For the second week in a row, a UFC event ended with injury in the first round of the main event. Last week, Yair Rodriguez had his hand raised in victory after a shoulder injury prevented Brian Ortega from continuing in their featherweight scrap. This week saw the fight between Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall come to a close 15 seconds into the heavyweight bout due to a knee injury suffered by Aspinall.
Blaydes was the No. 4 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings entering UFC London. Aspinall was ranked at No. 6.
The big winners on the card were local favorites, Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann, who both secured stoppage wins and two of the four “Performance of the Night” bonus awards. The other two $50,000 payouts went to Nikita Krylov and Jonathan Pearce.
Read on for the winners and losers of UFC London, which took place at 02 Arena in London, England.
Jack Hermansson: The phrase, “there are levels to this game,” exists for a reason. The co-main event of UFC London was an example of why that expression gets bandied about. Jack Hermansson was several levels above his replacement opponent, Chris Curtis, at UFC London. Hermansson managed time and space well and never let Curtis find his rhythm. Hermansson, who was booked to face Darren Till, was the No. 8 ranked fighter in the official UFC middleweight division in this fight. He had no reason to take chances and put himself at risk against an unranked opponent who had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Hermansson fought a smart 15 minutes, took little damage and set himself up for a fight opposite a top-10 opponent in the next few months.
Paddy Pimblett: I don’t know what the ceiling is for Paddy Pimblett, but I know he’s entertaining inside the octagon (emphasis on inside). Pimblett is extremely aggressive and confident, perhaps dangerously so. Could elite competition make him pay for his imprudence? Maybe so, but until someone does that under the UFC banner, Pimblett’s star will continue to rise.
As for the fight, Jordan Leavitt made things tight in the first round, but Pimblett capitalized on two things in the second round. He caught Leavitt with a perfectly timed and placed knee and then, when he secured a body lock, he locked up Leavitt’s arm against his body with that technique as well. Pimblett’s ability to keep that arm secured when he sank in the rear-naked choke prevented Leavitt from fighting Pimblett’s hands. Saturday night was an enormous victory for Pimblett.
Like Molly McCann, it’s going to be interesting to see the course the UFC maps for the 27-year-old Pimblett going forward.
Nikita Krylov: Nikita Krylov was on a 1-3 run and coming off a submission loss to Paul Craig at the March UFC London card when he matched up against former UFC light heavyweight title contender Alexander Gustafsson. Krylov ran over Gustafsson, finishing him with strikes at the 1:07 mark of the first round. This was a huge win for the 30-year-old, who called out Volkan Oezdemir during his in-cage conversation with UFC commentator Michael Bisping.
Molly McCann: Molly McCann got the London crowd on their feet with her first-round knockout win over Hannah Goldy. Following four straight decisions, McCann used her superior striking to hurt and then finish her overmatched opponent.
McCann is now on a three-fight winning streak with two straight KO wins. The 32-year-old and the UFC need to sit down and talk about the English fighter’s future trajectory. McCann is wildly popular, but she is also unranked. The question with McCann now becomes does the UFC look to give her a tough fight up the rankings or does it look to capitalize on her popularity with the English fans? Whatever the decision, I hope McCann has some say in the outcome.
Volkan Oezdemir: Volkan Oezdemir avoided the submissions attempts of Paul Craig and answered with powerful strikes whenever he could find an opening. The decision win for the former UFC light heavyweight title challenger ended his two-fight losing skid.
Ľudovit Klein: Ľudovit Klein stepped in on short notice and pulled off an upset win over Mason Jones to close the UFC London prelims.
Marc Diakiese: In March, Marc Diakiese scored 11 takedowns and ran up more than 12 minutes of control time in earning a decision win over Viacheslav Borshchev. On Saturday, Diakiese scored eight takedowns and put up 13:35 of control time in his decision win over Damir Hadzovic. The UFC commentary team did not seem too enthused over the performance, but with his win, Diakiese is on a two-fight winning streak with his one-sided triumph.
Nathaniel Wood: Nathaniel Wood had not fought since Casey Kenney defeated him via decision at UFC 254 in October 2020. The 28-year-old made his return to action at UFC London and he did so as a featherweight rather than bantamweight. Wood looked excellent in his 145-pound debut. He used a low kick heavy attack to slow down and defeat a game Charles Rosa. Wood used a patient approach to earn the win. He never overextended himself and outside of a submission attempt from Rosa in the waning seconds of the first stanza, Wood was never in danger.
Jonathan Pearce: Jonathan Pearce grabbed the fence during his bout against Makwan Amirkhani and the fight should have been paused when he committed that foul (see below in Losers section). It wasn’t. Pearce used the referee’s error to stay in control of the fight and then went on to finish Amirkhani via ground strikes.
Pearce is on a four-fight winning streak in the UFC with three finishes.
Muhammad Mokaev: Muhammad Mokaev showed off his wrestling skills and a heavy top game in dominating Charles Johnson at UFC London.
