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UFC London main card predictions: Our picks for Tom Aspinall, Paddy Pimblett and more
We look ahead to UFC London 2022 with some predictions for the fights including Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall and Paddy Pimblett vs Jordan Leavitt, exclusively live on BT Sport.
Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall
The main event promises to be a fascinating clash as the heavyweight division’s most electric prospect faces his toughest test when our very own Tom Aspinall takes on Curtis Blaydes.
Aspinall has done everything asked of him – plus a little extra! – during his short time in the promotion so far, racing to five straight wins inside two years.
During that time, Aspinall is yet to crack 15 minutes total Octagon time having made quick work of every man he has faced including one former champion, Andrei Arlovski, and one perennial contender, Alexander Volkov.
It was Aspinall’s first round submission win against Volkov in March that really confirmed his arrival among the heavyweight elite, leading to inevitable talk of a title shot on the not-too-distant horizon.
However the man from Salford must first defeat fellow top ranked contender Blaydes before any visions of the belt can truly begin to materialise.
On paper this is not a great match-up for Aspinall, who has admitted as much in several interviews over the past few weeks.
But he is not alone in that fact; Blaydes’ elite wrestling and ground work makes him one of the most difficult assignments for anyone in the division.
Earlier this year, the 31-year-old American suggested he would not be as reliant on takedowns as he pledged to continue entertaining the fans after producing of a crushing KO win over Chris Daukaus in March.
And Blaydes’ stand-up game continues to show development; the Elevation Fight Team man has outstruck his last three opponents by an aggregate of 73-33 on the feet.
However, against a man with Aspinall’s speed and repertoire of strikes, Blaydes may well look to avoid danger and revert to type by dragging the Brit to the canvas – and when Blaydes wants to take it to the mat, few can stop him.
His 62 takedowns in UFC competition put him head and shoulders above any other heavyweight in UFC history.
However, Aspinall, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, has the ability to be dangerous on the mat too and won’t need a second invitation to take advantage of an opening off his back.
This is the perfect opportunity for Aspinall to show he truly is as good as we think and with home advantage in front of a sold out O2 Arena, he’ll get the job done. Somehow.
Verdict: Aspinall via submission
Jack Hermansson vs Chris Curtis
Originally set to face Liverpool’s Darren Till in the co-main event, Sweden’s Jack Hermansson will instead face Chris Curtis in a middleweight showdown that could be a cracker.
Hermansson is a grappler by nature who looks to do his best work off the takedown – but he’s got his work cut out on Saturday night against a man with an astonishing 100% takedown defence.
Curtis fought only a month ago, marking a quick turnaround for the 35-year-old who defeated four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Rodolfo Vieira comfortably over three rounds.
Hermansson is nowhere near Vieira’s level in the grappling department, while ‘Action Man’ should be more than a match for the Swede on the feet.
“My game plan is pretty easy and straight-forward, it’s just to keep punching you until I win,” Curtis said at Wednesday’s media day.
Arguably one of the most game fighters on the whole roster, we think a fired-up Curtis is all wrong for 'The Joker' stylistically and could find a finish within the distance.
Verdict: Chris Curtis via TKO
Paddy Pimblett vs Jordan Leavitt
The people’s main event sees Paddy Pimblett return to action as he faces the eccentric Jordan Leavitt in a lightweight contest sure to blow the roof off the O2 Arena.
Pimblett is 2-0 from his opening pair of UFC assignments, finishing Luigi Vendramini and Rodrigo Vargas in the first round despite riding early trouble against both men.
The 27-year-old is a lightning rod inside the Octagon who can be reckless in his pursuit of the eye-catching finish his fevered fan base have come to expect from him.
But Leavitt is probably the most well-rounded competitor Pimblett has faced under the UFC banner, marrying competency on the feet with an equally solid grappling skillset.
