Tag Archives: Tom Aspinall

UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall – Main card predictions

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

UFC London: Volkov vs Aspinall – Main card predictions

After a three year absence the UFC returns to London and the O2 Arena for a huge UFC London fight card, headlined by heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Tom Aspinall.

A stacked card will see the two heavyweights competing to get title contention with a win, while we’ll also see the likes of Arnold Allen take on Dan Hooker, Paddy Pimblett makes his UK return while Jack Shore, Nathaniel Wood and Muhammad Mokaev also compete too.

In case you’re unaware, we’ve done a list of five things you must not miss from this card too.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 50 we went 11/14 with three perfect picks to move to 568/879 (64.62%) with 241 perfect picks (42.43%). You can see our full record here.

We’ll look to improve that record here and after starting with the early prelims, and rounding off our prelims picks here, we move on to our main card picks now.


Jai Herbert (11-3) vs Ilia Topuria (11-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A banger of a fight to open the main card in the 155-pound division. Herbert earned his first win in the octagon with a first-round KO against Khama Worthy at UFC Vegas 41, while Topuria is an undefeated prospect with his last win coming via brutal KO against Ryan Hall at UFC 264. This is Topuria’s debut at lightweight.

Herbert is a boxer with good power in his hands, but his defensive grappling isn’t great and that’s a big problem in this fight. Topuria is a super talented grappler with great cardio and also some solid boxing skills with knockout power. Topuria’s only disadvantage in this fight could end up being size, because he’s not the biggest in this weight class.

Topuria will trade on the feet until an opportunity for a takedown presents itself and he will take it immediately. Topuria will land nasty elbows on the mat, pass guard and eventually work to the back before snatching up the neck for an impressive win in quick fashion.
PICK – Ilia Topuria via Submission, Round 1

Molly McCann (11-4) vs Luana Carolina (8-2) – (Flyweight/135lbs)

‘Meatball’ is back and she’s back in London for this women’s flyweight bout on the main card. McCann suffered back-to-back defeats to Taila Santos and Lara Procopio before getting back in the win column against Ji Yeon Kim at UFC Vegas 36 most recently. Carolina has won her last two via decision, beating Poliana Botelho at UFC Vegas 25 and Lupita Godinez at UFC Vegas 40.

McCann is a pressure fighter who looks to use low kicks and boxing to force her opponent backwards and make them crumble. Carolina is a lengthy boxer herself, but she struggles to make the most of her reach advantage. Her takedown defence is good, but when it comes to mixing it all up she tends to be troubled and that’s what McCann is best at.

The Brit will be relentless with her forward pressure, will land strikes and will almost certainly mix it up with takedowns against teh cage and she’s good enough to hold Carolina down and control her for long periods of time. If Carolina is able to make reads and defend it though, her reach and speed should see her pick McCann apart. For my money, ‘Meatball’ comes forward enough to slip the reach disadvantage, get takedowns and win rounds.
PICK – Molly McCann via Decision

Gunnar Nelson (17-5-1) vs Takashi Sato (16-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A strange welterweight bout up next on the main card between two guys returning from lengthy lay offs. Nelson is on a two-fight losing streak after defeats to Leon Edwards and Gilbert Burns back in 2019, while Sato lost via submission to Miguel Baeza back in November 2020 at UFC Vegas 15.

Nelson is a brilliant submission fighter with a karate stance where he looks to counter strike to land on his opponents clean. Sato on the other hand is a solid striker with an excellent jab and good combinations, and is confident in the grappling but mostly struggles against elites in that field. Nelson is elite in that field, but he’s been away for so long it’s hard to get a proper read on him.

Sato is coming in on very short notice in this bout, which goes against him, and if Nelson is at least not completely rusty and done then he should be able to get a pretty convincing win here.
PICK – Gunnar Nelson via Decision



Paddy Pimblett (17-3) vs Kazula Vargas (12-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The most popular fighter on the card by a distance makes a return to the UK fight scene to take on Rodrigo Vargas. Pimblett earned a massive comeback knockout win at UFC Vegas 36 against Luigi Vendramini, while Vargas snapped a two-fight losing streak against Rongzhu at UFC 261 last time out.

Pimblett is a solid all-rounder, with excellent submissions skills and much improved striking in recent years with great knockout power. Vargas on the other hand is a decent boxer with plenty of experience but while he has a bigger frame and could overpower Pimblett, the trouble is he’s outmatched in skill.

‘The Baddy’ is a great kicker from range and has got the ability to take this fight wherever he feels he has the most advantage. He has promised a first-round finish, so who am I to go against that. Pimblett lands a hard right hand to drop Vargas and then jumps on the neck for a quick finish.
PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 1

Arnold Allen (17-1) vs Dan Hooker (21-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A truly brilliant fight in the featherweight division in the co-main event as both guys look to become a serious contender at 145-pounds. Allen is on a ten-fight win streak, including a big decision of Sodiq Yusuff last time out at UFC Vegas 23. Hooker on the other hand has lost three of his last four to Dustin Poirier (UFC Vegas 4), Michael Chandler (UFC 257) and Islam Makhachev (UFC 267) most recently with a win against Nasrat Haqparast just before that at UFC 266. He returns to featherweight for the first time since 2016.

Allen is a tremendous wrestler and solid defensive fighter on the feet who knows exactly what he’s good at and goes straight to it. Hooker on the other hand is a striker who doesn’t want to be on the ground, but is capable of holding his own down there and battling to get it back into a striking battle. Allen will not allow that.

