UFC London has got it’s main event as British heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall will take on number five ranked Alexander Volkov at the O2 Arena on March 19th.
The UFC announced it’s return to the UK earlier this week with a big event in March, but the fight was without a main event at the time.
It’s now been revealed however by UFC president Dana White that it will be two heavyweights going toe-to-toe in the octagon.
Volkov has been in-and-around the top five of the division for a while but while he’s beaten up-and-comers, he has struggled against the elite of the elite.
‘Drago’ has been beaten by Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes and Ciryl Gane in his last seven fights, while earning victories over Greg Hardy, Walt Harris, Alistair Overeem (UFC Vegas 18) and Marcin Tybura (UFC 267).
Aspinall has been on a roll in the UFC since joining the company in 2020 and is currently on a seven-fight unbeaten streak including four wins in the UFC with four finishes.
He beat Jake Collier via knockout at UFC Fight Island 3, before returning with a stellar KO against Alan Baudot at UFC Fight Island 5 in his next fight. He then secured a brilliant submission win over veteran Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 19, and most recently knocked out Serghey Spivak at UFC Vegas 36.
Aspinall was originally scheduled to fight against Shamil Abdurakhimov on this card, with Darren Till expected to headline against Uriah Hall.
But with Till yet to be medically cleared for the event, the UFC have bumped Aspinall up to the headline spot and give his opponent a facelift too.
Aspinall is currently ranked number ten in the company and a win would shoot him into the top five, meaning only huge fights going forward. If Volkov can earn victory, he will put himself back into title contention and earn another crack at the top ranked fighters in the division.
After months of anticipation and what if’s, the heavyweight title of the world will finally be on the line at UFC 270 this weekend from Anaheim, California.
Francis Ngannou finally reached the top of the mountain back at UFC 260 when he knocked out Stipe Miocic and became champion, but his quick turnaround never happened.
Since then, former teammate and friend Ciryl Gane has beaten both Alexander Volkov and Derrick Lewis at UFC 265 to become the interim heavyweight champion to set this one up.
Now you could be of the opinion that there is nothing bigger than a UFC heavyweight title fight in the sport of MMA if you’re part of the roster, but this fight has got so much more than just the belt at stake.
For the challenger, this is legacy. The French fighter is currently undefeated as a professional, with a 10-0 record in his career and a 7-0 run in the UFC.
It’s also a chance to show that his coach backed the right horse, with an in-gym rift between coach and Ngannou meaning the latter left and would no longer be sparring partners with ‘Bon Gamin’.
That split allowed Fernand Lopez to give his undivided heavyweight attention to 31-year-old Gane and help him become the absolute best he could be.
That split also allowed Ngannou to go off and become champion elsewhere, something he failed to do against the same champion in his first attempt several years prior.
The details of the rift are different depending on who you ask, but there is a rift and it’s very real.
For Ngannou, this fight is more than just about defending the title. It’s about proving he is a complete fighter these days and not just a one-punch wonder, while also getting one over on his former friends and colleagues.
Further than that though, it’s about proving his worth to the UFC as a whole.
According to ESPN, this fight serves as the final fight on an eight-fight deal that he signed with the company several years ago. Should he lose his title, he would immediately enter a period of restricted free agency and after 90-days would be able to sign elsewhere if he couldn’t agree terms with the UFC.
Should he win though, he has vowed not to fight under the terms of his previous deal ever again regardless of the fact a ‘Champion clause’ would become active and add some fights to his deal on the previous terms.
Ngannou wants to have the ability to box entered into his contract, as well as a significant pay increase as the cemented best in the world. A win almost forces the UFC’s hand to at least somewhat compromise from their current position.
There’s also the shadow of Jon Jones in the background and a mega-money fight with him for whoever is the winner of this fight.
So many branches from one tree, but the ultimate prize for the winner is the UFC title belt and the ability to call themselves the baddest man on the planet.
This has all the makings to be one of the most memorable heavyweight fights in the organisation’s history, whether it lasts 25 seconds or 25 minutes. The aftermath will likely be just as exciting too.
