British heavyweight Tom Aspinall made a triumphant return at UFC London after a year on the sidelines, inserting himself back into the title picture in the process. The Fight Night event turned out to have a seven-fight main card, so we’ve got plenty of matchmaking to do!
Tom Aspinall looked better than ever in his rebound fight against Marcin Tybura, stopping the Pole in just 73 seconds in the main event of UFC London. Already known for his hand speed and technical striking, Aspinall looked like a new version of himself in his return from a brutal MCL tear in his last fight against Curtis Blaydes. This fight did not disappoint the fans in London like that last one and Aspinall looks just about ready for a title shot in the relatively thin heavyweight division.
In his post-fight interview Tom called for the winner of Cyril Gane and Sergei Spivac, who have a bout coming up in Paris in September. Gane was once touted as the heir apparent to the heavyweight division, but his wrestling woes are now well-documented and Aspinall has stepped into his place as the brightest young talent in the weight. Aspinall has also already beaten Spivac with ease, making a rematch somewhat uninteresting.
The real interesting tests for Aspinall are Curtis Blaydes and Sergei Pavlovich. Pavlovich has earned a title shot and is just waiting on the winner of Jon Jones vs Stipe Miocic for his turn. However, Jones and Miocic are both getting up there and the winner may retire after their next fight. If this happens, Aspinall vs Pavlovich makes sense as the fight for the vacant strap in early 2024. If not, then Pavlovich should face the winner while Aspinall fights the winner of Curtis Blaydes and Jailton Almeida to determine who is next in line. Its a complicated situation, but it makes sense.
Aspinall’s Next Fight: Pavlovich for Vacant Belt OR Winner of Blaydes/Almeida
The Lithuanian armbar specialist played spoiler to one time star Molly McCann in the co-main event of UFC London, taking down and submitting the home country favorite in just under two minutes. She improves to 2-5 in the UFC, 1-0 at flyweight, but still has a lot of work to do to battle back to .500.
If she stays at flyweight then one potential opponent is fellow European fighter Ivana Petrović out of Croatia. Petrović lost her UFC debut to Luana Carolina and needs a win to get up to .500, just like Stoliarenko. Both women have their jobs on the line and a grappling-heavy skillset, making for an interesting stylistic clash. Petrović’s loss came only a few weeks ago, so she is likely on a similar timeline for her next bout as Julija, barring injury.
Stoliarenko’s Next Fight: Ivana Petrović
Nate Wood turned in another great fight in his new division as he eked out a unanimous decision over Andre Fili in a ‘Fight of the Night’ contender. Wood and Fili were both hurt on multiple occasions in the fight, which had a thrilling first two rounds before a more measured third. Nate Wood is now 3-0 at featherweight in the UFC and might just be ready for a ranked opponent.
Fighters like Alex Caceres, Bryce Mitchell, and Giga Chikadze would all be potential opponents to welcome Wood to the shark tank that is the featherweight top-15. Maybe the best option is Bryce Mitchell, who needs to fight down to rebound from his first career loss, a submission against now-top contender Ilia Topuria. Mitchell is ranked thirteenth in the division and brings a wrestling-heavy style to the octagon, which is a challenge that Wood has not really faced yet in the UFC, let alone at featherweight. Its a test that all prospects have to pass at some point on their path to UFC gold, so why not now?
Wood’s Next Fight: Bryce Mitchell
Paul ‘Bearjew’ Craig stormed the middleweight top fifteen and captured a ranking successfully when he stopped fellow grappling specialist Andre Muniz in round two. The Scotsman showed improved wrestling as he took down the fourteenth ranked Muniz, mounted him, and finished him with ground and pound in an impressive display. Craig has said he wants to be active at both middleweight and light-heavyweight, but 185-lbs really seems like the division for him after that performance, a rebound from a knockout loss to Johnny Walker, especially since guys like Walker at 205-lbs are so much bigger than Craig.
Craig will be ranked at least number fourteen at middleweight this coming week and ahead of him in the rankings there are several contenders with styles that will challenge Craig in different ways. One example is number ten Jack Hermansson, a fighter with a Greco-Roman wrestling background and a well-rounded skillset. Hermansson is coming off of a loss to Roman Dolidze and is 2-3 in his last five, so fighting down in the rankings against a divisional newcomer makes sense for his next fight. The skillful grappling and serviceable striking of both fighters should make for a well-matched bout.
Craig’s Next Fight: Jack Hermansson
A relatively slow fight resulted in a competitive decision win for Frenchman Fares Ziam over Jai Herbert. Ziam will not earn many new fans with that performance but he now has a quite respectable 4-2 record in the UFC and may look to make a quick turnaround at UFC Paris in September. The UFC likes to fill these cards with fighters from the home country against other Europeans, so one option for an opponent from Europe who is also on a two-fight winning streak in the promotion is Mateusz Rębecki from Poland. Rębecki looks like a promising contender with an 18-1 record in MMA and no losses since 2014, so a fighter with six UFC fights like Ziam is a logical next step for his career. As for Ziam, he needs to prove he can stop a strong wrester like Rębecki from taking him down, as that is a style he has had issues with in the past.
Ziam’s Next Fight: Mateusz Rębecki
Undefeated British featherweight prospect Lerone Murphy put on an impressive performance in decisively beating Joshua Culibao at UFC London on Saturday. Murphy now is on a five-fight winning streak at featherweight in the promotion and seems ready for a ranked challenge. One such challenge is twenty-eight fight UFC veteran Alex Caceres, who is ranked fifteenth in the division. Caceres has grappling chops but is primarily a striker, so a fight between him and Lerone would likely be thrilling but also potentially test the British kickboxer’s takedown defense which has appeared flawed at times in the past.
Murphy’s Next Fight: Alex Caceres
Peruvian bantamweight Daniel Marcos won a controversial split decision over veteran Davey Grant to open the main card of UFC London. Regardless of fans’ opinions on the scorecards, Marcos now is 2-0 in the UFC and 15-0 overall as a professional. Those records will ensure him a high profile, but still unranked, opponent in his next fight.
Bantamweight is arguably the most stacked division in the UFC and as such there are a plethora of opponents to choose from that could get Marcos closer to a ranking. One such fighter is fellow prospect Montel Jackson, who is riding a four-fight winning streak and is 7-2 overall in the UFC. Jackson is a strong wrestler, which is a style Marcos has not been challenged with in the UFC yet, and if he gets past this test he could be in line for a top-15 opponent next.
Marcos’ Next Fight: Montel Jackson