‘Almighty’ is strong in the grappling, good enough to hold his own in the striking, has constant volume, is younger, fresher and won’t be struggling with the weight cut. This is his chance to make a real impact on the division and I think he does just that.
PICK – Arnold Allen via Decision

Alexander Volkov (34-9) vs Tom Aspinall (11-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Heavyweight main event in what should be an absolute banger. Volkov has won three of his last four, with defeat to Ciryl Gane at UFC Vegas 30 splitting up wins over Walt Harris, Alistair Overeem (UFC Vegas 18) and Marcin Tybura (UFC 267) most recently. Aspinall is an undefeated 4-0 in the UFC with stoppage wins over Jake Collier (UFC Fight Island 3), Alan Baudot (UFC Fight Island 5), Andrei Arlovski (UFC Vegas 19) and Sergei Spivak (UFC Vegas 36).

Volkov and Aspinall are both tremendous boxers, with brilliant jabs and combinations as well as legitimate knockout power. The difference between the two fighters is that Aspinall is a true grappler also, with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and some solid wrestling too. Aspinall has a speed advantage and with a five-year age gap, his cardio has looked good so far. He has never fought in front of a live UFC crowd though and has never had a five-round fight in his career.

This fight will stay on the feet for the early exchanges as Aspinall looks to test the chin and make reads. His jab is more than good enough to land despite the size advantage but it’s the submission and grappling threat that will open up a big opportunity for him to land a combination. That could be enough to put Volkov out, but if not he’ll take the neck and secure a submission as a result to claim the biggest win of his career.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 3

Five things not to miss at UFC London

It’s fight week baby and for the first time in three years the UFC is back in London, England for a hugely exciting fight card.

Headlined by heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall as he looks to crack the top five against Alexander Volkov, the UFC have put some of Britain and Europe’s best talent together on the card for the fans.

But while there are some obvious headlines coming out of the card, here are some thing to look out for that you definitely don’t want to miss.



PADDY PIMBLETT AND ILIA TOPURIA BEEF

There’s a big rivalry brewing between these two hot prospects in the UFC, and the fact they’ve been in different weight classes may not even matter.

Ilia Topuria is an undefeated featherweight contender, currently sitting with a record of 11-0 and scheduled to fight against Jai Herbert at this event. But that fight will now take place at 155lbs, after a botched weight cut most recently.

Pimblett is one of the biggest names to come out of the UK & Ireland since Conor McGregor, with a record of 17-3 after winning his UFC debut in the lightweight division. He will fight Kazula Vargas at UFC London.

But these two have gone back and forth on social media in recent months and even came to blows in the hotel during check-in. If both are able to secure wins, don’t be surprised to see them meet in the octagon against each other before too long.

MUHAMMAD MOKAEV – A STAR WILL BE BORN

There a few undefeated prospects on this card, and one of the most exciting is Muhammad Mokaev in the flyweight division.

After going 23-0 in the amateur scene, Mokaev is now 6-0 (1 no contest) as a professional and will make his UFC debut against Cody Durden during the prelims section of the card.

Compared to Khamzat Chimaev and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 21-year-old has a very bright future and you don’t want to miss out on the birth of a superstar at UFC London this weekend.

JACK SHORE V TIMUR VALIEV! – FIGHT OF THE NIGHT

Without doubt the fight of the night, and somehow it’s only on the prelims section of the card in the O2 Arena.

Shore is 15-0 and one of the best English talents in mixed martial arts, but he faces the toughest test of his career to date when he takes on the incredibly talented Valiev in their bout at 135-pounds.

Both men are incredibly well-rounded and will look to make an impression, with the bantamweight division one of the most stacked in the entire company. A win would be huge for both, and this should be fireworks. So don’t miss it!

ARNOLD ALLEN – NEXT FEATHERWEIGHT CONTENDER

Featherweight is screaming for a new contender at the top of the division, and Arnold Allen has the chance to make that place his own.

Currently ranked at number 7, ‘Almighty’ will take on Dan Hooker who returns from an exciting run at lightweight back into the division he originally entered the UFC in.

A high-profile win for Allen against a household name like Hooker would see the attention Allen gets rise exponentially, but also make his claims for a title shot far more legitimate.

With Alexander Volkanovski defending his title against Korean Zombie next month at UFC 273 and Max Holloway next in line, a win for Allen sets him up for a number one contender fight later this year to get a crack at gold in 2023.

TOM ASPINALL TITLE CHALLENGE?

The heavyweight headliner, Aspinall will fight in front of a UFC crowd for the very first time despite being 4-0 in the organisation after making his debut in 2020.

Taking on a veteran like Volkov is never easy, but there will be added pressure with the fight being in his home nation and in his first main event.

A win however would see him enter the title picture. Francis Ngannou is unlikely to fight again until the end of the year at best, it opens up plenty of opportunities for those around him.

The likes of Stipe Miocic, Tai Tuivasa, Ciryl Gane and even Jon Jones are hanging around, while Derrick Lewis will be keen to get back to winning ways too. The opportunities are aplenty with a win, but he must get a win first and foremost.

UFC London heavyweight main event announced

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.

UFC Vegas 36: Brunson vs Till – Main card predictions

The UFC middleweight division is back in the spotlight in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night, on a card that was supposed to take place in London initially.

The main event will see Derek Brunson take on the UK’s own Darren Till with the winner making a case to become the next fighter to challenge for a title shot after Robert Whittaker’s upcoming rematch with Israel Adesanya.