The UFC returns to title fights this weekend at UFC 270 when the heavyweights and flyweight strap is on the line.
Both of those belts changed hands in 2021, as Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 and Brandon Moreno submitted Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263.
We also saw a new bantamweight, lightweight and light heavyweight champion crowned during the year, so how will 2022 pan out? Lets take a look.
Flyweight (125lbs) – Askar Askarov
Flyweight is one of the better divisions in the UFC right now and I think we’ll once again see a new champion crowned at some point in 2022.
Askar Askarov has been undefeated throughout his career with a 14-0-1 record, with the only draw coming in his UFC debut against… Brandon Moreno. Askarov will get his title shot by the end of the year, and his wrestling is too good for anyone to be able to navigate past him so I think he holds the belt come 2023.
Bantamweight (135lbs) – Petr Yan
The only reason Yan isn’t the champion right now is because he got over excited and threw a knee to a downed Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. He was winning the first fight quite comfortably at the time, so the fight was re-made for later in the year.
Sterling was forced to withdraw and it’s now set for UFC 273 in April, which means Yan will head into the summer as champ. He’ll likely defend the strap at the end of the year against TJ Dillashaw in a brilliant fight, but I think he edges that and takes a huge boost in credibility this year.
Featherweight (145lbs) – Max Holloway
What a division, and what a title fight that awaits us later this year.
If Volk can see off the Korean Zombie at UFC 273 now in the new bout, he will face off against Holloway at some point in 2022 and I think ‘Blessed’ finally gets his win over the Aussie to reclaim the title.
Lightweight (155lbs) – Islam Makhachev
Arguably the most exciting division in the company right now when it comes to the title picture, I’m predicting yet another new champion at lightweight.
I think Makhachev gets the victory there, then gets the victory in the title fight too to fulfil Khabib Nurmagomedov’s prophecy that he will become champion and rule over the division for a long time to come.
Welterweight (170lbs) – Kamaru Usman
The best in the world right now pound-for-pound, and I don’t see that changing in 2022.
Usman went 3-0 in 2021 with wins over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and Colby Covington at UFC 268 and is now not expected to return to the cage until the summer.
That means one or two fights at most this year, with Leon Edwards certainly one of them, and I don’t see him losing to anyone so soon so I think he holds onto the belt yet again.
Middleweight (185lbs) – Israel Adesanya
The best middleweight in the world and one of the best of all-time, Israel Adesanya will be the 185-pound champion when we enter 2023.
His biggest test will come in February when he faces Robert Whittaker in a rematch at UFC 271, which I think he’ll win again. With that said though, a loss will almost certainly result in a rematch later in the year with their personal series set at 1-1 and he’d then reclaim the belt there.
Either way, ‘The Last Stylebender’ will be the champ when 2022 closes.
Light Heavyweight (205lbs) – Jiri Prochazka
This division isn’t particularly stacked at the top end but one thing it does have is a pathway for the title picture.
Glover Teixeira dethroned Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 to finally claim the strap, but it feels short-lived because he’s due to take on the killing machine that is Jiri Prochazka next and that means he probably gets violently finished.
Aleksandar Rakic and Magomed Ankalaev are likely to find themselves in contention too by the end of the year, but stylistically none of them suit a fight with ‘Denisa’ and he holds the throne until 2023.
Heavyweight (265lbs) – Ciryl Gane
The big boys are in the best shape they’ve been in, maybe ever, in the UFC right now and it’s created arguably an amazing year in the division in 2022.
Ciryl Gane will take on Francis Ngannou this weekend and a fight with Jon Jones seemingly awaits the winner. Stipe Miocic is likely to return at some point this year too and head for the title once again.
With Miocic back as well as Jones and Ngannou’s contract situations there are plenty of routes to the title this year, but ultimately they all end with ‘Bon Gamin’ as the heavyweight champion of the world heading into 2023.
With Ngannou awaiting news for an opponent, Ciryl Gane quietly moved through the division with decision wins over Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 20 and Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 30.