However, he will have never fought in an atmosphere like the one awaiting him on Saturday evening and needs to prove he has the mettle to handle the hostility of the 18,000-strong crowd.
In those conditions, few fighters are more at ease than Paddy ‘The Baddy’ – and with Pimblett also fighting in memory of Baby Lee Hodgson, a four-year-old with whom he became close during Hodgson's recent battle against cancer, Leavitt will need to walk through hell to get the win against a man possessed this weekend.
Verdict: Paddy Pimblett via TKO
Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson
Three-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson makes his first appearance for more than two years on Saturday night looking to find some form after a barren run that spans back to 2017.
Curiously, that last win came at the expense of the recently-deposed 205lb champion Glover Teixeira after a brilliant display of hands from Gustafsson.
The Swede has looked short of the same confidence in three losing outings since, most recently a heavyweight debut against Fabricio Werdum that resulted in a first round submission loss.
But Gustafsson clearly feels there is much more left in the tank having already reversed his decision to retire back in 2019.
He’s fast approaching the last-chance saloon though and may not have a better opportunity to get back in the win column than against a man going through an equally rough patch in Krylov.
Krylov’s defeat against Paul Craig in March saw him slip to 2-4 in his last six and while all have come against decent calibre opposition, the Ukrainian’s place in the rankings looks increasingly vulnerable.
Verdict: Alexander Gustafsson via UD
Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy
Molly McCann’s legacy is already secure as the most successful English woman in UFC history – but the lovable Scouse dynamo has plenty more history to write before all is said and done.
Now in search of a third straight win that could see her creep into the rankings for the first time, the 32-year-old welcomes Hannah Goldy to London looking to build on her stunning knockout of Luana Carolina last time out.
McCann, who became the first English woman to secure a knockout in the UFC with that incredible spinning back elbow in March, has grown in confidence and ability since her arrival on the big stage back in 2018.
However, grappling remains a weakness in her game that Goldy will no doubt be looking to exploit if she is able to close the distance effectively.
That’s no safe bet though against a high-volume aggressor like McCann who will be buoyed by a new-found faith in her fight-ending power.
For the first time since competing in the UFC, McCann will be not be disadvantaged by either height or reach as she matches up against the 5ft 4ins Goldy.
Coming into only her ninth professional contest, Goldy must also make up for the substantial disparity in experience compared to McCann, who competes for the 17th time.
McCann has cut a relaxed figure throughout fight week so far but make no mistake, “Meatball” is more than ready for the challenge at hand on Saturday night.
“I’m going to knock that b**** out,” she told Adam Catterall this week.
We believe her.
Verdict: Molly McCann via TKO
Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir
In another world, Paul Craig would be headlining a main event in his beloved Scotland with the full promotional weight of the UFC behind him on his quest for a world title.
As it is, the matchmakers look to have sent him one final test before surely lining him up for such a push as the 34-year-old Coatbridge resident takes on Volkan Oezdemir on the opening bout of the main card this Saturday night.
Craig is undoubtedly one of the most exciting fighters to watch anywhere in the UFC, never mind simply the light heavyweight division, with seven performance bonuses from his eight wins in the promotion.
His game plan is no secret by now – but ‘Bearjew’ continues to snatch submissions from the most unlikely positions, just as he did on his last outing in London against Nikita Krylov.
Striking has never been Craig’s forte, as he himself confesses, so the Scottish Hit Squad man will be looking to take it to the mat as soon as possible on Saturday night.
However with a takedown defence of 80%, former light heavyweight title challenger Oezdemir is not an easy man to pin down.
The Swiss fighter desperately needs to see his hand raised after just two wins in his last seven fights and may well fancy his chances of adding to his 12 career KO wins if he can keep Craig at range.
But we’ve learned to write Craig off at our peril over the past few years and with the carrot of the light heavyweight crown dangling tantalisingly on the horizon, he’ll be sure to pull something special out of the bag once again.
Verdict: Paul Craig via submission