In the co-main event is the UK’s best chance at heavyweight gold as Tom Aspinall takes on short-notice opponent Sergei Spivac, while Paddy Pimblett makes his UFC debut in the main card opener when he takes on Luigi Vendramini.

Last week at UFC Vegas 35, we went 7/12 with three perfect picks on the night to move up to 396/624 (63.46%) with 174 perfect picks (43.94%). We’ll try to improve on that here and after starting with the prelims here, we now move on to the main card.


Paddy Pimblett (16-3) vs Luigi Vendramini (9-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Finally the debut of Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett as he takes on ‘Italian Stallion’ Luigi Vendramini in the lightweight division. Pimblett has won his last two in a row in Cage Warriors, securing first-round stoppages both times. Vendramini returned from two years away to beat Jessin Ayari before losing his next fight to Fares Ziam at UFC 263.

Pimblett is a fantastic grappler, with seven submission wins in his career including a stunning flying triangle back in 2018. He’s cleaned up his striking throughout his career as he’s grown up but he’s still primarily a ground fighter. Vendramini is very well-rounded with excellent solid striking on the feet and some really good wrestling too.

If Vendramini chooses to keep this fight standing and just strike, he has a very real chance of victory. But if there are any sort of ground exchanges then Pimblett has the edge and Vendramini will be in danger. Because of Vendramini’s natural instinct being to wrestle too, I think Pimblett may be able to wrap up his neck and steal the show with a fun submission.
PICK – Paddy Pimblett via Submission, Round 2

Modestas Bukauskas (11-4) vs Khalil Rountree Jr (9-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

A very interesting fight at 205lbs as Bukauskas takes on Rountree Jr. Bukauskas won his debut via elbows against the cage before getting stopped by Jimmy Crute and then losing a split decision to Michal Oleksiejczuk at UFC 260, while Rountree Jr has also lost his last two including the most recent to Marcin Prachnio at UFC 257.

Bukauskas is a solid kickboxer with good top control when asked to grapple too, while Rountree has shown a new Muay Thai side to his game but has failed to live up to the performance he debuted it with back in 2018. Bukauskas hits really hard and is good fighting backwards, but Rountree likes to dictate from the centre and throw good leg kicks followed by clinches and a crisp right cross.

His issue is that he never really commits to winning a fight. Rountree seems to be content going to the judges by sticking to his plan, while Bukauskas is someone who is always looking for a finish and willing to take a shot to give two back. Overall, the Lithuanian should be able to take whatever is coming back at him by applying plenty of pressure and landing heavy shots of his own for a big win.
PICK – Modestas Bukauskas via Knockout, Round 1

Alex Morono (19-7) vs David Zawada (17-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another very interesting fight but this time in the welterweight division. Alex Morono is coming in off the back of his stunning knockout win over ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Vegas 26, while Zawada has lost three of his last four including a split decision last time out against Ramazan Emeev at UFC Fight Island 7.

Morono is a brawler with great volume and some decent power in his hands with good technique, while Zawada has got plenty of power in his hands and he looks to come forward and engage in a war at all times. Zawada has 11 KO’s throughout his career but it’s his forward pressure that really sets him apart from others.

With that said though, Morono is the better fighter of the two. He’s shown that short notice doesn’t really matter to him in the past and while he’s got great volume and power himself, I think his defensive abilities will see him earn another win.
PICK – Alex Morono via Decision

Tom Aspinall (10-2) vs Sergey Spivak (13-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A banger of a heavyweight co-main event as Aspinall takes on short-notice opponent Sergey Spivak. Aspinall is undefeated in the UFC with two first round KO’s followed up by a second round submission win over former champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC Vegas 19. Spivak steps in on short notice on a three-fight win streak, with his most recent being a decision win over Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 29.

Aspinall is a brilliant boxer who used to train with Tyson Fury, but he’s also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu too as shown in his most recent win. Spivak is a good wrestler with decent jiu-jitsu and some okay boxing on the outside too. Aspinall is by far the more powerful of the two, with a sharp jab and a violent right hand. Spivak is no slouch himself though and on paper this is a really good match up.

If Spivak can get top position then Aspinall could struggle to get any offence going but Aspinall is capable of preventing any takedown and picking him apart on the feet. Realistically this is what I expect from this one, with Aspinall using his jabs and leg kicks to open up some power strikes later in the fight for a big win.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 2

Derek Brunson (22-7) vs Darren Till (18-3-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A banger at middleweight in a fight where title contention becomes a reality for the winner. Derek Brunson is on a tear right now with a four-fight win streak including a fantastic main event win over Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 while Till has lost three of his last four with a defeat to Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Island 3 last time out.

Brunson is a wrestler first with takedowns the biggest part of his game, as he looks for top control after landing his left hand. Till on the other hand is a pure striker with brilliant strikes and kicks and tremendous power in his own left hand too. Brunson will almost certainly look to close distance and take Till down, but when he rushes forward he often leaves his chin up and Till doesn’t let those opportunities slide by often.

Till has got genuine one-punch knockout power, great hand speed and he goes into every fight knowing the opponent will want to take him down so his defence isn’t poor. It’s a case of how successful Brunson can be with his takedowns but I think Till will be able to land big shots to earn a knockout win for the first time since Donald Cerrone in 2017.
PICK – Darren Till via Knockout, Round 3

Tom Aspinall has everything to become England’s best ever heavyweight

Combat sports’ Hollywood division is changing in the UFC and Liverpool’s very own Tom Aspinall is leading the way for English heavyweights in this transition as its sole representative.

The days of your big, labouring heavy hitters dominating at the top of the rankings are numbered as we begin to move into an era with leaner, quicker and more technically gifted athletes staking their claim to be contenders in the pinnacle of MMA.

