO.

Carey: Although I agree that this fight has major implications on the future of the 205-pound belt, I don’t think this is going to be a “Fight of the Year” candidate. In fact, I don’t think it’s going to be all that close.

Manuwa has a ton of raw talent and potential, but he’s still yet to fight a single ranked opponent in his UFC run. Meanwhile, Gustafsson just took the consensus best fighter in the world to one of the closest decisions of 2013. I’ve seen enough crazy things happen inside the Octagon that I won’t be completely shocked if Manuwa makes this fight competitive—or even wins—but I fully expect Gustafsson to run away with this one.

The smart strategy is probably to stay on the outside and try to let Manuwa wear himself down for a round or two. That may end up being the game plan, but “The Mauler” is a good enough counter-striker that he will land early and often, regardless of the pace. Gustafsson puts away the undefeated Brit in quick fashion and takes home a first-round knockout win before getting his rematch against Jones.

Preliminary Card
FlyW: Louis Gaudinot (6-3) vs. Phil Harris (22-11)

Gardner: Louis Gaudinot and Phil Harris are extremely talented and fun to watch, but neither really excites the casual fan base and that is why they are relegated to the opening slot of the prelims. Look for the more experienced Harris to outpoint Gaudinot for the win in front of a home crowd.

Carey: This should be a fun scrap. With both guys holding losing records inside the Octagon, it could also end up being a loser-leaves-town fight. Gaudinot will push the pace and win a decision, but expect a game Harris to make it interesting down the stretch.

Downey: This fight is the most exciting of the preliminary bouts. I am an admitted sucker for the flyweights, and both of these men bring it. If you go with the linear prediction of this fight, Gaudinot should beat Harris because he beat John Lineker and Harris lost to the Brazilian. I recently spoke with Gaudinot, and he didn’t put much stock into that line of thought. He did say that he thinks he can press the action on the feet to get a finish. I don’t know if he gets that finish he’s seeking, but that pressure will earn him a decision win in enemy territory.

WW: Igor Araujo (24-6) vs. Danny Mitchell (14-4-1)

Carey: Even though Danny Mitchell is bringing one of the best nicknames in the sport to the cage—“The Cheesecake Assassin” is fantastic—I’ve got to take Araujo here. The Brazilian shed his Octagon jitters in his win over Ildemar Alcantara in October, and he’ll make it two straight with a submission win in enemy territory over the Brit.

Downey: Nicknames don’t win fights. Araujo won his Octagon debut and seems to hold a clear advantage on the ground against Mitchell. He gets the submission early.

Gardner: I have to go against the grain here, though I really don’t have a good reason other than gut feeling. Araujo is the smart-money pick, but Mitchell is going to turn some heads in front of his home crowd during his UFC debut. I simply can’t pick against a fighter with the nickname “The Cheesecake Assassin”…I love cheesecake too much.

BW: Roland Delorme (9-2) vs. Davey Grant (8-2)

Gardner: There are a lot of things to like about The Ultimate Fighter 18 runner-up Davey Grant, but I’m not really sure he is ready for the big stage and bright lights. Roland Delorme simply has more tools and a better resume. Delorme will win via submission either late in the first round or early in the second.

Downey: RJ is right. Grant has been the underdog for a lot of his career, but there are a lot of things to like about him. Delorme does have the better resume, but Grant will come out and put on a career-best performance for the win.

Carey: Looks like I get to be the tie-breaker. Although Grant does have the talent to compete at some level in the Octagon, Delorme is one of the more underrated bantamweights in the UFC right now. He is going to give the Brit some major problems on the mat. I’m siding with RJ on this one and taking the Canadian on enemy soil.

MW: Brad Scott (9-2) vs. Claudio Henrique da Silva (9-1)

Downey: The fight between Brad Scott and Claudio Henrique da Silva should be an intriguing middleweight battle early on in the card. Scott rebounded with a submission win in his last bout after coming up short against Robert Whitaker in the finals of TUF Smashes. Da Silva is making his UFC debut and is on a streak after losing his first pro bout. His last fight was his only contest to go to a decision, so Scott is dealing with a dangerous fighter, especially on the ground. Da Silva gets a submission win in his debut.

Carey: I admittedly haven’t seen much of da Silva, but his resume is giving off strong finisher vibes, and that’s something I can get behind. Scott has shown to be a tough fighter, but not a lot else, in his two UFC bouts. If da Silva comes out to finish in the first, I don’t know if Scott can stop it from happening. I’ll take the newcomer by second-round submission.

Gardner: This match-up is definitely the sleeper bout on this card. Scott showed a lot of promise and upside during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter and da Silva is one of the best pure grappling talents to enter MMA since Demian Maia and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza burst onto the scene. Scott should make this fight interesting to start, but da Silva’s grappling will prove to be too much. He will submit Scott late in the first round.

MW: Luke Barnatt (7-0) vs. Mats Nilsson (11-2-1)

Carey: After beating a fellow rising middleweight in Andrew Craig in his last match-up, Barnatt should have received a step up in competition. Mats Nilsson doesn’t exactly qualify, but he’s never been finished in his MMA career and should provide a decent test for the “Bigslow” before he moves up to the next level. Barnatt by decision, but don’t be surprised by a TKO stoppage late in the bout.

Gardner: This is a terrible match-up for Nilsson. Barnatt’s length and ability will just be too much to overcome. Nilsson will make it interesting, but ultimately Barnatt gets the finish midway through the third round. Barnatt via third-round TKO.

Downey: Barnatt certainly did deserve a bigger fight in this spot, but it seems like the UFC is building him slowly. He has come out with a huge personality since his last bout and could be the next big star coming out of the United Kingdom. Unless he comes in overconfident, Barnatt should score an early TKO victory with a knee.

LHW: Cyrille Diabate (19-9-1) vs. Ilir Latifi (7-3)

Downey: Ilir Latifi finally makes his return to the Octagon after stepping in on less than one week’s notice against Gegard Mousasi last year. We still don’t know a whole lot about Latifi, other than that he is tough as nails. He lasted three rounds against someone against whom he was clearly outmatched. He will need to use that toughness to combat the striking that Diabate has in his arsenal. Toughness is a great quality for a fighter to have, but it doesn’t always equal a victory. Diabate’s technique overcomes Latifi’s toughness for a decision win.

Gardner: Latifi is as tough as they come, but toughness doesn’t win fights—technique does. Latifi is at a major disadvantage in that department against Diabate. In addition to the huge skill advantage Diabate has coming into this match-up, he also will have a significant reach advantage that makes it nearly impossible for Latifi to close the distance in any way whatsoever. Look for Latifi to be thoroughly outclassed in this match-up, but his toughness will keep him in the fight until the bitter end. Diabate wins via unanimous decision.

Carey: I’m in agreement with my fellow panelists. Diabate usually fights up to his potential against guys that aren’t near the top tier of the 205-pound division. Latifi is going to get outclassed here. I think the Swede survives again, but otherwise this looks a lot like his first fight inside the Octagon—a blowout. Diabate by a strong unanimous verdict.