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Britain’s ‘best hope’? - Tom Aspinall breaking records and looking like UFC’s next UK born champ

Tom Aspinall enters the UFC heavyweight record books and his future looks incredibly bright

Tom Aspinall defeated Alexander Volkov at UFC London
Tom Aspinall defeated Alexander Volkov at UFC London
Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

In September 2021, Tom Aspinall defeated Sergey Spivack via first-round knockout. After the fight, Aspinall, who entered the bout as the No. 13 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, told UFC commentator Michael Bisping, “I’m trying to move up this thing slow. If I’m No. 13, give me No. 12.” The UFC ignored Aspinall’s request and booked him against No. 6 ranked Alexander Volkov.

On Saturday, Aspinall submitted Volkov in the first round. With that stoppage, Aspinall’s hopes of a slow rise through the heavyweight rankings evaporated. Whether or not he likes it, the 28-year-old is a UFC heavyweight title contender.

Aspinall’s desire for a slow climb is understandable. He turned pro in 2014 and went 7-2 before the UFC signed him in late 2019. His signing drew a congratulations tweet from Cage Warriors, where he went 2-0 in 2019 after a break of more than two years between fights. Outside of that nod, Aspinall’s signing made few waves inside the MMA world.

Less than two years into his UFC run, Aspinall is 5-0 with the promotion with five finishes. His total fight time is 14:24, which puts him in the (modern) UFC record book as the fastest fighter to five UFC wins. If you go down the list of fighters Aspinall passed, four claimed UFC gold — Ronda Rousey (17:23), Frank Mir (19:28), Junior dos Santos (20:15) and Anderson Silva (21:56). The one outlier, Mike Swick (20:10) lost to Dan Hardy in a welterweight title eliminator in 2009.

Ahead of UFC London, UFC commentator and former UFC middleweight champion, Michael Bisping offered his take on Aspinall’s future.

“I believe Tom Aspinall is our (British MMA) next best hope at getting a second UFC champion. He’s 4-0, four stoppages against good competition.

“He took out Sergey Spivek so easily and look at what he just did to Greg Hardy. Tom made him look like nothing. Was like messing around with my 11-year-old.”

Bisping saw nothing to shake him from his view of Aspinall as a future champ. In fact, the win over Volkov seemed to strengthen Bisping’s opinion of the young fighter from Manchester.

“[Volkov’s] had over 40 professional fights. He’s only been finished three times in his career,” said Bisping. “Tom Aspinall went out there and made it look easy. Absolutely smoked him and beat him pillar to post in every aspect of mixed martial arts. He was too fast, the boxing was crisp. The takedowns were blended in seamlessly. On the ground the ground and pound was absolutely clinical. And of course finished him off with a straight armbar.”

Aspinall is extremely light on his feet for a heavyweight. During the Volkov bout I had to check his weight to make sure he wasn’t just a large light heavyweight — at 6-foot-five and 252 pounds, that’s a negative — his movement was so good. He’s also a very well-rounded fighter. Aspinall is the type of competitor we often see at the top of the lower weight divisions, but rarely at heavyweight, where power is often the focus.

Despite being relatively green, Aspinall looks like he has all the tools and intangibles to make it to the top of the division.

Besides his record speed in reaching five wins in the UFC, Aspinall has put his name in the UFC heavyweight record book in several categories. He has the shortest average fight time in UFC heavyweight history (2:57), the highest striking differential (4.68), the second best strikes lander per minute (7.33), the second best submission average per 15 minutes (2.04), the third best knockdown average per 15 minutes in the division (2.04) and he has spent no time in bottom position. Again, Aspinall is 28 and only has five UFC fights to his name.

Aspinall moved up five spots in the latest official UFC heavyweight rankings following his stoppage of Volkov. Now ranked No. 6 in the division, Aspinall, who had previously held off on requesting a specific opponent, asked the UFC to book him against the No. 3 ranked Tai Tuivasa.