UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall preview

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The wait is finally over as the world’s leading MMA promotion rolls into town once again with another incredible evening in store at UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall.

Hot on the heels of a truly historic night at the O2 Arena in March, the UFC returns with another bill dominated by talented Brits looking to stamp their mark on home turf.

Rising heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall tops the bill for the second time this year, facing the toughest test of his career in a tricky match-up against wrestling standout Curtis Blaydes.

Sweden’s Jack Hermansson takes co-main honours as he faces Chris Curtis – a late replacement for the injured Darren Till after the Team Kaobon man’s withdrawal earlier this month.

UFC London returns!

Join the home of the UFC for just £25 per month and watch Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann in action on Saturday night. Get instant access to the BT Sport app, with no contract and no BT broadband required.

Paddy Pimblett also returns to the English capital looking to secure a third straight finish since lighting up the UFC on his arrival last September as he faces lightweight rival Jordan Leavitt.

Close friend and stablemate Molly McCann completes the Scouse invasion as she looks to follow up her KO of the Year contender against Luana Carolina last time out, taking on Hannah Goldy in the Octagon this weekend.

Light heavyweight legend Alexander Gustafsson makes his first appearance for two years against Nikita Krylov as the once-retired Swedish veteran eyes one last assault on the summit of the 205lb rankings.

Plus with six more Brits competing across another stacked card at the O2 Arena, you won’t want to miss a second of the action on Saturday night.

Here are five reasons you must tune in for UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall, exclusively live on BT Sport.

Tom Aspinall after beating Alexander Volkov in March

Tom Aspinall produced the best performance of his career to defeat Alexander Volkov in March

Tom’s biggest test

Tom Aspinall might well be the most talented prospect Britain has ever exported to the UFC.

If that sounds like big billing, it most certainly is – but the 29-year-old has lived up to the hype every step of the way throughout his UFC tenure to date.

Aspinall, 12-2, steps into the Octagon on Saturday night for his sixth UFC assignment almost two years to the day since making his debut.

In that time, the man from Manchester has cruised to five straight stoppage wins while pocketing four performance bonuses without ever needing to get out of second gear.

No fighter across any division in the UFC has a longer streak of stoppage wins, while Aspinall’s average fight time (2mins 57 seconds) is the shortest in the history of the UFC’s heavyweight division.

“Curtis Blaydes is probably the toughest fight in the division for me stylistically”
– Tom Aspinall

Aspinall’s ledger already features some impressive scalps with wins over former champion Andrei Arlovski and perennial contender Alexander Volkov.

However, Curtis Blaydes undoubtedly represents the biggest challenge of Aspinall’s career, by his own admission.

“Curtis Blaydes is probably the toughest fight in the division for me stylistically,” he told MMA Hour in May.

“But I’m okay with that because that pushes me to a whole new level. That pushes me to levels I’ve never been before, and that’s what I need. If I’m with someone that’s going to make me comfortable, I’m going to stay exactly where I am and do the exact same work that I’ve been doing.”

Tom Aspinall sitting on top of the Octagon after beating Volkov

Aspinall moved up to sixth in the rankings after beating Volkov

Blaydes, 16-3 1NC, is the most accomplished grappler that Aspinall will have faced by some distance.

The 31-year-old man from Illinois was a national champion during his college wrestling days and remains a formidable prospect on the mat, even while demonstrating increasingly accomplished striking capabilities.

His performance bonus-winning knockout of Chris Daukaus in March might well have been the most complete Curtis Blaydes we’ve ever seen, making for a mouth-watering showdown in London this weekend.

“If you’re going to give me someone that I think is a scary fight and you’re going to give me fear, you don’t want to see me scared, because I end up doing stuff like I did in the O2 the time I fought,” Aspinall continued.

“I end up doing some crazy stuff that I’ve never done before. So me with a massive fight with a really tough guy, that’s dangerous.

“That’s dangerous for any heavyweight.”

Paddy Pimblett after winning his fight at UFC London in March

Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett was also victorious on the UFC’s last visit to London in March

The Baddy is back!

If you don’t know him by now – where have you been?

Paddy Pimblett’s UFC takeover continues this weekend as the charismatic Scouser makes his third appearance for the promotion with another spot on the main card that will surely blow the roof off the O2 Arena once again.

It’s hard to remember another fighter making such an impact with only two fights in the UFC but the magnetic energy expelled by Pimblett’s presence alone has seen him become one of the most recognisable stars in the sport already.

The 27-year-old former Cage Warriors lightweight champion has two first round finishes under his belt with the most recent coming at UFC London back in March against Rodrigo Vargas.

As is customary for most scraps involving Paddy ‘The Baddy’, Pimblett didn’t have it all his own way against Vargas, eating a few clean shots before turning the tide to make the veteran Vargas tap.

Those in Pimblett’s corner will no doubt hope for a cleaner performance this time around against a potentially dangerous opponent in Jordan Leavitt – but the Next Gen MMA charge does not tend to do things the easy way!

Like Pimblett, Leavitt looks to do his best work on the mat with six of his career wins coming by submission but the Las Vegas native will not be scared to mix it in the striking department against a man never too hard to find.

The pressure this weekend looks to be heaped on Pimblett in front of another sell out crowd on home soil but Leavitt will need to show his mettle too having not yet fought in front of fans since joining the UFC.

With his first taste of that big fight atmosphere coming against a man renowned for whipping the crowd into a frenzy, it remains to be seen whether Leavitt can handle the heat.

Will Paddy produce the fireworks once again? We think so.

Molly McCann after winning at UFC London

Molly McCann’s spinning back elbow was the defining moment of UFC London in March

Good golly Miss Molly!

