What were the biggest moments at UFC Fight Night in London? Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi give their experiences from an action event in the UK.
What will UFC do next with Blaydes, heavyweight?
Raimondi: The UFC has had an excellent main event pairing over the past two weeks. Both fight – Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez and Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall – designed to give clarity to featherweight and heavyweight divisions, respectively. Unfortunately, neither match was able to deliver that due to Ortega and Aspinall’s unfortunate injuries in the first innings.
On Saturday, the opening second, Aspinall picked up a knee injury during an exchange with Blaydes. He came down after hurling a kick to the leg, clutching the joint and obviously in great pain. It just seemed to be an accident not caused by anything specific. But Blaydes was awarded the TKO victory due to injury.
ESPN gave Blaydes a No. 4 at heavyweight and Aspinall No. 6. The highlight bout in London – Aspinall from England – is said to have knocked out one of the next top contenders for the UFC heavyweight belt. Francis Ngannou is still sidelined due to knee surgery. Many believe former champions Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones could fight later this year for an interim title, although that depends on Ngannou’s recovery.
Blades vs. Aspinall may have established the next contender after the Miocic vs. Winner Jones. The fight at UFC Paris in September between Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa is also important in the heavyweight hierarchy. But Ngannou defeated Gane and Blaydes. Saturday’s match was supposed to be a major test for 29-year-old striker Aspinall to see if he can make it up to the division’s elite level. Now, it might take a while to find out if he can do it.
Although the way this fight ended up ruined the UFC’s plans, all was not lost. Miocic vs. Jones makes sense for the interim belt, with Ngannou likely to be out until 2023 and still in a contract dispute with the UFC. Ngannou will most likely leave the promotion next year and go boxing. Jones is the greatest light heavyweight of all time and Miocic the most successful heavyweight of all time. It was a very marketable match with history for both.
Meanwhile, the UFC can compare Blaydes to Gane vs. The Tuivasa winner when the situation with Ngannou, Jones and Miocic is cleared up. Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov are also in the mix, a step below. Lewis got a knockout against Blaydes, while Lewis and Blaydes defeated Volkov.
Saturday’s results were unfortunate for Aspinall and Blaydes. But Blaydes should not be discredited. He has a great résumé, and his only loss in the UFC from 2016 back here was to Lewis and Ngannou twice. Blaydes will still be in a strong position after this unsatisfactory win with potential new matchups with Miocic, Jones, Gane or Tuivasa ahead of him.
There’s Substance Behind Paddy Pimblett’s Hype
Paddy Pimblett emotionally discusses dedicating her victory to two friends who died in the past week.
Okamoto: It pays to stand out in mixed martial arts. Every day, the warriors try to do it whenever they can. The best are those who don’t need to to try on. It comes naturally. Pimblett is a great example of that right now. He’s getting a “UFC boost” and building up some “hype,” but that’s not coming from any of Pimblett’s own concerted efforts. He’s just doing him.
He puts on arguably unhealthy weight between his matches because that’s what he wants to do. He’s dropping his pants for haters and cameras at a weight because he wants to. Most importantly, his wins in the Octagon are justified, because that’s what he really wants. He’s been dealt with accordingly, he’s faced some adversity, and he’s 3-0 with three finishes. Add to that the message he gave about suicide prevention on Saturday after the fight was nothing short of beautiful. In head-to-head matches now, Pimblett tackles mental health (on Saturday) and says no kid in Liverpool would go hungry if he cashed in on superstardom in MMA (in March) . He doesn’t do either of those things to get attention.
Yes, Pimblett is becoming a star because he is being pushed. But he also became a star because he was authentic and that’s something any brand can achieve.
McCann has star potential, give her a real test
Molly “Meatball” McCann overwhelmed Hannah Goldy with a series of hits to give the home team their first knockout ticket.
Raimondi: Molly McCann is one of the coolest fighters on the UFC roster. She had another interesting finish on Saturday in London, knocking out Hannah Goldy with blows, including a back punch. Four months ago, the Liverpool-born boxer beat Luana Carolina with a back-to-back punch in London. It’s clear to everyone that the UFC can put McCann’s name on a card in the UK, she’ll sell tickets and against the right opponents, she can create hits and moments. Once finished, she often jumps out of the cage to celebrate with her fans. In March, she won a replica UFC title from a fan and brought it back to the Octagon.
Now, maybe it’s time to see if she can go for the real UFC title. McCann is on a three-fight win streak in the women’s flyweight division and it’s time to step up. Maybe before the end of the year, the UFC can bring McCann to the US and give her a pay-per-view card battle. No one is saying that McCann will be playing champion Valentina Shevchenko right now; McCann lost to Lara Procopio last year. But the UFC has something in it in “Meatball Molly.” She has a lot of charisma and all of her battles are enjoyable. If she can win against someone like Jennifer Maia, Amanda Ribas or Andrea Lee, that could make her one of the biggest stars in the women’s tournament.