That gave the UFC the chance to make an interim title fight between Gane and Derrick Lewis at UFC 265, which the Frenchman won in emphatic fashion with a third-round knockout.
So at UFC 270, Ngannou will defend his title against Gane and the winner of that will firmly be in the sights of a returning Jones. For once though, there isn’t a preferred winner.
Ngannou vs Jones would be one of the biggest pay-per-view fights in the UFC today because the unpredictable nature of the fight. Ngannou has startling knockout power and if he is to make it to that fight, it means he will have handed Gane the first defeat of his career.
On top of his terrifying striking he showed brilliantly improved wrestling against Miocic, which is where Jones would be expected to have the advantage if they were to ever meet. With Jones gone for two years and considerably bigger than before, what will he look like in the cage?
If Gane is to win though, it becomes a gloriously technical battle in all aspects of MMA which would be just as exciting as anything the alternative could offer up.
‘Bon Gamin’ is 6ft 4 and chiseled out of stone. He has very quick hands, great grappling skills and knockout power, but it’s his composure and fight IQ that are beyond his years.
Jones would likely be more inclined to be involved in a stand-up battle against Gane, but once again wrestling is arguably where he would have the advantage.
Whatever happens at UFC 270, it’s the return of Jones lurking in the shadows of the division that make for exhilarating viewing for fans and would make for an amazing fight in 2022.
It’s has been a great year for the heavyweight division and the man leading the charge for the new generation is none other than Ciryl Gane.
The undefeated Frenchman came into the year knowing that he had the opportunity to make a charge towards the top of the division and he took it with both hands.
He started the year by cruising to a decision win over the dangerous Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Vegas 20, before yet another dominant display against Alexander Volkov got him into the top five of the rankings.
With the UFC keen to get a title fight for UFC 265, Gane stepped in to fight Derrick Lewis for the interim belt and seamlessly picked him apart for a vicious second-round knockout of ‘The Black Beast’.
It’s been one hell of a journey for Charles Oliveira but he finally made it to the top of the mountain this year and made sure nobody could question him.
After eight wins in a row, Oliveira got his chance at the undisputed title after Khabib’s retirement was confirmed and he took on Michael Chandler at UFC 262. After almost getting stopped in the first-round, ‘Du Bronx’ recovered and stopped Chandler himself with a crisp left-hook just seconds into the second round to claim the belt.
There were question marks over whether his reign was legitimate though because he didn’t beat the previous champion or number one contender to claim it, but a brilliant performance at UFC 269 saw him submit Dustin Poirier brilliantly to make sure all those doubts disappeared.
The best lightweight in the world, with two stoppage wins in title fights against against top competition, Oliveira had one hell of a 2021.
1. Kamaru Usman (3-0 in 2021)
How do you top top two stoppage wins in two title fights? You add another title fight victory to your tally for the year, duh.
That’s what Kamaru Usman did this year, to further separate himself from the pack at 170-pounds and put forward a legitimate claim to be the best welterweight of all-time.
A beautiful knockout win over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 was quickly followed up by a stunning KO against rival Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 to cement himself as the best in the world. He then capped off the year with a war against long-time rival Colby Covington in yet another rematch at UFC 268, where he earned a unanimous decision win once again to stretch his unbeaten streak in the UFC to a record 13.
Undoubtedly the pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC currently, Usman had the best year of his career to date and takes the fighter of the year award.
The heavyweight division isn’t quite ready to move on to the next generation yet, as Derrick Lewis continued his reign of terror with a record-breaking 13th knockout victory over Chris Daukaus.
The number three ranked heavyweight in the world was going up against the number seven ranked fighter, with big implications in title contention for the early part of 2022.
But with victory for the red corner, the title picture won’t be changing too much ahead of UFC 270.
It was a cagey opening few minutes, with both fighters not wanting to feel the other’s power early on but also trying to measure the range they could strike at.