Molly McCann produced the standout moment during an evening full of a stunning performances at UFC London last time out when she cracked Luana Carolina with a perfectly-timing spinning back elbow, relieving the Brazilian of her consciousness in outrageous fashion.

Already a firm fan favourite before that night in March, McCann’s star has only risen further in the aftermath of becoming the first English female to win by knockout in the UFC and the 32-year-old is now a household name across the country.

But with such recognition comes a new kind of pressure for the proud Liverpudlian to have to deal with, particularly as she goes in search of a third victory that would match her best ever form in the UFC.

Not that you’d know it, mind! Speaking exclusively to BT Sport’s Adam Catterall on Tuesday, McCann, 12-4, cut a relaxed figure as she prophesised another spectacular finish against Hannah Goldy this weekend.

“I’m gonna knock that b**** out,” she explained.

“I would never normally say that but I’ve been working with [boxing coach] Joe McNally on my hands and this is the first time I’ve ever fought anyone I’ve got a one-inch reach advantage!

“I’ve never fought anyone with less reach than me. So tell me what I can do with my reach!

“This girl is an athlete, a specimen, her grappling is unreal so if she gets her hands on me it’s going to be a tough night but I’ve been training with Jessica Penne, Angelina Hill and Leah McCourt all putting their hands on me.”

Goldy, 6-2, made her way to the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series and took a little while to find her feet on the big stage, dropping her first two bouts by decision.

However, the 30-year-old picked up the first victory of what she hopes will be many in the UFC last time out, subbing Emily Whitmire by armbar last September.

With both women perched just outside the rankings at present, Saturday’s showdown looks as though it could be the ticket for the victor to secure a number next to their name heading towards the end of the year.

Can Meatball make it happen at her second home in London?

Paul Craig draped in the Scotland flag

Scotland’s Paul Craig is looking to consolidate his position in the top 10 on Saturday night

Killer Craig on the title charge

Anyone who has been paying attention to Paul Craig’s recent resurgence in the light heavyweight division will have been treated to one of the most exhilarating runs anywhere in the UFC.

Having once looked destined to make up the numbers in the 205lb division, the 34-year-old Scot is now a bonafide contender on a six-fight unbeaten streak with a top-10 ranking.

The turnaround in his fortunes since being knocked out by Alonzo Menifield in 2019 is testament to Craig’s unmatched work ethic and indomitable spirit – but also his ever-improving technical ability.

Renowned as one of the most dangerous grapplers across any weight division in the UFC, Craig, 16-4-1, is a predator on the mat capable of snatching a submission at the merest hint of an opening offered by his opponent.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, ‘Bearjew’ often invites pressure from his opponents, sometimes eating some big shots in order to set up attacks from the most unlikely positions.

Paul Craig submitting Nikita Krylov at UFC London in March

The 34-year-old picked up yet another bonus for his dramatic victory against Nikita Krylov last time out

That may be a large part of the reason why Craig has secured a performance bonus for all but one of his eight UFC wins, anointing him as one of the most exciting fighters across the light heavyweight landscape.

Having already beaten former champion Shogun Rua and a potential future challenger in Magomed Ankalaev, Craig’s assignment this weekend sees him take on another big name of the 205lb division in Swiss hard man Volkan Oezdemir.

Oezdemir, 17-6, has endured his fair share of ups and downs since facing Daniel Cormier for the belt back at UFC 220 in 2018.

The 32-year-old has a tendency to swing between streaks of wins and losses; his current form sees him mired in the latter as he looks to avoid a third straight loss on Saturday night.

Can Craig keep creeping towards the top of the division – or will Oezdemir show there’s ‘No Time’ like the present to get back to winning ways?

Muhammad Mokaev submitting Cody Durden

Muhammad Mokaev believes his can become the UFC’s youngest ever champion

Little Mo making big waves

There’s so much to talk about heading into UFC London this weekend but there’s no way we could leave Muhammad Mokaev off the list of reasons to watch!

The 21-year-old flyweight sensation marked his UFC debut with a bonus-winning victory over Cody Durden in March, making light work of the man 10 years his senior inside a minute.

Already a much-hyped prospect with ambitions of conquering the 125lb division in record-breaking time, Mokaev’s card is now well and truly marked as a talent to watch in the UFC.

“Training with Pantoja has boosted my confidence”
– Muhammad Mokaev

Speaking to BT Sport’s Adam Catterall on Tuesday, the Russian-born Brit revealed he has spent time working at revered MMA super-gym American Top Team in preparation for his showdown with Charles Johnson this weekend.

“[I worked with] Pedro Munhoz, Alexandre Pantoja, Su Madaerji, Marlon Moraes – all big guys,” he explained.

“I always spar with bantamweights and featherweights so when I go back to flyweight it doesn’t feel like a competition.

“I felt Munhoz’s punch [power] – if I can take his punch I think I can take anyone’s, especially in the flyweight division!

“Training with Pantoja, who is ranked number three I think, boosted my confidence to make me think I can beat most of them [at the top of the division]. But I have to earn this slowly.

“I can’t just say I will beat top five guys, give me top five guys. If they accept, it’s okay but I want to earn my position.”

That work continues when he crosses paths with a man he knows well in Johnson having trained alongside the American during his time at Tiger Muay Thai gym in Thailand.

Johnson, 11-2, who is 10 years Mokaev’s senior, comes into the bout as the Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight champion with a huge opportunity to make a statement against a top talent on one of the year’s biggest cards.

Can the 31-year-old put the brakes on Mokaev’s title aspirations? 

Dont miss UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall exclusively live on BT Sport 1 from 6pm this Saturday night. Click here for our in-depth viewing guide for all the ways to watch the fights.

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Anna C. Knight

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