It feels like the division has opened up this year since the goat Stipe Miocic was knocked out by Francis Ngannou at UFC 260.

We also have an interim champion in Cyril Gane, who is the number one example of this new era and proved that last month when he dominated and knocked out veteran Derick Lewis at UFC 265.

Tom Aspinall is certainly part of the new school and this Saturday he has a chance to showcase his talent once again as he comes up against Serghei Spivac in the co-main event.

Aspinall’s last outing got him into the rankings at 13th after he forced UFC legend Andrei Arlovski to tap with a rear naked choke. The way in which he pounced on the former heavyweight champion and finished him with such ease has really made people take notice.

This will be Aspinall’s biggest test so far though and he’ll need to use his entire skill set to come out of this with his arm raised.

Spivac is a powerful man, with a 13-2 record including six submissions and five knockouts to his name. He has won each of his last three bouts, including a unanimous decision win over Aleksei Oleinik in June. He steps in for Sergei Pavlovich on a week’s notice after the Russian had visa issues and was forced to withdraw.

Spivac is ranked one place above Pavlovich in the official UFC rankings, so it should be seen as a tougher challenge for Aspinall who is keen to advance his way up those charts.

A win for the Liverpudlian could bump him up into the top ten and set him on his way to some big nights, meaning the possibility of Aspinall being in title contention by the end of next year isn’t an unrealistic one.

He’s trained in MMA since seven years of age and is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. His dad is a trainer at Team Kaebon in Liverpool and he even took time out of MMA to tune up his boxing skills where he spent time sparing with Tyson Fury. You really can’t be more prepared than Aspinall is for this.

With Dana White refusing to let the division stagnate while it waits for Jon Jones, by the time the former light heavyweight is ready to fight, he may well wish he hadn’t bothered moving up.

Ciryl Gane looking to take his place as head of the new generation of heavyweights

The heavyweight division is in the best state it has been in in the last 15 years right now, with several top prospects working their way through the division.

Jon Jones has inserted himself at the top end of the picture, cashing in some of his equity as consensus GOAT by taking the next title shot after Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou meet at UFC 260. Further down the pecking order both Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus picked up impressive wins at UFC Vegas 19 against veterans to continue the passing of the guard among the big boys.

But in between those parties is a French man who looks destined for greatness, named Ciryl Gane.

At 30-years-old calling Gane a prospect may seem odd, but he’s an infant in the MMA world with a record at just 7-0. The way he’s been beating people has seen him pushed to the moon though, and he is set for his first UFC main event this week against number three ranked Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

It’s a fight that sees the show-stopping power of Rozenstruik put against the technical quality of Gane. Rozenstruik went on a ten-fight winning streak to start his career, KO’ing both Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem in his UFC run too.

Then he ran into Gane’s training partner Ngannou, who showed him the levels and turned his lights off inside 30 seconds at UFC 249. He bounced back with a stoppage win over Junior Dos Santos, someone Gane also knocked out in his most recent bout back in December.

Despite being the most inexperienced of the up and coming heavyweight group, Gane is potentially the best. He has stunning knockout power, is fantastic in the clinch and has a solid ground game to go with his submission skills – balancing his wins with three knockouts and three submissions.

In a fast moving world, Gane’s inexperience could be used as a stick to beat him with. He fought only once in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but is now looking to get active again in 2021 after fighting four times in 2019.

A win of Rozenstruik will without a doubt put him into the top five situation. While Derrick Lewis will be ranked number two after his win over Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19, he’s called to fight Overeem next. That means Alexander Volkov likely awaits the winner of this fight, following his win over the Dutch legend earlier this month.

Neither Gane or Rozenstruik can look beyond this weekend’s main event, because the opposition are so dangerous. But Gane’s upwards trajectory means a big win for him against the Surinamese fighter will see him rightfully take his place as the head of the new generation of heavyweights in the UFC.

UFC Vegas 19 Fallout – Lewis calls for ‘personal’ Overeem fight after KO’ing Blaydes

Derrick Lewis has set his eyes on a personal match up after knocking out Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19 this past weekend.

‘The Black Beast’ wasn’t taken down once against the man who holds the record for the most takedowns in heavyweight history, before he turned Blaydes’ lights out with a single uppercut in the second round to make it four wins in a row.

Many people expected Blaydes to get the takedown relatively easily and grind out a win over Lewis, who has notoriously struggled once being taken down in the past. Instead, the first round was a stand up affair with both men landing strikes that wobbled the opponent.

The second round was a different story though, as Blaydes came out looking for a takedown early which was stuffed well by Lewis. Blaydes seemed too confident about getting the takedown because of both their strengths in the past, and that led to a very lazy takedown attempt which saw Lewis capitalise with that violent uppercut knockout.

During his post-fight interview, Lewis acknowledged that there wasn’t much point talking about a title shot considering the state of the top of the division right now. Stipe Miocic will defend the title against Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 next month and Dana White has already confirmed that the winner of the fight will welcome Jon Jones to the heavyweight division, most likely in the summer.

With Alexander Volkov beating Alistair Overeem earlier this month the belief was that he was now out of the hunt for UFC gold in what he described as his ‘final run’ at the belt. But Lewis has seemingly given him a way back in by calling for a fight with the legendary Dutch kickboxer after trash talk over the years.

Speaking to the media, Lewis said after his big win:

“I want Overeem next. Soon as possible. As soon as he passes his concussion protocol, whatever, his suspension, whatever he got.

