Come in, 208 – it’s London Calling
When the UFC finally returned to the UK after a three-year absence back in March, few could have predicted the roaring success the card turned out to be
From an event that very nearly didn’t happen, to UFC president Dana White being so overwhelmed by the atmosphere in London that he shifted around the schedule to bring it back just four months later.
Fighters from Britain and beyond have lined up to be included on the card, with everyone expecting another spectacular night at the O2.
Both cards are and were branded as ‘Fight Nights’ but there’s no doubt they bring with them a PPV, numbered card, big fight feeling.
Once again heavyweight Tom Aspinall (above), whose meteoric rise sees him within touching distance of a title shot, headlines the card.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest fights on Saturday night ….
Curtis Blaydes(16-3) vs. Tom Aspinall(12-2) – Heavyweight
Each of these fighters’ ascents to the top have struck a stark contrast, as while Aspinall has flown up the rankings, Curtis Blaydes has taken the slow and steady approach, perhaps being somewhat overlooked and disrespected along the way.
Make no mistake, this is the biggest test of the Englishman’s career and a huge step-up in terms of the level of grappling he’s faced.
Blaydes is a top-level wrestler, and the question in this one is whether Aspinall has the level required to cope with it and not spend the entire five rounds on his back!
There are of course ways for him to win from that position with his high-level jiu-jitsu, but you can bet it’s not where he wants to be against someone like Blaydes.
If Aspinall can answer the questions posed by his opponent and overcome this test, a title shot surely isn’t that far down the line.
It’s an extremely dangerous fight, but we’re backing him to do so. The Brit has never even seen the third round in his UFC career, and if he does he may be in trouble, so we’re going Aspinall Round 1, 2 or 3 at 21/10.
Paddy Pimblett(18-3) v Jordan Leavitt(10-1) – Lightweight
Paddy Pimblett almost needs no introduction at this point – that’s despite only having fought twice in the UFC, as the Scouser has become a huge name in not just MMA circles but beyond, thanks to his always entertaining personality.
With that said, he has his hands full here against Jordan Leavitt. The American is a dangerous grappler who’s competed against some veteran competition and seems to understand the assignment in each of his fights in order to get the victory.
When you put that up against someone like ‘Paddy The Baddy’, who will certainly channel the ferocity and emotion of the London crowd, you could argue it’s a recipe for an upset.
With that said, we simply still have to go with Paddy here to get the finish at 20/23; it just may not be in the first round.
Nikita Krylov(27-9) vs. Alexander Gustafsson(18-7) – Light Heavyweight
For someone who was once one of the biggest names in the sport, involved in some of the greatest fights of all time, it’s strange to think Alexander Gustaffson hasn’t wracked up a victory since 2017.
The Swede is returning to Light Heavyweight for this one after his last fight, almost two years to the day, resulted in a loss to Fabricio Werdum at Heavyweight.
The UFC has certainly not given him an easy one to come back to either, as he faces the durable Nikita Krylov, who’s faced the who’s-who of the division in recent years.
For Krylov, getting caught in London last time out by Paul Craig’s triangle choke deserves no shame as he’s far from the only one, and Gustafsson presents a very different challenge.
A challenge the Ukrainian would, on paper, appear to be well suited to conquer, having only ever been stopped by strikes once in his 36 career fights, way back in 2013 in his UFC debut.
With that said, we’re going with Gustafsson to win by decision here at 9/2. Call it being overwhelmed by nostalgia, call it blind faith in a once incredible fighter, but we still feel he has enough to pull off the upset.
Molly McCann(12-4) vs. Hannah Goldy(6-2) – Women’s Flyweight
When we talk about the success of the last UFC card in London, a large part of that was down to Molly McCann. Her infectious energy around the octagon, sitting with Dana White, beer in hand, chanting for her friend Paddy Pimblett.
Oh, and not to mention her unbelievable knockout of the year contender earlier in the night where she put Luana Carolina to sleep with a spinning back elbow.
McCann may have to be careful not to fall in love with the KO here as she takes on Hannah Goldy. Luckily, Goldy isn’t what you would call an elite grappler, so ‘Meatball’ should have what it takes to get up, should she leave herself open to the takedown.
We believe McCann extends her winning streak to three via decision, at 4/5.
Paul Craig(16-4-1) vs. Volkan Oezdemir(17-6) – Light Heavyweight
Paul Craig’s rise up the Light Heavyweight ranks in recent times has been the stuff of fairytale.
Craig has been the underdog in pretty much all of his fights of late, but the Scot is now on a four-fight win streak. Yet that habit of the media and bookmakers doesn’t change here, as the odds just slightly favour Oezdemir in this one.
Despite that, somehow ‘Bearjew’ just keeps pulling it off, usually with his incredible submissions, even in what sometimes look like dire circumstances.
And he could face some more of those circumstances here, with Oezdemir probably hitting harder than any of Craig’s recent adversaries.
Is it finally time for one of the Scotsman’s fights to go the way of the odds? Unfortunately, if you’re a fan, we think so.
We may end up looking very silly if Craig catches Oezdemir in his trademark triangle choke for the victory, but we feel it may finally be time for Craig’s streak to be broken.
We’re going Oezdemir Ko, Tko Or Disqualification at 6/4.
Beyond the main card there’s some serious British talent on display as well, potentially the very future of the sport on these shores, including Muhammad Mokaev, the British-Dagestani out of Wigan as he takes on American Charles Johnson.
Elsewhere Nathaniel Wood returns after 2 years out of the octagon against Charles Rosa, and there’s many more.
Check out all of these bouts, as well as the undercard odds; right HERE