UFC London Report: Tom Aspinall submits Alexander Volkov in the first round

Originally published at UFC London Report: Tom Aspinall submits Alexander Volkov in the first round

UFC London Report: Tom Aspinall submits Alexander Volkov in the first round

By: Eric Marcotte

On Saturday afternoon, the UFC returned to the O2 Arena in London, England, for a Fight Night event, which marked the promotion’s first event outside of the United States or United Arab Emirates since March of 2020. The card featured a heavyweight matchup in the main event, as Alexander Volkov faced England’s own, Tom Aspinall. Aspinall has quickly climbed the heavyweight ladder, going 4-0 in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2020, finishing each of his opponents. This would be Aspinall’s first five-round fight, however, and Volkov would be far and away Aspinall’s toughest opponent to this point. Volkov has been a consistent threat in the heavyweight division for years now, with an 8-3 record in the promotion, against a high level of competition, but he would need a win here to re-establish himself as a top contender in the division. In the co-main event, Dan Hooker returned to the featherweight division to face Arnold Allen, a fighter who was quietly on one of the longest winning streaks in the promotion.

John Gooden provided commentary for this card alongside Michael Bisping and Paul Felder. Every fighter who finished their opponent on this card was awarded a performance bonus, as opposed to the standard two fighters earning Performance of the Night bonuses, and two fighters earning Fight of the Night bonuses.

QUICK RESULTS:

*Muhammad Mokaev def. Cody Durden by guillotine choke at 0:58 of Round 1

*Elise Reed def. Cory McKenna by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30)

*Jack Shore def. Timur Valiev by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

*Paul Craig def. Nikita Krylov by triangle choke at 3:57 of Round 1

*Sergei Pavlovich def. Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO at 4:03 of Round 1

*Makwan Amirkhani def. Mike Grundy by Anaconda Choke at 0:57 of Round 1

*Ilia Topuria def. Jai Herbert by KO at 1:07 of Round 2

*Molly McCann def. Luana Carolina by KO at 1:52 of Round 3

*Gunner Nelson def. Takashi Sato by unanimous decision (30-26 all)

*Paddy Pimblett def. Rodrigo Vargas by rear-naked choke at 3:49 of Round 1

*Arnold Allen def. Dan Hooker by TKO at 2:33 of Round 1

*Tom Aspinall def. Alexander Volkov by straight armbar at 3:45 of Round 1

MUHAMMAD MOKAEV (6-0, 1 NC, 125) VS CODY DURDEN (12-3-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT

Mokaev staggered Durden with a flying knee in the opening minute of the bout, and he immediately jumped on a guillotine choke. Durden attempted to defend, which forced Mokaev to readjust his choke, but ultimately Durden could not escape and quickly tapped out.

WINNER: Muhammad Mokaev by guillotine choke at 0:58 of Round 1

This quick finish was the perfect way to begin this card, energizing this already hot London crowd. Almost every fight on this card featured a fighter who was born in or trains out of England, and that was Mokaev in this bout, who had the crowd completely behind him. Finishing your opponent in less than a minute is really the ideal start for anyone in the UFC, and I’m positive that Mokaev will have a few more eyes on him going into his second UFC bout as a result of this highlight-reel finish.

CORY MCKENNA (6-1, 115) VS ELISE REED (4-1, 115) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Reed began the fight with a right hand that found its target. She continued to find a home for that straight right hand as the round progressed, even as McKenna applied the pressure, constantly moving forward. McKenna created some wild exchanges in the pocket as she would rush in swinging, which led to moments of success for both fighters. Late in the round, McKenna secured a takedown and began to work from Reed’s guard with a minute remaining. Reed escaped to her feet before time expired, and the fighters exchanged right hands. 10-9 Reed.

McKenna was very active offensively to begin the second round, although Reed was able to slow her down with straight right hands thrown as counters, as well as a series of uppercuts. Reed started advancing late in the round, after backing McKenna up with a pair of left hands. McKenna ended the round with a takedown, but it came too late for her to do much with it, and Reed popped back to her feet regardless. 20-18 Reed.

McKenna was able to get Reed to the ground early in the final round, where she began to work from the guard of her opponent. Reed was largely able to avoid any significant damage on the ground and escaped to her feet with under two minutes remaining in the round, where she landed a punch that staggered McKenna. The fight went the distance, and I scored the bout 29-28 for Reed.

WINNER: Elise Reed by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29)

While I can’t say I was surprised to see this fight result in a split decision, 30-27 McKenna was a rather questionable scorecard, as I thought the second round at the very least was fairly clear for Reed. Reed just appeared to have more power in her punches, and McKenna could not keep the fight on the ground for a sustained period of time, which is where she appeared to have the advantage. This marked Reed’s first win in the UFC, after losing her promotional debut in July of last year.

