What were the biggest moments of UFC Fight Night in London? Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi offer their takeaways from an action-packed event in England.
What does the UFC do next with Blaydes, heavyweight division?
Raimondi: The UFC had a pair of excellent main events over the past two weeks. The two fights — Brian Ortega versus. Yair Rodriguez and Curtis Blayde versus. Tom Aspinal — were designed to bring clarity to the top of their respective featherweight and heavyweight divisions. Unfortunately, neither fight could deliver that due to the unfortunate injuries suffered by Ortega and Aspinall in the early rounds.
Saturday, in the opening seconds, Aspinall injured his knee in a trade with Blaydes. He fell after kicking his leg, squeezing the joint and obviously in great pain. It seemed to be just an accident that hadn’t been caused by anything in particular. But Blaydes took the TKO victory due to the injury.
ESPN had Blaydes ranked No. 4 at heavyweight and Aspinall No. 6. The headlining fight in London – Aspinall is from England – was supposed to knock out one of the next top contenders for the UFC heavyweight title. Francois Ngannou is still out due to knee surgery. Many believe that the former champion Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones could fight later this year for the interim belt, although that depends on Ngannou’s recovery.
Blaydes vs. Aspinall could have set up the next contender after winner Miocic vs. Jones. A fight at UFC Paris in September between Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa is also crucial in the heavyweight hierarchy. But Ngannou has already beaten Gane and Blaydes. Saturday’s fight was supposed to be a big test for 29-year-old prospect Aspinall to see if he could move up to the elite level of the division. Now, it might take a while to find out if he can do that.
Although the end of this fight shattered the UFC’s plans, all is not lost. Miocic versus Jones makes sense for the interim belt, with Ngannou likely out until 2023 and still in a contract dispute with the UFC. Ngannou could very well leave the promotion next year and go boxing. Jones is the greatest light heavyweight of all time and Miocic is the most successful heavyweight of all time. It’s a very marketable matchup with history on the line for both men.
Meanwhile, the UFC can match Blaydes with the winner of Gane vs. Tuivasa as the situation with Ngannou, Jones and Miocic clears up. Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov are also in the mix, a cut below. Lewis owns a knockout over Blaydes, while Lewis and Blaydes beat Volkov.
Saturday’s result is also unfortunate for Aspinall and Blaydes. But Blaydes should not be discredited. He has a great resume, and his only UFC losses since 2016 are to Lewis and Ngannou twice. Blaydes should still be in a strong position after this unsatisfying victory with potential new clashes with Miocic, Jones, Gane or Tuivasa ahead of him.
There’s substance behind the Paddy Pimblett hype
Paddy Pimblett speaks fondly of dedicating his victory to two friends who died last week.
Okamoto: It pays to stand out in mixed martial arts. Every day the fighters try to do it the way they can. The best are those who don’t have to try. It comes naturally. Pimblett is a fantastic example of that right now. He gets a “UFC push” and builds “hype,” but it doesn’t come from any concerted effort by Pimblett himself. He just does.
He explodes at arguably unhealthy weights between fights because that’s what he wants to do. He pulls his pants down in front of enemies and cameras at a weigh-in because he wants to. More importantly, his Octagon wins are legit because that’s what he really wants. He’s been paired up appropriately, he’s faced adversity, and he’s 3-0 with three finishes. Add to that the suicide prevention message he delivered on Saturday after the fight was nothing short of magnificent. In back-to-back fights now, Pimblett addressed mental health (Saturday) and said no Liverpool kid would ever go hungry if they ever won superstar money in MMA (in March). He didn’t do any of these things to get attention.
Yes, Pimblett becomes a star because he is pushed. But it’s also becoming a star because it’s authentic, and that’s something any brand can support.
McCann has star potential, let’s give him a real test
Molly “Meatball” McCann overwhelms Hannah Goldy with a barrage of punches to claim the first-round knockout.
Raimondi: Molly McCann is one of the most entertaining pound-for-pound fighters on the UFC roster. She had another exciting ending on Saturday in London, bludgeoning Hannah Goldy with strikes, including a fist that spins back. Four months ago, the Liverpool-born fighter beat Luana Caroline with a fist that turns back in London. It’s clear to everyone that the UFC can put McCann’s name on a card in the UK, they’ll sell tickets and, against the right opponent, they can create highlights and highlights. After she’s done, she often jumps out of the cage to celebrate with the fans. In March, she picked up a replica UFC title from a fan and brought it back with her to the Octagon.
Now, maybe it’s time to see if she can pursue the UFC title. McCann is on a three-fight winning streak in the women’s flyweight division and it’s time to step up a gear. Maybe before the end of the year, the UFC can bring McCann to the United States and give him a big fight on a pay-per-view card. No one says McCann will fight champion Valentina Shevchenko at present; McCann lost to Lara Procopio just last year, after all. But the UFC has something in “Meatball Molly.” She has a ton of charisma and all of her fights are exciting. If she can get a win over someone like Jennifer Maya, amanda ribas Where Andrea Leeit could cement her as one of the biggest stars in the women’s divisions.