“I don’t care [about his loss]. He’s had a couple of losses in a row. It’d be cool just to fight him, because he’s a so-called legend. So it’d be cool to fight somebody like that. And also, he’s been talking trash. He’s been saying his teammate, Curtis, could handle this lightweight. We’ve been trying to fight him for years, and he turned down the fight four times already.”

A fight between the two would mean Lewis putting his number two ranking on the line, although he acknowledges the rankings don’t mean much at the moment. He’s already beaten Volkov fairly recently and with a title shot unlikely this year without another win to keep his momentum up, he has to take the risk.

A three round fight against Overeem keeps the division moving but also allows the new blood in the weight class to get big fights too.

Chris Daukaus and Tom Aspinall both secured impressive stoppage wins on the night too, with Daukaus KO’ing Aleksei Oleinik in the first round while Aspinall submitted Andrei Arlovski in the second after a very aggressive first round on the feet too.

The two could likely fight each other next, although I’d rather see them kept apart until later down the line. If they’re matched up well later this year they could be in and around the top seven or so by the end of the year and looking at a title run themselves in 2022.

As for Blaydes, he must go back to the drawing board. His best bet is likely to fight the loser of the UFC Vegas 20 main event between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Cyril Gane, both of whom he has never fought before. He will have to work his way back up to title contention with another run of wins after being so close, but yet so far once again.

UFC Vegas 19: Blaydes vs Lewis – Results (Highlights)

*Drakkar Klose vs Luis Pena was cancelled a few hours before the event after one of Klose’s cornermen tested positive for COVID-19.*

*Rafael Alves vs Pat Sabatini was cancelled after the weigh-ins, after Alves weighed in a 157.5lbs for their featherweight (146lbs limit) fight.*


EARLY PRELIMS

Serghei Spivac def Jared Vanderra via Knockout, Round 2 (4:32)

Good start to the fight for Spivac as he responds to being back up against the cage with some nice overhand rights, before catching a leg kick and charging forward to get a takedown. Vanderra is able to get back to his feet and clinch before Spivac sweeps him and ends up on top in half guard. Spivac looks to advance into side control but Vanderra does well to get him back into half guard, while Spivac looks to touch him with ground and pound. Lots of top control from Spivac but not much damage from him as Vanderra seems content to see out the round from the bottom – and that’s what he does. 10-9 Spivac.

Another quick start for Spivacas he ducks a head kick attempt from Vanderra and gets the fight back to the ground early to dominate from the top once again. Spivac content to stay in half guard and rain down short elbows and short punches, while Vanderra isn’t active enough at all to try and get out of the position. Vanderra is busted up bad with Spivac blasting him. The referee taking a close look as Spivac moves into full mount and continues to blast him with strikes, with Vanderra barely defending himself and the referee finally calls it off. Impressive from Spivac.

Aiemann Zahabi def Drako Rodriguez via Knockout, Round 1 (3:05)

Interesting start to this one as Rodriguez takes the centre of the cage but both men seem to be waiting for the other to throw. Rodriguez throws a nice uppercut down the middle and Zahabi fires back with some strikes of his own, before a short clinch. Nice calf kick from Rodriguez and he seems to be loosening up a little now. Both men go for a right hand and Zahabi starches him! Rodriguez goes down and Zahabi lands one more shot before the referee steps in and ends it. Wow what a punch!

Chas Skelly vs Jamall Emmers – CANCELLED

Unbelievable. Skelly makes the walk to the octagon and before Emmers comes out, the broadcast team tells us that he is suffering from back spasms backstage and can’t make the walk. The fight is cancelled. Crazy scenes.

PRELIMS

Casey O’Neill def Shana Dobson via Knockout, Round 2 (3:41)

Very fast start to this fight as O’Neill comes out quickly, they both exchange strikes and O’Neill goes for the takedown with a single leg. Dobson defends it well and O’Neill lets go, before another exchange and finally getting the takedown she craved. Dobson rolls through and ends up on top but O’Neill scrambles and they get back up. Dobson throwing some powerful strikes but O’Neill isn’t fazed at all and after a clinch she dumps Dobson back to the ground and goes into side control. O’Neill landing some nice elbows from the top but Dobson defending well and forces a scramble, which O’Neill wins by coming out on top before getting another takedown. Lots of ground and pound but Dobson doing well to not take too much damage, as the round comes to an end with O’Neill trying to lock in a heel hook. 10-9 O’Neill.

Fast start to the second round again, with Dobson throwing a nice body kick but O’Neill catches it and takes the fight to the ground. She tries to take the back of Dobson but it’s defended well despite two hooks being in. O’Neill gets into full mount and starts raining down crazy levels of ground and pound and Dobson tries to escape by kicking off the cage, but O’Neill maintains the position and keeps landing damage. Dobson tries to escape by O’Neill just stays tight to her and continues to stay in dominant positions landing elbows and punches and forces the referee to step in and end it. What a performance from the debutant!

Julian Erosa def Nate Landwehr via Knockout, Round 1 (0:56)

HOLY!! What a fight!!! Both men come out all guns blazing, Erosa sends Landwehr flying backwards with a right hand, Landewehr drops Erosa with strikes in the clinch, Erosa rattles the brain of Landwehr with some uppercuts in the clinch and then knocks him out with a flying knee! Landwehr protests to the referee but I think it was the right call. What a knockout for Julian Erosa! Wow!

