The UFC is back in Merry England and there are plenty of local fighters to cheer for.
At the top, Tom Aspinal gets his chance to break into the top 10 heavyweight spots when he faces veteran vet Alexander Volkov in Saturday’s UFC London main event. Aspinall went 4-0 in the UFC four times to take 12th place in the world rankings for MMA Fighting and could be the 7th place next to Volkov’s next name.
At 28 years old, the Aspinall is a relatively springtime chicken compared to some of the mighty varieties that have filled the heavyweight charts for the past few years. He defeated former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski and sent off his veteran peers, but never faced a heavyweight contender like Volkov. Towering Russia is a very tall order for any aspiring champion and Aspinall’s first UFC main event could turn into a learning lesson rather than a step forward.
Arnold Allen faces Dan Hooker in the co-main event, a featherweight competition that will tell us a lot about the direction of every man’s career. As for Allen, he is looking to go 9-0 in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC; For Hooker, he’s back at 145 pounds to give new life to a UFC race that already saw him fight the world’s best light weightlifters.
In another main card move, famous Paddy Pimblett fights Kazula Vargas in the lightweight competition, Gunnar Nelson returns from a 900-day hiatus to fight Takashi Sato in the welterweight division, Molly McCann and Luana Carolina battle to move up the ranks, and Jay Herbert welcomes Elijah Topuria into the welterweight division. The light.
what: UFC London
where: The O2 in London
when: Saturday, March 19. The six-game primary card on ESPN+ begins at 1:30 PM ET, followed by a six-match main card on ESPN+ at 4 PM ET.
(The numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting World Ranking)
Alexander Volkov (7): Tom Espinal (12)
You have to be good to pass Alexander Volkov and Tom Aspinal is better at mixing martial arts than most fans think. This is understandable given that only one of Aspinall’s first four fights in the UFC got past the halfway mark in the first round. If he wants to prove that he’s not just a heavy boxer, he’s doing a terrible job at it!
But Aspinal has a legitimate jiu-jitsu background, which showed glimpses of his wrestling when he introduced Andrei Arlovsky. His wrestling will be a major factor here especially when you take into account Volkov’s standing skills.
Volkov has a powerful hit and excellent range control. Many of his victories came from the fact that his opponents couldn’t figure out how to effectively close the distance. Whether or not Aspinall can clear this hurdle will show us how far he has to go to become a legitimate threat to challenge the UFC title.
Motivated by the London horde, Aspinal would take his power by spoiling the battle and putting pressure on Volkov. It’s always possible to finish early when you’re talking about two heavyweights, but I see Aspinall win an entertaining attrition war and walk away in later rounds to take it on paper.
Arnold Allen (11) vs. Dan Hooker (13 left)
If Arnold Allen is looking for that signature win, this is it.
Despite winning his first eight fights in the UFC, “Almighty” has not captured the imagination of MMA fans. Maybe it’s because he had setbacks that kept him from competing regularly, maybe he’s lost that big name on his resume, maybe he needs a stunning viral finish, or maybe it’s a combination of all three of these factors. Hooker is rarely in a boring, memorable fight, so if Allen can’t make a moment here, it may never happen to him.
I like Allen’s chances very much, not only because he’s a top-tier athlete with a full skill set, but also because I’m not convinced that moving into featherweight would be some sort of cure-all for Hooker (or cure-anything for that matter). Mind you, it’s not like Hooker was one of the best in the world when he originally competed at 145lbs. Aside from Hatsu Hyoki’s great ending, he’s also had weird losses for future BKFC star Jason Knight and Maximo Blanco (remember that guy?). All the evidence we have indicates that Hooker was a better lightweight fighter.
That doesn’t mean he’s not good enough to beat Allen. Hawker is a better and smarter fighter than he was five years ago; However, it is also more store dazzling and this is where you should give Allen the preference. If Hooker ever dwindled from his wars at 155 pounds, it’s hard to imagine him keeping up with this next generation of 145 pounds. He still has a lot of Fight of the Night trophies ahead, but it’s Allen who will go on to win and that includes Saturday’s mission.
Buddy Pemblete vs Casola Vargas
This should be an easy win for Paddy Pimlett, as long as we get more Cage Warriors Pimlett champion and less BKFC wannabe Pimlett.
Kazula Vargas is the right test for Pimblett at this point in his career, a good kickboxer with a solid chin that would give Pimblett a real fight if he chooses to stand and trade in the middle of the octagon. He has serious limitations to the ground and this is where Pemblett should shine. When laid on his back, Vargas’ defense consists mainly of him looking for guillotine strangles, which would be ineffective against a gladiator like Pemblet.
Look for Pimblett to be the aggressor with takedowns, thwart Vargas and then open him up with a floor and a pound. From there, Pemblet will either find his own choke or pour hits in order to finish the TKO.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Takashi Sato
Welcome back, Gunnar Nelson!
Takashi Sato is credited with stepping up here as Claudio Silva’s replacement and saving this fight, but that should be a show for Nelson. Sato is prone to demands, and while I expect Nelson to loosen up early and show off his karate style, on the ground this match will be decided.
If Nelson can avoid Sato’s throws and is the first to finish first, it will be a short night for Sato. While I’m sure Nelson would enjoy getting back on the court after such a long layoff, he won’t mess around once he sees an opportunity to give up.
He put Sato away in the first round and then maybe we can rebook the Silva fight.
Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina
Molly McCann has a simple plan: move forward and don’t stop hitting. This will lead to an interesting clash of styles with Luana Carolina, who knows she will be aiming to use her reach advantage to keep McCann away.
The fighters had outlasted Makan before, although in her last fight with Ji Yeon Kim she seemed to have found a winning formula to support her opponent as much as possible before breaking out. It is advantageous for a McCann to have an iron chin, as it often breaks when throwing punches. She is confident it will do more damage in the long run.
Carolina is no stranger to dealing with aggressive opponents, so McCann may want to be more methodical than usual lest you chew on a Carolina punch. I think Mac had better hitting power than the last Carolina opposition, so she got the job done here with another crowd-pleasing performance.
It was by decision.
picking What was
Jay Herbert vs. Elia Topuria
On his latest outing, Jai Herbert was finally able to show off the cute hands and feet that made him a fan favorite in the Cage Warriors promotion. Ilya Topuria has a severe test ahead of him as he embarks on his lightweight journey.
Herbert completes an impressive 77-inch reach with plenty of lateral movement. It wouldn’t be easy for Topuria to corner Herbert so he could make those body shots he loves so much. However, he only needs a few good people early on to let Herbert know that he is serious about striking.
In the wrestling department, Edge definitely goes to Topuria, and given that he’ll be at a regular disadvantage in his new department, we can see him grow more dependent on his wrestling. It’s definitely something to consider against Herbert, a bluff fighter in a standing position with a great deal of knockout power.
This bout looks ready to upset, but I’d go with Topuria if he could mix his wrestling with tight groups for three rounds. He will win by decision or score a late finish.
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