UFC London Preview
For the first time since 2019, the UFC will return to London, England for UFC London. The O2 Arena will be the center of the fighting world with a fight between ranked heavyweights headlining the night. But before the big guys throw down, 11 other fights take place with fighters coming from around the world due to easier Covid requirements to get into England than in the U.S. With the fights taking place in London there is an early start time with the preliminary fights starting at 12:30 PM ET and the main card getting underway at 3:00 PM ET. All 12 fights across the UFC London main and preliminary card will be shown on ESPN+.
Alexander Volkov (6) vs Tom Aspinall (11) – Heavyweight
The main event of UFC London features England’s best hope of UFC heavyweight gold against a Russian veteran that is looking to move into the top 5. Alexander Volkov returned to form in his last fight following a loss to Ciryl Gane. Last time out in October, Volkov took on current No. 9 ranked Marcin Tybura at UFC 267 and came out the winner by unanimous decision. Volkov now holds a record of 34-9 and is more than capable of knocking out any fighter he faces as 22 of his 34 wins have come by knockout.
Probably England’s best shot at having another UFC champion in any division along with Leon Edwards, Tom Aspinall looks to continue his undefeated start to his UFC career that includes three wins by TKO. Aspinall’s four-fight unbeaten start in the UFC extended his current winning streak to seven. In his last fight, Aspinall beat Sergey Spivak by TKO and took no time doing so by getting the finish halfway through the first round. When he steps into the octagon at the O2 Arena it will be his first time fighting in his home country since he fought in Cage Warriors back in 2019.
The picture at the top of the heavyweight division is interesting as the current champion, Francis Ngannou, will be undergoing knee surgery that will keep him out for roughly nine months. That means there is likely going to be an interim UFC heavyweight fight and a strong win by either Volkov or Aspinall at UFC London could give them a case to be in the running for a shot.
Volkov is one of the bigger heavyweights standing at 6 feet 7 inches, but Aspinall trains with the biggest baddest heavyweight boxer in Tyson Fury so Volkov’s size will not be too difficult to handle. In his home country, the crowd will be all behind Aspinall and he will come out ahead. I have Aspinall winning by knockout.
Arnold Allen (7) vs Dan Hooker (8) – Featherweight
Dan Hooker made a name for himself in the UFC lightweight division, but following a loss to Islam Makhachev on short notice Hooker decided to move down a division and return to featherweight. The loss to Makhachev was Hooker’s third in four fights after starting his return to the division 7-1 following his first stint in the UFC featherweight division. Now he returns to a division that he had mixed results going 3-3, but this will be his first time fighting at 145 pounds since 2016.
Across from him is another ranked English fighter fighting at UFC London in Ipswich’s Arnold Allen. He has used a blazing hot start to his UFC career to ride an eight-fight winning streak into the top 10 of the featherweight rankings. The last time we saw Allen he beat Sodiq Yusuff by decision almost a year ago in April 2021.
This is just the kind of fight you wanted to see Hooker take with a move into the top five possibly on the line. However, the UFC featherweight division has been dominated recently by Alexander Volkanovski and a win could potentially push either Hooker or Allen into the title picture.
A move in divisions is what Dan Hooker needs to get going off of his last loss. The pair of former kickboxers line up for what should be a stand-up banger. I have Hooker winning by decision.
Paddy Pimblett vs Kazula Vargas – Lightweight
One of the UFC’s most promising and colorful prospects, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett returns for his second fight in the UFC. Another Liverpool-based fighter, Pimblett, won his UFC debut over Luigi Vendramini with a first-round knockout. The knockout for Pimblett came after he looked in danger of being finished by Vendramini. The win was the third straight for Pimblett and all three wins came by a first-round finish. He will look to continue his rise in the UFC against Kazula Vargas at UFC London.
Vargas had his first win in the UFC last time out against Rong Zhu after starting with two consecutive losses in the UFC. Before moving to the UFC Vargas held a record of 11-2. He has yet to lose by knockout and that could be put to the test by Pimblett who has six wins by knockout.
All aboard the Pimblett train. Paddy “The Baddy” is going to keep rolling at UFC London and I predict another entertaining post-fight interview. I have Pimblett winning by knockout.
Gunnar Nelson vs Takashi Sato – Welterweight
Following over two years off, Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson returns to the octagon against Japan’s Takashi Sato. Last time we saw Nelson was September 2019, when he lost to Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision. This loss was the second straight for Nelson following a split decision loss against Leon Edwards at the last UFC event in London. Nelson’s last win came over Alex Oliveira by submission at the end of 2018.
