UFC London: Blaydes Looks to Overpower Less Experienced Aspinall in Enemy Territory

Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall, UFC London
Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall, UFC London Ceremonial Weigh-In, July 22, 2022 Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Tom Aspinall will be looking to deliver an encore performance at home in the UK, but the more experienced Curtis Blaydes will be looking to spoil the party at UFC London.

Somehow, it feels as if Curtis Blaydes has been set up to propel the latest young contender forward.  “Razor” is set to headline the UFC’s return to the UK following arguably the best Fight Night event in the promotion’s history earlier this year in the same venue.  Most notably, he is taking on a surging local standout who is expected to have the support of the entire arena when they enter the cage on Saturday.  Should he get a victory over Blaydes, it’s expected that he will be in line to fight for a title in his next outing.

This is overlooking the astounding resume of the 31 year-old.  At 16-3, his only losses have come at the hands of elite opponents in Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis.  A part of the UFC since 2016, Blaydes’s losses overshadow his many victories against the likes of Junior dos Santos, Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, Aleksei Oleinik, Chris Daukaus, and Alexander Volkov.  A win over Aspinall would be his third in a row, and keep furthering his case as a top five heavyweight in the promotion.  While a title shot is likely out of the cards so long as Ngannou holds the title, he would remain on the short list should any turnover happen at the top of the division.

England’s Tom Aspinall was the greatest beneficiary of what is being touted as one of the best Fight Night events in UFC history.  In March, the evening saw nearly all of his countrymen deliver under the bright lights in London.  By the time he entered the cage as the main event, the energy in the O2 Arena had reached a crescendo usually reserved only for the most anticipated championship bouts in the sport.  Aspinall made the most of it, making quick work of perennial contender Alexander Volkov to get himself into the title track in the competitive heavyweight division.

The victory brought his win-streak up to eight in a row and has set the stage for an encore back at the O2 on Saturday.  Should he dispatch the dangerous Blaydes, it would be difficult to deny him a title eliminator if not a shot at the title altogether.  That said, Saturday will be the toughest test of his career on paper.  “Razor” has twice been on the cusp of a title shot and poses a skillset that provides problems for anyone in the heavyweight division.  If Aspinall is indeed ready to fight the best of the best, then he will need to show it on Saturday.

The size and physicality of Blaydes is expected to be the biggest x-factor for Aspinall to deal with.  The Englishman is a powerful and well-rounded athlete in his own right, but the size and speed of Blaydes as he gets in-and-out for strikes and takedown attempts could cause him issues.  While Blaydes has a dangerous skillset that could end the fight early, a disciplined approach across five rounds should be exercised as he tries to test Aspinall’s gas tank and take less risks.  For Aspinall, a multi-faceted attack will be key as he tries to keep Blaydes from settling into his offense as much as possible.

The winner is expected to meet the winner of the upcoming bout between Cyril Gane and Tai Tuivasa.  Currently, the title is under lockdown as champion Francis Ngannou looks to book a blockbuster showdown in boxing with Tyson Fury while the UFC appears poised to set up a fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic for an interim title so that Ngannou’s return to the cage is bigger in 2023.  Depending on the condition of Saturday’s winner and the winner in Paris, a late 2022 or early 2023 meeting is expected as that will leave all parties available to step in should injuries or other delays take one of the title challengers out of the running.