The UFC returns to London’s O2 Arena for the second time this year for a stacked card, headlined by a heavyweight duel between top five big-men Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall.
We’ll also see the likes of Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, Mason Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, Paul Craig and Muhammad Mokaev competing in an event sure to provide plenty of fireworks.
Last week at UFC Long Island we went 8/12 with three perfect picks, moving us up to 685/1032 (64.34%) with 284 perfect picks (42.77%). You can check out our full history of picks here.
We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims and then the rest of the prelims here, we move on to the main card now.
Paul Craig (16-4-1) vs Volkan Oezdemir (17-6) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Big time scrap between supreme grappler and powerhouse striker opens up this main card. Craig has won his last four in a row and is unbeaten in six, with all five wins coming via finish. Oezdemir has lost his last two in a row, getting slept by Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 before dropping a decision to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 267 most recently.
Craig is an absolute beast when it comes to the jiu-jitsu game, with an incredible aggressive guard and unorthdox submission skills. Oezdemir is a poor grappler, but he earned his “No Time” nickname from putting people’s lights out quickly and with one punch. This honestly depends on how generous the referee is feeling, because Craig often likes to take a bunch of strikes on the ground before wrapping in a submission when his opponent gets excited.
Oezdemir is powerful enough to put him out early though, and his takedown defence is solid enough to keep this standing. But Craig tends to be incredibly aggressive with his grappling and if he gets into a position of strength on the ground then Oezdemir will be in trouble. It’ll be very exciting, but I expect Craig to have the fans behind him and grab another amazing submission win.
PICK – Paul Craig via Submission, Round 1
Molly McCann (12-4) vs Hannah Goldy (6-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The owner of the knockout of the year so far is Molly McCann and that’s undisputed. McCann earned a stunning spinning back elbow to beat Luana Carolina last time out to make it back-to-back wins, while Goldy got her first UFC win with a first round armbar over Emily Whitmire last time out.
McCann is a boxer who was once a national champion and had the shortest reach in the entire UFC, meaning she had to learn to use her grappling and wrestling skills to close the distance. That was until Goldy signed, and she now is the owner of the shortest reach in the UFC. Goldy is a decent striker too but prefers to grind her opponents against the cage and try to be physical. She’s in trouble here though.
“Meatball” isn’t the biggest puncher in the world, but she’s incredibly aggressive and her pressure is relentless throughout 15 minutes. Her ability to get back to her feet will suit her here and using her reach and boxing skills she should be able to control this fight for the most part to earn yet another win, although a finish is pretty unlikely on this occasion.
PICK – Molly McCann via Decision
Nikita Krylov (27-9) vs Alexander Gustafsson (18-7) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
A big time light heavyweight scrap between two highly experienced fighters. Krylov has lost three of his last four fights but all against elite competition, with Glover Teixeira, Magomed Ankalaev and Paul Craig all beating him soundly. He did claim a win over Johnny Walker in the middle of that run though. Gustafsson was once considered one of the best 205 pounders to never win gold when he retired, but since coming back he’s not had fun. He’s lost his comeback fight at heavyweight when Fabricio Werdum submitted him at UFC Fight Island 3.
Krylov is a brilliantly powerful puncher, but he’s also a solid grappler with good wrestling and top control. Gustafsson on the other hand is more of a boxer with great combinations and hand speed, although he’s shown his wrestling capabilities too – becoming the first man to ever take down Jon Jones. That said though, he’s five years out since his last win in the octagon.
Granted two years of that he was out of competition, but he’s 0-3 in his last 3 and he’s been beaten handily in all of those fights. In his prime I would expect Gustafsson to be able to string everything together and probably even claim a knockout. But this version of Gustafsson is slower and less durable and Krylov has been in there for a while against the very best, so I expect him to land another big win for his record.
PICK – Nikita Krylov via Decision
Paddy Pimblett (18-3) vs Jordan Leavitt (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The people’s main event in the lightweight division as “The Baddy” makes his return the O2. Pimblett has gone 2-0 in the UFC so far, knocking out Luigi Vendramini before submitting Kazulu Vargas last time out. Leavitt is 3-1 in the UFC, winning two in a row with a submission over Matt Sayles and then a decision against Trey Ogden.
Pimblett is a fine striker with good power and speed, but it’s his grappling and jiu-jitsu skills that really set him apart for many fans. Leavitt is a terrific grappler too, with excellent wrestling and strength and great idea for positioning for safety. Against someone like Pimblett, that will come in really handy as he is constantly looking to get the finish at the earliest possible opportunity.
With that said, Leavitt has a good chance of getting control early on when Pimblett is still going through the motions with the crowd and he’ll probably win the first round. But with a few tweaks, Pimblett should be able to land powerful strikes that could drop Leavitt and then sink in a choke to claim a third win and send the crowd wild.
PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 2
Jack Hermansson (22-7) vs Chris Curtis (29-8) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short notice co-main event in this one, as Chris Curtis steps in for the injured Darren Till. Hermansson suffered defeats to Marvin Vettori and Sean Strickland in two of his last three fights, with a win over Edmen Shahbazyan coming in the middle of that. Curtis meanwhile has gone 3-0 in the UFC, KO’ing Phil Hawes at UFC 268 before KO’ing Brendan Allen (UFC Vegas 44) and then earning a decision over Rodolfo Vieira most recently.
Hermansson is a decent striker but his best fighting comes in the grappling on the mat, with great submissions and vicious ground and pound coming at the end of good wrestling takedowns. Curtis is a top level boxer with excellent low kicks, stunning power and really good takedown defence too. This is a real fairytale for Curtis, who has done nothing but impress in the UFC since his debut. This is a really, really tough fight to call.
Curtis is good enough to keep the fight standing and he’s got better striking without a doubt, but Hermansson is someone who uses his physicality well on his opponents as fights go on. With that said though, Curtis beat a better grappler about a month ago with his takedown defence and counter-striking so it’s hard to see how he doesn’t do it again.
PICK – Chris Curtis via Decision
Curtis Blaydes (16-3) vs Tom Aspinall (12-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Huge main event with potential title implications on the line in the heavyweight division headlines this card. Blaydes bounced back from a nasty KO loss to Derrick Lewis (UFC Vegas 19) by dominating Jairzinho Rozenstruik and then sleeping Chris Daukaus most recently. Aspinall is 5-0 in the UFC and absolutely dominated Alexander Volkov last time out via a straight arm lock in the first round at UFC London in March.
Blaydes is the best wrestler the heavyweight division has ever seen. He has a huge overhand right and a decent left jab, but everything is set up to change levels and take his opponent down to dominate from top position and land vicious ground and pound. Aspinall is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights we’ve seen, with incredible boxing and hand speed to go with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt too. He really is the total package. That makes this fight super hard to call.
Nobody has been able to stop Blaydes taking them down so far, and I don’t expect Aspinall to stuff a bunch of takedowns in this one either. But on his back he’s dangerous and on the feet he has an absolutely huge advantage with his boxing skills. Blaydes often doesn’t let his opponents up once he gets them down though, but we have seen him fade in five-round fights before when he’s forced to chain takedowns together through the fight. Aspinall has never been dragged into deep waters so we don’t know how he’ll cope, but we do know Blaydes has the capability of being put to sleep when entering for takedowns and Aspinall has the power and speed to counter quickly. Its hard, and I may be a bit bias, but I think Aspinall can get it done.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 4