Mokaev is a prospect to watch in the flyweight division. However, fans of spectacular finishes are not always fans of the type of victory Mokaev put together in London. This win might take a little shine off the young fighter, but by no means is the soon-to-be 22-year-old a fighter to write off as just another wrestler. He is a dangerous competitor with a deep pool of skills to draw from.
Nicolas Dalby: Tenacity and cardio are two things that Nicolas Dalby has excessive amounts of. He employed both in getting his decision win over Claudio Silva.
Paddy Pimblett: Following his win over Jordan Leavitt, Paddy Pimblett had a serious message that hopefully did not fall upon deaf ears.
“I woke up on Friday morning at 4 a.m. to a message that one of me friends back home had killed himself,” Pimblett told UFC commentator Michael Bisping. “This was five hours before me weigh in. So, Ricky, lad, that’s for you.
“There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk. Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got weight on your shoulders and you think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone. Speak to anyone. People would rather — I know I’d rather me mate cry on me shoulder — than go to his funeral next week. So, please, let’s get rid of this stigma and men start talking.”
Chris Curtis: Chris Curtis was outmatched and frustrated by Jack Hermansson and it showed. The bad thing was that Curtis had nothing in his tool box to put his opponent at risk.
I understand being mad at how the fight turned out, but Curtis’ antics after the fight were embarrassing and reflected poorly on the UFC.
Alexander Gustafsson: Prior to UFC London, Alexander Gustafsson confidently proclaimed that the UFC light heavyweight weight class was his division. I doubted the veracity of that statement when Gustafsson made it. Nikita Krylov proved me right. The first-round knockout loss was not a great look for Gustafsson. However, I would not be surprised to see the former UFC title challenger give it another go inside the octagon because of how quickly this fight ended. When a fighter loses like Gustafsson did on Saturday, it’s easy for them to think, “Well, I just got caught.”
Paul Craig: Paul Craig smartly tried to avoid the striking game of Volkan Oezdemir for the first four plus minutes of the fight. He then cagily mixed his striking with his jiu jitsu attack. Oezdemir didn’t seem to expect that adjustment, at least not when Craig switched gears in the first round. Craig’s plan failed miserably for the final 10 minutes of the fight.
Mason Jones: In the pre-fight build up to the Mason Jones vs. Ľudovit Klein contest, UFC commentator Michael Bisping hailed Mason Jones as a potential UFC title contender. Jones, a former two division Cage Warriors champion, was a -390 favorite in the lightweight contest. Klein won the bout via unanimous decision. Jones is only 27, young enough to bounce back from this loss, but he needs to focus on closing distance and avoiding counters.
Charles Rosa: Charles Rosa had no defense for the low kicks and outside leg trips of Nathaniel Wood, but he did his best to stay in the fight.
Makwan Amirkhani: If I’m Makwan Amirkhani’s team, I’m at least going through the motions of trying to get his loss to Jonathan Pearce changed to a no contest because Pearce’s fence grab should have resulted in the fight being reset.
With the loss in London, Amirkhani is 1-4 dating back to October 2020.
Charles Johnson: Muhammad Mokaev scored a three-round UFC flyweight record 12 takedowns against Charles Johnson. He also rang up 11:44 of control time against Johnson. Charles Johnson leaves London with a clear improvement plan for his next UFC outing.
Claudio Silva: Claudio Silva had an outstanding first round against Nicolas Dalby thanks to his superior grappling and heavy top game. He also had success in the first half of the second stanza, but once Dalby reversed position on the mat, it became clear that Silva was running on fumes. Silva found some fuel in his reserve tank in the third stanza, but it was not enough to earn him his first win since 2019.
Silva, who started his career with a record of 14-1 — with 14 straight wins after a loss in his pro debut — is on a three-fight losing skid.
Referee Daniel Movahedi: During the Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jonathan Pearce fight, referee Daniel Movahedi either missed or ignored a fence grab that seemed to allow Pearce to stay in top position and in control of Amirkhani. Movahedi should have stopped the fight at that point and took the position away from Pearce. Instead he allowed the fight to continue. Pearce went on to win via ground strikes following that fence grab.
Prelim card winners: The UFC tried to fit eight prelim fights into a three-hour broadcast window. It failed to do that and the people who paid for the promotion’s scheduling error. With that, fighters like Muhammad Mokaev, Nathaniel Wood and Marc Diakiese did not get a chance to connect with the fans in attendance at the 02 Arena and on the broadcast.
Jai Herbert vs. Kyle Nelson: Jai Herbert and Kyle Nelson were both coming off knockout losses when they faced off in London. And both men fought like that fact was in the back of their minds.
Herbert did showed improved takedown defense throughout this fight, but he failed to use his height and reach advantage throughout the contest. As for Nelson, he scored with his kicks, but he displayed a lack of fight IQ by going for takedowns deep into the fight after failing in each of his previous attempts to get the fight to the mat.
Herbert got the victory. Hopefully the win will allow Herbert to show more confidence and open up in his next outing.