Across from him is another fighter that hasn’t fought recently in Sato. The Japanese fighter last fought in late 2020 and came out second best, losing by submission at the hands of Miguel Baeza. The loss was his second in the UFC to go with two wins by TKO. Sato has alternated winning and losing in the UFC which means if the trend continues he will come out victorious Saturday at UFC London.
There are a lot of questions for both fighters after spending so long out. Nelson was a submission specialist getting 12 of his 17 wins by submission, while Sato made his name by knocking people out. I have Sato winning this fight by decision.
Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina – Flyweight
One of England’s most popular female fighters, Molly McCann, looks to keep the momentum going against a tough fighter from Brazil in Luana Carolina. McCann ended a two-fight losing skid last time out with a win over Ji Yeon Kim by decision. The two losses were the first that she had suffered since losing her UFC debut to Gillian Robertson by submission. “Meatball” McCann is a scrappy fighter that has had all of her UFC fights, minus her debut, go to the judges’ scorecards. She is another fighter on the UFC London card who was also part of the 2019 card in London. In that fight McCann beat Priscila Cachoeira.
Carolina comes into this on a two-fight win streak in 2021 and looks to extend it to a third straight. The streak started after losing her second career fight and first in the UFC by submission to Ariane Lipski. Carolina has bounced back completely from the loss which is similar to what she did following her first loss in her professional MMA debut by rattling off a six-fight win streak. Now at 8-2, Carolina will be in hostile territory but has the skill and ability to upset the hometown crowd.
This fight should be intriguing with a very loud crowd expected to be backing McCann in a fight between fighters who more often than not go to decision. I have McCann winning this fight by decision.
Jai Herbert vs Ilia Topuria (15) – Lightweight
25-year-old Ilia Topuria looks to extend his perfect start to his MMA career and make moves up the UFC lightweight rankings. Holding a record of 11-0 Topuria is making a move up in division to lightweight after spending the majority of his career as a featherweight. In his last fight, he knocked out Ryan Hall for his second straight knockout win in the UFC. A lethal finisher Topuria has had only one of his wins come by decision and that came in his first fight in the UFC.
Eight years older, veteran fighter Jai Herbert rebounded from a two-fight losing streak to start his time in the UFC with a TKO win over Khama Worthy in the first round. The losses against Renato Moicano and Francisco Trinaldo made for the longest losing streak of Herbert’s career. Herbert is another fighter that looks for the finish having only one of his 11 wins coming by decision.
Two finishers will go toe to toe but have different strengths. While Herbert has nine knockout wins, Topuria has seven submission wins. I have Topuria keeping his 0 in the loss column and winning by submission.
Premilms to Watch
Shamil Abdurakhimov (10) vs Sergei Pavlovich (15) – Heavyweight
Two fighters looking to assert themselves in the top 10 of the heavyweight rankings go head-to-head at UFC London. In one corner is the No. 10 ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov looks to end a two-fight losing streak, with losses coming against Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus, on Saturday. The 40-year-old Russian has not won a fight since 2019 when he extended a winning streak to three fights by finishing Marcin Tybura with a TKO.
Standing across the octagon from him is another Russian, Sergei Pavlovich. Pavlovich ended a 12 fight win streak to start his career with a loss in his UFC debut to Alistair Overeem. Since that loss, Pavlovich has regained his form and won back-to-back fights by first-round knockouts. His most recent fight came in 2019 where he beat Maurice Greene by TKO.
Two fighters trending in opposite directions in the heavyweight division will give us a fight for the right to be in the top 10. I have Pavlovich winning by knockout.
Nikita Krylov (9) vs Paul Craig (11) – Light Heavyweight
Another fight with a top 10 ranking up for stakes comes between the No. 9 and No. 11 ranked light heavyweights who have had varying success. Ninth-ranked Nikita Krylov has alternated wins and losses since entering the UFC. His last time out resulted in a unanimous decision loss to Magomed Ankalaev. All three of Krylov’s UFC losses have come to people now ranked in the top four including former champion Jan Błachowicz and current champion Glover Teixeira. The last win for Krylov came via unanimous decision against Johnny Walker.
While Krylov lost his last time out Paul Craig has not lost in his five fights with four wins and a draw. Currently riding a three-fight win streak Craig looks to continue his rise up the rankings at UFC London. The “Bearjew” won his last fight in the first round against Jamahal Hill at UFC 263 by TKO after dislocating Hill’s arm moments before while attempting an armbar. Craig has back-to-back TKO wins which is scary to see for opponents as Craig had only one once by knockout prior to go with 12 submission victories.
Two skilled grapplers with double-digit submissions will lead to an even matchup and one that deserves a place on the main card. I have Craig winning by knockout.
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