Lewis slowly backed Daukaus against the cage by taking the centre and cutting the angles, so Daukaus tried to use his speed and a few leg kicks to get him to back up. It didn’t work, and mid-way through the round ‘the Black Beast’ through together a big flurry of strikes that clearly hurt his opponent.
Daukaus attempted to clinch up, but Lewis kneed him in the body and landed three big uppercuts that dropped him and saw the fight waved off immediately.
The win will likely see him move up to number two in the rankings, ahead of former champion Stipe Miocic who hasn’t fought since losing the title back at UFC 260.
Lewis offered to step in on short-notice if anything happened to either of those fighters, but he also said he didn’t really want to fight five-round fights anymore either.
If Jon Jones opts to return to the UFC in 2022, he is likely to be next in line for a title shot against the winner of that main event which would make Miocic vs Lewis a brilliant number one contender fight.
In the welterweight division, there was a change of guard however in the title contender positions as Belal Muhammad beat number five ranked Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson convincingly to move into contention.
It was a dominant performance from ‘Remember the Name’, who used his brilliant wrestling to nullify the striking of Wonderboy and waltz to a 30-25, 30-26, 30-26 decision victory.
After the fight, he called out both champion Kamaru Usman and contender Leon Edwards for his next bout and both are very possible.
Usman is currently nursing a hand injury after his win over Colby Covington at UFC 268, but has cleaned out the division and is searching for new opponents.
Edwards is on a 12-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC, with a no-contest against Muhammad in their short-notice bout at UFC Vegas 21 snapping a winning streak that has stretched since 2015 when he lost to Usman.
Running that fight back now would make sense, although Edwards has certainly done enough to claim a title shot already and that could allow for Muhammad to be paired up with Gilbert Burns too.
Whoever his next fight is against, Muhammad has made it very clear that he belongs among the top names in the division and with a win over a top-five guy he could very well find himself standing across from the champion in 2022.
The heavyweight division in the UFC is currently in the best place it’s been in for several years.
With Francis Ngannou the undisputed champion and Ciryl Gane the interim champion, that immediately tells you about the depth of the division. But when you list the likes of Stipe Miocic, Jon Jones, Curtis Blaydes, Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik too it’s even clearer.
That’s why the UFC Vegas 45 main event between Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus is about more than just their positions in the rankings.
Lewis is currently ranked at number three in the UFC rankings, following his defeat to Gane in their interim title fight at UFC 265 earlier this year.
It ended a run of four straight victories for the ‘Black Beast’, who had earned wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi via decision before knocking out Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6 before thumping Curtis Blaydes into unconsciousness at UFC Vegas 19.
Despite the defeat to Gane, Lewis is still one of the most feared big men in UFC history. He has the most knockouts of anyone in the organisation’s history and has reached the top of the mountain twice, just falling at the final hurdle on both occasions.
So when he stands across the octagon from rising prospect Daukaus this weekend, it will be yet another crossroads moment for the division.
Daukaus is 4-0 in the UFC and has made a big impression by knocking out all of Parker Porter at UFC 252, Rodrigo Nascimento at UFC Fight Island 5, Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 19 and then Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266 most recently.
He is a jiu-jitsu black belt with excellent grappling skills and fearsome power in his hands, and looks set to make a run towards title contention in 2022.
A win over Lewis would elevate him into number three in the rankings and likely set him up for a title eliminator early in the new year, while Lewis would be coming off back-to-back defeats for the first time since losses to Daniel Cormier and Junior Dos Santos in November 2018 and March 2019.
Should he win though, he cements himself as one of the very elite in the world and makes it very difficult to deny him another run if he can earn another victory next year early on.
In a fluid heavyweight division for 2022, this fight determines whether it’s the new school or the old school that will be leading the charge towards a title shot and that could shape the entire future of the company.
It’s been a while since the UFC had it’s weight classes as stacked as they currently are across the landscape of the organisation.
With the way MMA is evolving currently, we’re seeing more and more fighters who can do everything to a super high level and that means that amazing fights can show up anywhere on the card, at any time!
