The UFC is fresh off an action-packed show in Long Island, now heading across the pond for the second show of 2022 in London, England. The O2 Arena is booked with thirteen fights, including a six-fight main card.
In our main event, Heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall looks to continue his winning streak against perennial contender Curtis Blaydes. In the co-main, the rampant Chris Curtis takes a short-notice opportunity against Jack Hermansson in the Middleweight division. That’s not all, as rising star Paddy Pimblett looks to secure his third UFC win at the expense of grappling expert Jordan Leavitt.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall (HW)
Curtis Blaydes (16-3, 11-3 UFC) put together a four-fight winning streak before running into a Derrick Lewis uppercut in the second round of their February 2021 meeting. Undaunted, he has rebounded with two straight victories, most recently a second-round knockout of Chris Daukaus. “Razor” is a NCAA wrestler who averages over six takedowns per fifteen minutes in the Octagon. He has a powerful and oppressive top game, holding position while dealing out heavy ground and pound. His striking has shown considerable improvement over his UFC tenure, relying on his standup to finish Junior dos Santos and Chris Daukaus. He has finished eleven of his wins, all by knockout.
On the edge of title contention, Tom Aspinall (12-2, 5-0 UFC) has finished five straight UFC fights en route to the top of the division. After he broke into the rankings with a knockout of Sergey Spivak, he submitted Alexander Volkov in the first round of his first UFC main event. Aspinall is a well-rounded fighter, with an uncanny speed for the division and underrated grappling. Having trained with Tyson Fury, Aspinall’s boxing is on point with fast and heavy hands, along with quick leg kicks. Training jiu-jitsu since a child, Aspinall is slick on the mat, and dangerous from top or bottom position. He has finished all of his pro bouts, including eight by knockout.
We have a rare opportunity here in the Heavyweight division where we may see a fantastic grappling clash. This is excellent matchmaking, with both fighters looking to make a title claim in a top-heavy division. Aspinall holds the striking advantage, with a superior striking diversity and massive edge in speed. Blaydes will certainly look to mix it up with his wrestling, and I expect to see some fun scrambles here. Aspinall has excellent jiu-jitsu off his back, attacking leg locks and triangles with accuracy, and I don’t expect this to go the distance. I see Aspinall hurting Blaydes on the feet before finishing the fight with a choke off an ill-fated takedown.
My Pick: Tom Aspinall via Submission
Jack Hermansson vs. Chris Curtis (MW)
Jack Hermansson (22-7, 9-5 UFC) put together a four-win fight win streak before suffering a knockout loss to Jared Cannonier. He has gone 2-2 since then, most recently dropping a five-round split decision to Sean Strickland. “The Joker” is an aggressive grappler and a nightmare from top position. He has heavy ground and pound, along with a variety of submissions, such as the heel hook he finished Kelvin Gastelum with in under ninety seconds. Hermansson is no slouch on the feet, either, with forward pressure and a consistent jab. With seventeen stoppages on his record, ten have come by knockout.
Chris Curtis (29-8, 3-0 UFC) is making another quick turnaround following a late June decision over Rodolfo Vieira. After making his way to the UFC after a long career featuring fights in the PFL and Contender Series, “The Action Man” scored an upset knockout over Phil Hawes in his short-notice debut. He backed that up shortly after with another knockout over Brendan Allen. Curtis is a slick boxer, with heavy counters and snappy leg kicks. He keeps a high striking rate, mixing in combos behind a fast jab. While Curtis is not much of an offensive wrestler, he has stout defensive grappling. Curtis has seventeen career finishes, with fourteen wins by knockout.
Curtis gets another tough stylistic test in this bout, with a dangerous grinder. Hermansson is well-rounded and experienced, with a variety of positions he can finish the fight from. Curtis holds his best advantage standing, utilizing his boxing combinations. However, Hermansson keeps range well, managing distance with his jab and takedown entries. If Curtis wins this fight, he needs to keep it standing and frequently enter the pocket, and Hermansson will rack up volume from range. I see Hermansson mixing in takedowns and distance strikes for a close decision win on the scorecards.
My Pick: Jack Hermansson via Decision
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jordan Leavitt (LW)
Paddy Pimblett (18-3, 2-0 UFC) signed his UFC contract after claiming gold in the Cage Warriors promotion on multiple occasions. A one-round war against Luigi Vendramini saw him score a first-round KO in his debut, before snagging a submission win over Kazula Vargas in his second outing. “The Baddy” is a wild fighter, with a penchant for haymakers and crafty submissions, including flying triangles on his highlight reel. The charismatic Scouser has finished fourteen of his pro wins, including nine by submission. Pimblett is dangerous on the feet and the mat, though his striking defense leaves him open for counters. On the mat, he is dangerous from top or bottom but can be overeager in hunting for submissions.
A first-round submission on the Contender Series brought Jordan Leavitt (10-1, 3-1 UFC) to the UFC. “The Monkey King” impressed with a debut knockout over Matt Wiman with a slam KO in 22 seconds. After dropping a decision to Claudio Puelles, he scored two straight decisions, including a submission of Matt Sayles. Leavitt is a grappling expert, quickly engaging on the mat in almost all his bouts. He is a threat from both the bottom and top positions with various sweeps and submissions. While his striking is not high output, he keeps a great defensive guard. Out of his seven stoppages, six are by submission.