John Castaneda def Eddie Wineland via Knockout, Round 1 (4:44

Tactical start to the fight early on as Wineland takes the centre of the cage and looks to pressure forward, with Castaneda circling on the outside. Wineland with lots of head movement and feints, with his rapid right hand landing hard a couple of times. Leg kick from Castaneda as he continues to circle, before an exchange of strikes sees Wineland get caught with a counter left hand. Lead right hand lands from Castaneda and wobbles Wineland and Castaneda charges for the finish. He lands four or five shots clean that drop Wineland and pours on the pressure with ground and pound to force the referee to stop the fight. Huge knockout for Castaneda!

Jared Gordon def Danny Chavez via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

Cagey start to this bout as both men look to feel each other out with feints and movements. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage but misses with some big strikes before they exchange calf kicks. Big one-two from Chavez backs Gordon up momentarily before he comes forward again with some leg kicks. Chavez throws a kick that hits Gordon right on the cup and there’s a brief pause in the action. Fight restarts and Gordon lands two nice leg kicks that Chavez tries to check, before he throws a beautiful spinning wheel kick that Gordon just avoids. Gordon backs Chavez up against the cage again and the two play with throwing heavy strikes but they’re both tentative about it and keep missing. Heavy leg kick from Chavez and Gordon goes for a takedown but it’s stuffed quite easily. Good round, very close. 10-9 Gordon for me but could go either way really.

Quicker start to this round from Chavez, as he comes out quickly for a takedown and gets it only for Gordon to pop back up to his feet quickly. Chavez trying to take the centre now but his leg is definitely hurting him and Gordon shoots for a takedown and gets it. He takes him against the cage and starts applying good top pressure from the guard position. Chavez tries to get back up to his feet but Gordon defends the position really well and is able to stay on top. More ground and pound as he goes body-head and Gordon is completely dominating on the ground right now. Chavez kicks Gordon away and tries to get back up but Gordon is able to recover and push him back down before he gets back up. Gordon passes guard with seconds remaining and takes the second round clearly. 20-18 Gordon.

A more tentative final round as Chavez takes the centre and starts walking Gordon down now. Some good shots from Chavez land but his leg is definitely compromised, and Gordon goes for a takedown which is denied. Chavez lands a couple more right hands and Gordon lands a few more of his own before shooting for the single leg and getting the takedown. Chavez looks exhausted on the bottom as Gordon keeps busy from top position and looks to pass guard while throwing lots of ground and pound. Chavez gets back to the feet and goes for a flying knee but once again Gordon gets hold of him and clinches to force the grappling exchange to see out the round. 30-27 Gordon.

MAIN CARD

Tom Aspinall def Andrei Arlovski via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2 (1:09)

Very positive start to the fight for you Brit as Aspinall takes the centre and is using excellent footwork to step in and out of range. A few leg kicks from both and some nice blitzes but Aspinall staying very calm. Aspinall slips a shot and lands a big right hand that rocks Arlovski! He throws a barrage of strikes with tremendous hand speed and Arlovski looks hurt, then he keeps going to the body to try and get Arlovski to stop covering up before the veteran clinches up with him. Arlovski slowing this fight all the way down with a clinch as we enter the final 30 seconds and the clinch is broken. Both guys connect with a big right hand simultaneously just as the round ends. 10-9 Aspinall, good round.

Arlovski opens the round with a nice leg kick before landing a beautiful right hand that pushes Aspinall back. A bit more feinting and moving from Aspinall before he shoots in for a big power double leg takedown and gets it. He immediately wraps his arm around the neck of Arlovski and sinks in a rear naked choke which Arlovski taps too! Beautifully done! We have a new contender at heavyweight!

Phil Hawes def Nassourdine Imavov via Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28 x2)

Quick start from Hawes as he comes out and lands lots of calf kicks early on to chop away at Imavov. Big combination of strikes land too but Imavov covers up well, before Hawes kicks at the leg again and drops Imavov. Hawes misses a looping right hook and Imavov clinches up with him, which allows Hawes to go for a takedown but it’s good defending from Imavov to keep it standing. Imavov throws and lands a big elbow but Hawes responds with an immediate takedown and then slams him down too to end up in side control. A couple of nice shots on the ground from Hawes land as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Hawes.

Couple of kicks each start the round before Hawes ducks a straight right from Imavov and goes for the takedown against the cage once again. The clinch battle continues before Imavov is able to separate after a few minutes against the cage. Imavov lands a straight right and then another that wobbles Hawes! He comes forward with a big right hand again but Hawes ducks it and blasts a takedown against the cage. Hawes is able to get the back and drag him down to the mat back into side control and starts throwing ground and pound strikes once again. Imavov doing a good job of defending from the bottom but Hawes ends the round on top. 20-18 but Imavov is still in this.

Imavov comes out quickly and heavy, but Hawes ducks immediately and gets a takedown once again. Imavov is able to get back to the feet but Hawes continues to hold him against the cage and throws knees before they break. Imavov tries to walk forward and throws an uppercut but Hawes avoids it and clinches up against the cage once again. Imavov frames off and lands two big elbows and then breaks away and lands some big right hooks that have Hawes wobbling! Hawes steps away and Imavov goes for a Thai clinch, which allows Hawes to clinch up against the cage again. Imavov breaks away and lands more shots but Hawes clinches up again and survives to the buzzer. 29-28 Hawes in the end for me. Great fight.

Chris Daukaus def Aleksei Oleinik via Knockout, Round 1 (1:55)

Very quick start to the fight as Daukaus comes out and throws a big right hand but Oleinik grabs hold of him and clinches up. He starts looking for a key lock but Daukaus does well and then he tries to pull guard for that famed Ezekiel choke but Daukaus stays standing. Huge shots land from Daukaus and they rock Oleinik, who comes forward again and throws a big overhand right that misses. Daukaus stays patient, fires of some big shots that are all landing flush including knees to the head and the referee steps in and waves it off! Hugely impressive win for Chris Daukaus!