But which divisions are the ones to really look out for and which are looking a little slim right now? I’ve ranked them from worst to best.
A division that has just crowned a new champion is usually hard to say that it’s lacking depth, however 205lbs is in the worst state that it’s been for a while.
Teixeira is 42 years old and holds the belt, but beyond Jiri Prochazka, Magomed Ankalaev and Aleksandar Rakic there aren’t many guys in the division who you can see being among the top guys in a few years time.
Unless there’s an influx of talent out of nowhere, then it’s hard to imagine this division attracting many eyes going forward.
The top five in this division is stacked and in Israel Adesanya they have one of the most popular fighters in the world as their champion. But outside of that, the division looks a little stale.
The top five can all fight each other and have mixed results for the most part, but Adesanya has largely cleaned up by beating four of them convincingly so it’s hard to look beyond him as being a level above the rest.
That makes the division a little less appealing and therefore sits low down on this list.
Flyweight never die! A super exciting division because of the speed of the guys in the division, but outside the top four or five there aren’t many guys that you can consider as contenders.
Moreno looks set to reign for a while after dispatching of Deiveson Figueiredo relatively easily so their rematch at UFC 270 is unlikely to be as eventful as their first two bouts. There are a few contenders beyond that but the lack of finishes in the division doesn’t really help either unfortunately and it’s unlikely you’ll see this division headlining a card on its own any time soon.
The big boys tend to fight at a slow pace and historically don’t make for the most exciting fights, but this new wave of heavyweights is the best in a long time.
The top of the division is full of exciting match ups, with the prospect of anyone ending a bout in the blink of an eye adding to the excitement. But on top of that, there are several young prospects coming through such as Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus while Ciryl Gane looks formidable too despite his lack of experience.
Don’t forget Francis Ngannou is the champion and could probably KO a horse, while Jon Jones is still waiting in the shadows to debut among the giants too.
This division would likely be even higher up in this list if it wasn’t for the fact that Kamaru Usman is just a level ahead of everyone. He’s beaten everyone there is to beat in his weight class, but the rest of the division is still absolutely stacked.
Covington would be champion in any other era, Leon Edwards has entered new territory with his abilities, Jorge Masvidal is a superstar that has transcended the sport, Gilbert Burns and ‘Wonderboy’ are in the conversation and Sean Brady is climbing his way up the ranks.
Don’t forget Khamzat Chimaev fights in this division too, so that’s always exciting.
Beyond them this division is home to the likes of Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Korean Zombie, Calvin Kattar and now Dan Hooker too.
There a string of exciting fights plus prospects such as Arnold Allen, Giga Chikhadze and veteran Edson Barboza competing at this weight it’s always got fireworks waiting to go off.
This has been considered one of the best divisions in the organisation for a long time and it’s still as stacked as ever.
Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Islam Makhachev, Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, Conor McGregor, Rafael Dos Anjos, Beneil Dariush, Tony Ferguson, Brad Riddell, Rafael Fiziev, Joel Alvarez – the list goes on.
It’s almost impossible to make a bad fight at lightweight right now and they all have huge implications in some way or another. What a division.
Without a doubt in my mind, bantamweight is the place for you to place your attention if you want guaranteed entertainment in the UFC.
Aljamain Sterling is the champion and Petr Yan is interim champ, but the division also possesses the likes of Cory Sandhagen, TJ Dillashaw, Merab Dvalishvili, Rob Font, Jose Aldo in title contention. Then there are veterans like Frankie Edgar, Pedro Munhoz and Dominick Cruz looking to get back into contention.
Then beyond that you have the likes of Marlon Vera, Sean O’Malley, Adrian Yanez, Randy Costa and Song Yadong in the division you could quite easily create a top 30 rather than a top 15. It’s got everything and is comfortably the best division in the UFC right now.
Jon Jones has been suspended from his long-time gym by co-owner Mike Winklejohn following his most recent arrest for domestic violence.
The consensus greatest mixed martial artist of all-time had another run-in with the law after being inducted into the fight-wing of the UFC Hall of Fame on September 24th.
