The MMA world leader returned to the United Kingdom on Saturday with UFC London. It was the promotion’s first event in the region in over three years, and they offered up a jam-packed card filled with some of the best UK and European talent on the roster.
The event was headlined by a major matchup in the heavyweight division between sixth-ranked former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov and eleventh-ranked Englishman Tom Aspinall. In the end, Aspinall sent his home country fans home happy with an impressive first-round submission victory.
The UFC card also featured return fights for rising UK star Paddy Pimblett, Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson, and a featherweight co-main event between Arnold Allen and ranked lightweight Dan Hooker. Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from the UFC fight card inside the O2 Arena.
UFC London winner: Tom Aspinall
England you have your first UFC heavyweight title contender. Aspinall had a major statement win in the biggest spotlight of his young career. He had serious pressure as the main event of his country’s first event in three years, and he had a world-class foe in Volkov. He delivered on every level with a dominant victory. A fight with a top-five heavyweight next is completely deserved for the well-rounded and scary good Englishman.
UFC London loser: Dan Hooker
Without a doubt, UFC London featured the biggest win of Arnold Allen’s career, however, Dan Hooker’s loss was the bigger story. That’s because the New Zealander is at a major career crossroads. He ended a strong run at lightweight after losing three of four and discovering he would not be contending for gold at 155.
Knowing that he moved down in weight for the rest time in years, but was absolutely starched by Allen on Saturday. Hooker has to come to terms with the fact that he isn’t a title contender in the UFC, pick an optimal weight, and have a great career in the years ahead as a fun and entertaining talent in the promotion.
Winner: Paddy Pimblett
You knew this one was coming. Although the fight may not have started the way that “The Baddy” would have preferred, it ended exactly how he and the UFC hoped for. With bedlam in the O2 Arena as he stood victorious once again. Pimblett once again showed he has some defensive holes in his striking, but for fans just getting to know him, he displayed the grappling that made him a star on the UK MMA scene. He is now 2-0 in the Octagon and is without a doubt the most popular British talent on the roster.
Winner: Ilia Topuria
Ilia Topuria has been outstanding during his short UFC tenure. He entered his fight with Jai Herbert with a 12-0 record and having won his first three in the Octagon. However, “The Black Country Banger” pushed the Georgian to the very brink of defeat and hurt him several times in the opening round.
But in the second round, “El Matador” showed why he is one of the best young talents at 145-pounds when he turned Herbert’s lights out with a one-punch KO. It was a key development moment as he showed resilience and that serious resistance won’t deter him in a fight.
Loser: Nikita Krylov
Nikita Krylov will look back at UFC London with massive regret. His bout with Scotland’s Paul Craig lasted less than a round and he dominated the majority of it. On several occasions, he scored with ground-and-pound strikes that looked like they knocked out and then woke up his foe. However, “Bearjew” endured and capitalized on a sloppy mistake by the Ukrainian to snag up a triangle choke submission win. Krylov has now lost two straight and four of his last six.
Winner: Jack Shore
Jack Shore entered UFC London unbeaten at 15-0, and he stayed unbeaten against Timur Valiev. That isn’t to say it came easy. The first two rounds of the matchup between two of the best rising talents at bantamweight were highly competitive and could have been even heading into the final frame.
However, “Tank” had a dominant third round and rocked the Russian late to sure up the victory. At 16-0, and with five wins in the Octagon, Shore could land a spot in the 135-pound rankings next week.
Loser: Mike Grundy
Sports can offer up some touching high moments and heartbreaking lows. The latter occurred on Saturday afternoon. Mike Grundy walked into the O2 Arena hoping to get a big win for his father. The 35-year-old’s dad has a terminal illness and was in attendance for his bout. Unfortunately, an unsuccessful takedown attempt led to an anaconda choke submission finish for opponent Makwan Amirkhani.
Not only did Grundy lose in front of his ill father, but he was put to sleep in 57 seconds. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Winner: Molly McCann
Molly McCann made history inside the O2. Not only did she become the first female UK fighter to compete on the main card of a UFC event in England, but she scored the fourth spinning back elbow KO in organization history. It was an unbelievable moment that sent the London crowd into a frenzy and was a bonus winning finish for sure.