Leavitt is assuredly the toughest test of Paddy’s UFC tenure, and I am a little surprised by the current odds. Both fighters are slick grapplers who hunt for submissions, with slightly different styles. Leavitt is the more imposing wrestler, often finding success with his takedowns and top position. He is more comfortable taking home control time, while Paddy will hunt for a finish. Pimblett is the more dangerous fighter on the feet, with knockout power and a hard-charging style. However, his defense and exposed chin leave him open for counters. I expect Leavitt to take advantage of Pimblett’s eagerness, taking long stints of top control for a decision win while Paddy hunts for submissions off the back.
My Pick: Jordan Leavitt via Decision
Nikita Krylov vs. Alexander Gustafsson (LHW)
Nikita Krylov (27-9, 7-7 UFC) returned to the Octagon, going 1-2 in his first three bouts. He rebounded with a decision over Johnny Walker but was defeated in a decision by Magomed Ankalaev. He found early success against Paul Craig before being caught in the Scot’s signature triangle choke. “The Miner” lives and dies by the sword, only seeing a decision three times in his pro career. He mixes it up well, with combination kickboxing on the feet with heavy kicks. On the mat, he has a powerful top game and threatens a number of submissions. He has twenty-six career stoppages, with fifteen by submission.
Subsequent stoppage losses to Jon Jones and Anthony Smith saw Alexander Gustafsson (18-7, 9-7 UFC) leave his gloves in the cage. Retirement did not last long, as an ill-fated step up to Heavyweight saw Gus tap to a Fabricio Werdum armbar. “The Mauler” is a technical boxer who keeps a high volume. He utilizes a stiff jab and extensive combinations, mixing it up well to the body. Gustafsson is most susceptible off his back but sports solid takedown defense. He has stopped fourteen of his victories including eleven by way of knockout. At 35 years old, Gustafsson has not won a fight in over five years.
I am excited for this contest between two resolute finishers and veterans. Gustafsson has struggled to find consistency in recent years with glaring lapses on the mat in recent contests. Despite that, he looks to have an advantage with striking technique, particularly with his defense. Krylov also keeps a high pace on the feet and will look to mix it up on the mat. Gustafsson has shown slipping takedown defense in recent outings, leaving me to believe Krylov will be able to drag the bout down. While I am hoping for a vintage Gus performance, Krylov has the advantages of activity and consistency on his side, along with more avenues to victory. I expect Krylov to dominate on the mat for a submission or ground and pound TKO.
My Pick: Nikita Krylov via Submission
Molly McCann vs. Hannah Goldy (FLW)
Molly McCann (12-4, 5-3 UFC) came to the UFC from Cage Warriors, suffering a submission loss in her debut. She rebounded to put together three straight wins, all coming by decision. She dropped her next two fights to Taila Santos and Lara Procopio, then rebounded with another decision over Ji Yeon Kim. She scored a career highlight in her last bout, knocking out Luana Carolina with a spinning back fist. McCann is a hard-nosed bruiser with multiple post-fight bonuses to her name, holding no fear of standing in the pocket. While “Meatball” is limited off her back, her offensive wrestling has shown improvement in recent outings. McCann has five pro stoppages, all of them by knockout.
Though she did not receive a contract with her Contender Series win, Hannah Goldy (6-2, 1-2 UFC) came to the UFC through a short-notice fight. She lost two decisions to Miranda Granger and Diana Belbita before picking up a first-round armbar in her last bout over Emily Whitmire. “24K” finds most of her success on the feet, mixing up her striking well. She attacks with long boxing combos, along with fast kicks. While her grappling defense can be lacking, she has shown quick improvement, as seen in the Whitmire victory.
This bout seems specifically geared to hyping up the London crowd, with a UK favorite in a fun stylistic matchup. Neither fighter is against swinging it out in the pocket, as both throw long combos without too much regard for defense. In fact, they have similar disadvantages as well on the mat, with limited offense on their back. McCann is the one more likely to take the bout to the mat, though I expect this to primarily play out on the feet. I expect McCann’s pace and pressure to make the difference, taking home an entertaining decision win.
My Pick: Molly McCann via Decision
Paul Craig vs. Volkan Oezdemir (LHW)
Paul Craig (16-4-1, 8-4-1 UFC) has proven himself one of the most dangerous finishers in the Light Heavyweight division, ending all of his pro victories inside the distance. “Bearjew” is currently unbeaten in his last six, securing four straight finishes. Craig is a dangerous grappler with a karate-based striking style, holding finishes over top prospects like Jamahal Hill and Magomed Ankalaev. He can submit his opponent from anywhere but has shown how dangerous his guard is with comebacks over Ankalaev and Nikita Krylov. While Craig is a terror on the mat, his striking defense remains porous and he is willing to give up top control to his opponent.
A knockout loss to current champion Jiri Prochazka saw Volkan Oezdemir (17-6, 5-5 UFC) sit out for over a year. He returned against Magomed Ankalaev, losing a unanimous decision. “No TIme” is an aggressive striker, who unloads bombs in the pocket. He has powerful clinch striking and manages defense well against the cage. While most susceptible on the mat, he has solid takedown defense in his back pocket. Oezdemir is a former title challenger and holds twelve victories by knockout.
This is a great clash of styles to open up our main card. Oezdemir is a violent knockout artist, with a heavy pace and thunderous hooks. Craig does not take long to finish a fight on the mat, where Oezdemir is most lacking. The result of this bout will likely come down to Oezdemir’s takedown defense and whether he can keep the fight standing. If the bout goes to the mat, I expect Craig to wrap up an early submission. On the other hand, Craig can’t stand with Oezdemir on the feet for long. I expect Volkan to keep the fight at range, picking Craig apart for a knockout win.
My Pick: Volkan Oezdemir via Knockout
The action gets going this Saturday, with the card starting at 11 AM EST!
Categories: UFC Predictions