The long-time former light heavyweight champion was arrested and charged with felony injuring or tampering with a vehicle and misdemeanour battery domestic violence.
Police were called to a Las Vegas hotel when Jones’ fiance alleged that he had grabbed her by the hair, but not struck her. She was seen with swollen lips and blood on her clothes and hotel bed sheets, which led the police to arrest Jones. He denies harming her in any way.
This was the latest in a string of offences in Jones’ career with the law, which he addressed in a statement shortly after being released on a $5,000 bond.
“I have way too much trauma to consume alcohol, my brain simply can’t handle it anymore. I will leave alcohol in my past forever.”
But now, Jones has been banned from training in the gym until he does exactly that according to co-owner Winkeljohn. The long-time MMA coach was speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour when he revealed the news.
“I said, ‘Jon, here’s the deal, man. You’re like my little brother. You have to stop drinking and fix these things for a certain period of time until you come back to the gym,'” Winkeljohn said on the show.
“So, at the moment, he’s out of the gym. He’s not allowed to come in the gym, because I feel I had to do that. Ignoring it and expecting different results, as they say, is insanity.“
Jones had been training at the gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico since the arrest but separate from the team.
A statement from the gym’s spokesperson said;
“Jon Jones has been temporarily suspended from training with the Jackson Wink Academy team. Coach Jackson and Coach Gibson will continue to train with Jon offsite as long as he keeps his commitment to a healthy and positive lifestyle.”
Jones responded to the news going public with a tweet on his official account, which he has since deleted, in which he described it as ‘heart-breaking’.
“Had a heartbreaking conversation over the phone with one of my longtime coaches last night, really hurts to lose the support of someone I respect so much. Sincere thank you to the rest of the coaches for staying in the fight with me. Our journey continues.”
Jones hasn’t fought since February 2020 when he controversially defeated Dominick Reyes via decision at UFC 247. He then relinquished his light-heavyweight title to pursue a move to heavyweight, but he is yet to debut after financial disagreements with the organisation.
The UFC is set to announce a double header of title fights for the opening pay-per-view even of 2022, headlined by a heavyweight title fight.
The heavyweight division has seen a new champion crowned and then an interim title created too in 2021, despite the champion being available but the belts will be unified on January 22nd 2022 when Francis Ngannou looks to defend his title for the first time against former teammate Ciryl Gane.
The event will be co-headlined by another of the company’s African champions, as Israel Adesanya will face off against the man he won the belt against in 2019 Robert Whittaker in a hotly anticipated rematch.
Francis Ngannou started the year in fantastic fashion, avenging a defeat to Stipe Miocic with a brilliant performance at UFC 260 which ended in a vicious second-round knockout.
Ngannou then went on a tour of his homeland with the belt, before looking for a potential date in September to defend his title – ideally against Jon Jones or Derrick Lewis.
However when the UFC insisted on an August date and Ngannou couldn’t do it, they instead pitted Lewis against the undefeated Gane in Texas for an interim title.
Gane picked Lewis apart and eventually secured a brutal knockout in the second-round of their UFC 265 main event to move the Frenchman to 3-0 in 2021 and 7-0 in the UFC.
The two former teammates will go head-to-head in the main event, with French outlet La Sueur reporting that a deal is close to being finalized.
It’s been widely reported also that in the co-main event Adesanya and Whittaker will once again do battle for the 185lbs title, a little over two years on from their first meeting.
The first time around Adesanya put in a dazzling performance to secure a second-round knockout win over the then undisputed champion. ‘Izzy’ has continued his excellent record at middleweight since, beating all of Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettorri most recently at UFC 263 in the division although he suffered the first and only defeat of his career to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 when he challenged for the light heavyweight title.
Whittaker has been flawless since the defeat to Adesanya, going 3-0 with wins over Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum to secure himself a shot and set up a fight between the two best middleweight fighters in the world today.
UFC 270 will take place on January 22nd 2022, with Las Vegas expected to be the host location although that is not confirmed yet.