UFC London takeaways — Resetting the heavyweight title mix after Blaydes-Aspinall

What were the biggest moments at 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?

Raimondi: The UFC has had two outstanding main events in the past two weeks. Both fights – Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez and Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall – 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 of Ortega and Aspinall in the early rounds.

On Saturday, Aspinall suffered a knee injury in the opening seconds of an exchange of blows with Blaydes. He went down after performing a leg kick, clutching the ankle and obviously in a lot of pain. It just seemed like an accident caused by nothing in particular. But Blaydes was awarded the TKO win due to injury.

ESPN had Blaydes at No. 4 heavyweight and Aspinall at No. 6. The headlining fight in London – Aspinall hails from England – should bring out one of the next top contenders for the UFC heavyweight title. Francis Ngannou is still out due to knee surgery. Many believe former champion Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones could fight for the interim belt later this year, although it depends on Ngannou’s recovery.

Blaydes vs. Aspinall could have lined 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 should be a big test for 29-year-old Aspinall to see if he could make it up to the division’s elite class. Well, it might take a while to find out if he can do that.

While the way that fight ended wrecked the UFC’s plans, all is not lost. Miocic vs. 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 exit promotion and pit next year. Jones is the greatest light heavyweight of all time and Miocic is the most successful heavyweight of all time. This is a very marketable matchup with history on the line for both men.

Meanwhile, UFC Blaydes can draw level with winner Gane vs. Tuivasa as the situation with Ngannou, Jones and Miocic is sorted out. Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov are also in the mix, a step down. Lewis has a knockout on 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 losses in the UFC since 2016 are Lewis and Ngannou twice. Blaydes should still be in a strong position after this not-so-satisfying win, with potential new matchups with Miocic, Jones, Gane or Tuivasa in front of him.


There is substance behind Paddy Pimblett’s hype

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Paddy Pimblett is emotional about dedicating his win to two friends who passed away 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 To attempt. It comes naturally. Pimblett is currently a fantastic example of this. He’s getting a “UFC push” and building a “hype,” but that’s not due to a concerted effort from Pimblett himself. He only makes it.

He inflates himself to arguably unhealthy weights between bouts because that’s what he wants to do. He drops his pants in front of the haters and cameras at a weigh-in because he wants to. Most importantly, his wins in the Octagon are legitimate because that’s what he really wants. Matched appropriately, he’s faced some adversity and he’s 3-0 with three finishes. Add to that the message he shared Saturday after the suicide prevention fight and was just beautiful. In back-to-back fights, Pimblett has now addressed mental health (on Saturday) and said no kid in Liverpool will ever go hungry if they ever make superstar money in MMA (in March). He didn’t do any of those things to get attention.

Yes, Pimblett becomes a star because he gets a nudge. But he also becomes a star because he is authentic, and any brand can outperform that.


McCann has star potential, let’s put it to the test

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Molly “Meatball” McCann overwhelms Hannah Goldy with a barrage of punches to take home the first-round KO.

Raimondi: Molly McCann is one of the most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster pound for pound. She had another exciting finish in London on Saturday, beating Hannah Goldy with punches including a turned-back fist. Four months ago, Liverpool-born fighter hit Luana Carolina in London with a spinning fist. It’s clear to all that the UFC can put McCann’s name on a map in the UK, sell them tickets and create highlights and moments against the right opponent. After her finish, she often jumps out of the cage to celebrate with the fans. In March, she snagged a UFC title from a fan and brought it to the Octagon with her.

Now it might be time to see if she can aim for the actual UFC title. McCann is on a three-fight win streak in the women’s flyweight and it’s time for a step up. Perhaps UFC can bring McCann to the United States before the end of the year and give her a big fight on a pay-per-view card. Nobody says McCann is supposed to fight champion Valentina Shevchenko right now; McCann finally lost to Lara Procopio just last year. But the UFC has something in Meatball Molly. She has a lot of charisma and all her fights are exciting. If she can beat the likes of Jennifer Maia, Amanda Ribas or Andrea Lee, it could cement her as one of the biggest stars in the women’s departments.

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/34286162/ufc-london-takeaways-resetting-heavyweight-title-mix-blaydes-aspinall UFC London takeaways — Resetting the heavyweight title mix after Blaydes-Aspinall

Emma Bowman

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