Darrick Minner def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)

Minner comes out with a fast pace to start the fight, closing the distance quickly and clinching up. Rosa goes for a guillotine immediately but Minner pops out and the two separate. Minner pushes forward and throws some heavy shots but only a couple land and Rosa eats them well. Minner gets the fight down to the ground with a nice takedown and then starts riding the positions. Both men transition really well throughout the round and Minner takes the top position for the most part to take the round. 10-9 Minner.

Second round and Minner lands a beautiful leg kick and follows it up with a big right hand that drops Rosa! Minner pounces for a finish and takes the back looking for a choke. Rosa defends it well and Minner continues to land some ground and pound while fishing for the submission but Rosa continues to defend it well. Minner controls the position and Rosa explodes back up to his feet, but Minner takes the back, and drags him back down and ends up in full mount. Minner threatening with a head and arm choke and it looks tight but Rosa transitions to an armbar attempt to escape! Minner lets it go and sees the round out on top. Potentially a 10-8 round. 20-17 Minner.

Minner opens the final round with a big right hook that wobbles Rosa and he ends up taking the top position once again after dragging him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a kimura but it’s perfectly defended by Minner who gets back into top position and stacks Rosa against the cage looking for ground and pound. Rosa looking to attack an armbar and transitions to an omoplata but he’s cut open bad and Minner is able to defend it very well. Minner goes into north south position and controls the neck and Rosa looks to cage walk to roll out but Minner stops him again and just takes the back. Minner stretches Rosa out as we enter the final 30 seconds. Rosa starts throwing elbows and punches from the bottom but Minner eats the shots and rides it out until the buzzer. Big win for Darrick Minner.

Yana Kunitskaya def Ketlen Vieira via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Vieira opens the fight up with a couple of right hands before going straight in for a takedown. After some battling against the cage she gets Kunitskaya down, but the Russian battles her way back up and they re-engage in the clinch. Lots of knees to the body from Kunitskaya in the clinch which Vieira is not enjoying at all. Vieira goes for a throw, Kunitskaya throws a knee which lands but Vieira follows through with a takedown and gets it. Vieira steps over into mount pretty quickly but Kunitskaya does well to get back to half guard before Vieira steps into mount again and starts looking for submissions. Kunitskaya battles for half guard again and Vieira spends the last 90 seconds trying to get back into mount while they exchange ground and pound strikes. 10-9 Vieira.

Kunitskaya comes out fast in the second round and applies pressure from the off with strikes before clinching up against the cage. More of those uncomfortable knees to the body and as Vieira tries to get a takedown, Kunitskaya reverses it and gets herself on top as they fall to the ground. Vieira looking for submissions from the bottom while Kunitskaya defends well and throws lots of good ground and pound. Vieira transitions for an armbar but loses it and then goes for a knee bar which is close, but Kunitskaya kicks off and gets back to her feet. Vieira tries to drag the fight to the ground again but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing those knees again. Vieira goes for a kimura but Kunitskaya defends it well and starts throwing big knees to the body on the ground followed by solid elbows too to end the round. 19-19.

Calf kicks for Kunitskaya to start the third round before Vieira changes levels and gets the takedown within the first minute. Vieira ends up in half guard on top and throws some nice ground and pound and is trying to pass into guard but Kunitskaya is defending well and the cage isn’t helping her either. She goes chest to chest and finally passes into mount and starts looking for a head and arm choke. Kunitskaya trying to escape but Vieira’s level is so high and she takes the back now. Kunitskaya starts fighting the hands and legs to break the locks but Vieira is still controlling the position well as she searches for an opening for a rear-naked choke. Kunitskaya throwing punches from the top with Vieira on her back and she reverses the position with 10 seconds and starts raining down huge ground and pound to end the round. Should be a Vieira round though which would give her the fight. 29-28 Vieira.

Derrick Lewis def Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2 (1:26)

A very static start to this fight as Lewis stands pretty much still in the centre and invites Blaydes to come towards him. Blaydes moves in to close the distance and Lewis cracks him with a big right hand that sends Blaydes retreating. He comes back in and lands a nice jab, but Lewis loops a big right hand again and misses. High kick attempt from Lewis misses and Blaydes is staying very patient, and then lands a big right hand. He slips Lewis’ counter and lands two more right hands that rock Lewis a little, then follows that up with some leg kicks. Blaydes is controlling the striking with his speed and movement and is throwing lots of leg kicks to destabilise Lewis. Lovely jab from Blaydes followed by another leg kick and Lewis is hurting on that leg. 10-9 Blaydes.

Second round and Blaydes comes out quickly with some nice right hands once again. He shoots for the takedown and Lewis denies it brilliantly. They meet in the middle again and Blaydes shoots for another takedown and Lewis throws an uppercut and Blaydes is out cold!! Lewis lands two more huge shots while Blaydes is unconscious and the referee ends it! Holy wow! What a knockout!

UFC Vegas 19: Blaydes vs Lewis – Main card predictions

It’s take two in the heavyweight division for this weekend’s main event as Curtis Blaydes takes on Derrick Lewis in their rearranged fight from November 2020.

The two were scheduled to meet at UFC Vegas 15 before a positive COVID-19 test ruled Blaydes out just hours before the weigh-ins. They’ll meet now, knowing that the path to the heavyweight title shot they both feel they deserve is now clearer than it was back then.

