Y’all remember when the UFC went to Ireland in 2014? Conor McGregor headlined against Diego Brandao, capping off a card that had incredible energy top to bottom. It was one of the most memorable Fight Night events in the history of the promotion. UFC London had the same energy and probably exceeded the Ireland card in terms of the impact.
At the top Tom Aspinall tore through the traditionally tough Alexander Volkov like he was tissue paper. Yes, it was a straight armbar that he finished off the big Russian with, but Aspinall was also getting the better of the contest on the feet, an area Volkov was supposed to be competitive at the very least. Aspinall’s wrestling was on par too, timing his shots to get Volkov down with ease. There were few doubters left, but Aspinall eradicated all doubts left whether he was the real deal. After the fight, he asked for a fight with Tai Tuivasa next, something all fans can get behind.
With the loss, Volkov’s days as a gatekeeper to title contention may be over. He’s now lost two out of his last three and his lone win was an uninspired performance over Marcin Tybura. Perhaps he can climb back there with a few more wins, but Volkov does have a lot of mileage on his body with well over 40 fights under his belt. I understand heavyweights age differently than other divisions, but mileage tends to be a more meaningful gauge than age. Regardless, Volkov’s standing in the division takes a major hit.
As for the rest of the card....
- The UFC was hoping Arnold Allen could have a breakthrough performance. Not only did they get one, it’s hard to see how it could have gone better. Outside of Dan Hooker stumbling Allen when the two were recklessly throwing fisticuffs, Allen dominated the fight on the feet, an area where Hooker was supposed to have a clear advantage. Allen let all his limbs fly, eventually securing a standing referee stoppage about halfway through the first. Look for Allen to get a top five opponent next.
- The supporters and detractors of Paddy Pimblett both have their points they’ll take from his performance against Kazula Vargas. The supporters will point to him overcoming adversity, scoring a slick throw to the mat and securing a sweet RNC for the win. His detractors will point to him having problems with a guy he was supposed to showcase on in Vargas, including getting rocked a bit. What no one can disagree with: Pimblett is a rock star in England. If he can beat someone most fans have heard of, he’ll be a rock star throughout the world.
- Given he picked up right where he left off, you’d never know Gunnar Nelson was gone for two-and-a-half years. Methodically picking apart Takashi Sato with kicks and punches before timing his takedowns, Nelson wasn’t able to find the choke he kept searching for. Nonetheless, he turned in a dominant three round decision.
- The only thing that could top the moment Molly McCann had in the cage would be if she were to win the title someday. Even that might not top how it all played out for McCann. Swarming Luana Carolina with punches early with the crowd firmly behind her, McCann was eating up the energy. Carolina slowly worked her way back into the fight, but a McCann spinning back elbow in the third put Carolina out cold in a legit KOTY from the beloved Brit. The performance cemented McCann as a star, at least in the UK.
- After one round, it looked like we were headed towards upset city. Jai Herbert put a beating on the heavily favored Ilia Topuria, coming thisclose to putting him away. Topuria didn’t look like he had settled down in the second, but he found a clean overhand right that dropped Herbert like a sack of potatoes, maintaining his unblemished record. After the fight, Topuria had some choice words for Pimblett, but that seems like a longshot.
- Mike Grundy gave Makwan Amirkhani exactly what he wanted: Grundy’s neck. Amirkhani caught Grundy in a guillotine when the English wrestler dove in for a takedown and it wasn’t long before the end came. Grundy’s defense wasn’t bad, but Amirkhani adjusted the hold into an anaconda choke. Grundy went to sleep when he refused to tap and Amirkhani snapped a three-fight losing streak to save his job.
- If you forgot about Sergei Pavlovich, you’re completely forgiven. After all, it was 2019 the last time Pavlovich made a UFC appearance. The big heavyweight reminded everyone he’s a force to be reckoned with, rocking the respected Shamil Abdurakhimov before finishing him off with a barrage of ground punches. At 29, Pavlovich is still a baby in heavyweight years... and he’ll be back in the rankings when they’re announced next week.
- At some point, the rest of the division is going to learn not to play in the guard or Paul Craig, right? Nikita Krylov didn’t get the message. Though Krylov was attempting to operate with caution and smother the Scot, Craig patiently waited for his opportunity to throw up a triangle choke, submitting the uber-tough Ukrainian with just over a minute in the opening round. That gives Craig a six-fight unbeaten streak. Might he be just one more fight away from a title shot?
- For many, with all due respect to Pimblett, the people’s main event was Jack Shore and Timur Valiev. It lived up to every expectation. The first two rounds where as close as close gets, neither fighter effectively able to separate themselves. Shore scored two knockdowns in the third to effectively take control, though Valiev never completely went away. Shore got the win, but the two of them set a high bar to exceed for FOTN early on.
- It was a confusing performance from Cory McKenna. Despite seemingly finding success whenever she looked to body up Elise Reed, the young woman from Wales seemed more focused on standing and trading with the striker. It was a closely contested bout, but the poor strategy ended up costing the youngster as Reed scored the upset in a split decision by consistently landing more volume.
- When you’re the youngest fighter on the roster, you better be something special. Muhammad Mokaev certainly looked special, landing a switch knee on Cody Durden before snatching up the stunned American in a guillotine for the tap... all within 58 seconds. A special debut indeed. If you didn’t know who Mokaev was before, you better know now.