Last week at UFC 258 we went 6/10 with our predictions, with three perfect picks to take us up to 230/359 (64.07%) with 104 (45.22%) perfect picks since we started out back in June 2020.

We have a monster 15 fight card this weekend, so the predictions will be split into three parts rather than the usual two. We’ve already predicted the first five fights of the night and the remainder of the prelims, so lets go with the main card now.


MAIN CARD

Andrei Arlovski (30-19) vs Tom Aspinall (9-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A huge heavyweight clash between the legendary former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski against Britain’s next big prospect in Tom Aspinall. Arlovski won his last two fights, including against Tanner Boser back in November at UFC Vegas 13. Aspinall has won his only two UFC fights, both by first round knockout against Jake Collier and Alan Baudot.

Arlovski is the epitome of a mixed martial artist, with fantastic striking and a solid ground game to his name too. Aspinall is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who took time away from the cage to become a professional boxer, training with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. He has tremendous one-punch power, great hand speed and technique and is so confident in his ground game that he isn’t hesitant to throw hands.

Arlovski is a veteran and knows how to stuff momentum, but with where they both are in their careers right now this could be the statement win Aspinall’s career needs to really take off.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1

Phillip Hawes (9-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (9-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

After getting a random, undisclosed injury during fight week of UFC Fight Island 7 this fight was rescheduled for this card. Someone’s winning streak end as Hawes and Imavov go to war at 185lbs. Hawes has won each of his last five fights, including an 18 second knockout on his UFC debut at UFC 254, while Imavov has won each of his last six including his UFC debut against Jordan Williams in October.

Hawes is a violent counter striker who is very physical in his approach, while Imavov is a bit more of a rounded fighter. His issue is that when he’s out-gunned on the feet he tends to use his wrestling, but Hawes is the better wrestler here. Imavov has good footwork but with a range and power deficit, but Hawes should be able to get the victory here.
PICK – Phil Hawes via Knockout, Round 2

Aleksei Oleinik (59-14-1) vs Chris Daukaus (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A very, very interesting fight at heavyweight between a true veteran of the sport against an up and coming prospect. Aleksei Oleinik will be competing in his 75th professional fight here against Daukaus, who has was his last three in a row including both of his UFC fights.

Oleinik has 46 submission wins in his career and almost got the win against Derrick Lewis in his last fight, only for the round to end and he get knocked out in the second before he could get it down to the mat again. Daukaus beat Parker Porter with a knee and strikes at UFC 252 in his debut before starching Rodrigo Nascimento Ferreira in 45 seconds at UFC Fight Island 5.

If you have knockout power, which Daukaus has with nine knockout wins in ten victories, you can beat Oleinik. But you have to do it before he gets his hands on you and puts you on the ground. He can submit you from the top or the bottom but Daukaus’ striking is so powerful and heavy hands have beaten Oleinik in three of his last five fights. I’ll either get this spot on or horribly wrong, but I think Daukaus pulls out the big knockout win.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 1

Charles Rosa (13-4) vs Darrick Minner (25-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A fight that will take place between two unranked fighters with two of the best submission artists in the featherweight division. Rosa has won eight of 13 via submission, but his most recent fight was a split decision win over Kevin Aguilar. Minner on the other hand has won 22 of 25 wins by submission and in each of his last 13 wins, including his most recent fight against TJ Laramie back in September.

Rosa has a great karate style on the feet and he fights in a similar way to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, but Minner will pressure him well with boxing and attack the legs with solid calf kicks. Rosa has the advantage on the feet and his movement could see him look to keep it there, but Minner has a great wrestling background and looks to land a big shot then take the fight down to the ground.

It’s a very close fight between the two but I think with Minner more likely to get Rosa to the ground than Rosa is to keep the fight standing, I’ll go with Minner to get the win.
PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2

Ketlen Vieira (11-1) vs Yana Kunitskaya (13-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A very interesting fight in the women’s bantamweight division as two of the prospects go head to head. Ketlen Vieira bounced back from the first defeat of her career with a comfortable decision win over Sijara Eubanks at UFC 253, while Kunitskaya bounced back from a defeat to Aspen Ladd to get a decision win of her own against Julija Stoliarenko.

Both women are grapplers by trade, by Vieira is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is comfortable off her back and on top, while Kunitskaya prefers to lay and prey from the top and uses her kicking game when on the feet. It seems like a recipe for disaster against Vieira, who is among the elite grapplers in the women’s MMA world.

It’s close, but stylistically Vieira seems to have a path to victory wherever the fight ends up while Kunitskaya will need to win in a realm where her opponent is at her best or where she isn’t at her best also.
PICK – Ketlen Vieira via Decision

Curtis Blaydes (14-2) vs Derrick Lewis (24-7) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The ultimate takedown vs stand up battle. Blaydes has the record for most takedowns in heavyweight history, while Lewis has the record for the most knockout wins in heavyweight history. Blaydes is currently on a four-fight win streak, including his most recent dominant decision against Alexander Volkov. Lewis is on a three-fight win streak, including his knockout of Aleksei Oleinik.

That Oleinik fight doesn’t bode well for Lewis though. He was taken down and dominated on the ground by the much smaller man and only got back to his feet when the bell went to end the first round. Blaydes will take this to the ground and look to blast him out of there from top position. If Lewis somehow survives the first round, he will need a knockout just like against Oleinik but Blaydes is elite and will take it back to the ground for a dominant win.
PICK – Curtis Blaydes via Knockout, Round 2