JACK SHORE (15-0, 136) VS TIMUR VALIEV (18-2, 1 NC, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT

Valiev shrugged off a takedown attempt before cracking Shore with a right hand. Shore appeared to have the size advantage, and pressed forward with leg kicks, occasionally switching levels to kick the head as well, catching Valiev off guard. Shore defended a number of takedown attempts from Valiev later in the round and was able to pop right back to his feet the one-time Valiev successfully brought him down. They traded leg kicks to end the round. 10-9 Shore.

Shore quickly took Valiev down to begin the second round, but Valiev quickly escaped and secured a takedown of his own. Valiev maintained the position for a bit longer, however, the fight ultimately returned to the feet, where both men found success in the pocket. Valiev decided to go back to the wrestling late in the round, and he recorded one more takedown before time expired. 19-19.

Shore floored Valiev with a right-hand just seconds into the final round, and he followed him to the ground as he attempted to finish the fight. Valiev recovered, but now he was down in the round and would need something big to steal this one back. He was aggressive, and Shore attempted to take him down as a result. Valiev responded with a guillotine choke, and it looked tight, but the positioning was off, and Shore was able to escape and take top position. Valiev escaped with just over two minutes remaining but was dropped one more time after Shore caught him with a short hook. Valiev displayed some remarkable toughness and recovery, and he made it to the end of the fight, but unquestionably lost this round. 29-28 Shore.

WINNER: Jack Shore by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

The fight was very competitive fight, but the knockdowns in the third round sealed the deal for Shore. Both of these fighters are very well-rounded martial artists, but Valiev has some clear holes defensively that Shore was able to exploit, cracking him with powerful hooks repeatedly, as well as the occasional straight right hand from distance. Shore has impressed throughout all of his fights thus far in the UFC, but this may have very well been his best performance yet considering the level of his opponent. Shore is now 5-0 in the UFC.

NIKITA KRYLOV (27-8, 205) VS PAUL CRAIG (15-4-1, 206) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

Krylov began the fight aggressively, seemingly hurting Craig, but this created an awkward scramble on the feet, resulting in the fight going to the ground where Krylov began to work from half guard. Krylov postured up and threw down some vicious ground and pound that landed cleanly, knocking Craig’s head back repeatedly. Things were looking dreadful for Craig, but he threw up a triangle from bottom position and Krylov was trapped. Krylov attempted to roll out of the dangerous position, but it was too late, and Craig forced him to submit with the triangle choke.

WINNER: Paul Craig by triangle choke at 3:57 of Round 1

This was the most “Paul Craig” fight imaginable. Craig looked as though he was on the verge of being finished multiple times throughout this four-minute bout, and Krylov dominated every second of the action, but Krylov made one mistake from top position, and that was all it took for Craig to secure the submission victory. Craig is now second all-time for submission victories in the UFC Light Heavyweight division, and he called for a five-round main event bout against Anthony Smith in Glasgow for his next fight.

SHAMIL ABDURAKHIMOV (20-6, 258) VS SERGEI PAVLOVICH (14-1, 254) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

The pace of this fight was rather slow, but Pavlovich was the fighter controlling the action early, landing the bigger shots whenever the fighters would engage. Eventually, it was a big right hand from Pavlovich that floored Abdurakhimov, and Pavlovich swarmed him with follow-up shots on the ground until the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Sergei Pavlovich by TKO at 4:03 of Round 1

Pavlovich was faster, more aggressive, and seemingly more powerful, so after watching the early exchanges of this fight, the result felt like a bit of an inevitability. Pavlovich has now won three consecutive fights by first-round stoppage, after dropping his UFC debut to Alistair Overeem (an extremely tough opponent for anyone making their promotional debut). Also, this notably marked his first fight since October of 2019, so an impressive performance for Pavlovich considering the lengthy layoff.

MIKE GRUNDY (12-3, 145) VS MAKWAN AMIRKHANI (16-7, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT

Grundy wasted little time in shooting for a takedown, however, Amirkhani caught Grundy in a choke in the process, and he locked it in tight. Grundy attempted to use the cage to escape, but Amirkhani improved his position, and he proceeded to choke Grundy unconscious.

WINNER: Makwan Amirkhani by Anaconda Choke at 0:57 of Round 1

Notably, this was one of the very few fights in UFC history that did not feature a single strike landed by either fighter. Amirkhani was in desperate need of a performance like this after losing his previous three bouts and was overjoyed as he celebrated with his team following the result. This was in stark contrast to the crowd who were just completely deflated by this finish. Grundy had dedicated this fight to his terminally ill father, and his family was shown at cage side prior to the bout, in what was a rather emotional walkout. MMA is a cruel sport, however, and this was a tough loss for Grundy, during what is unquestionably a difficult time for him personally.

JAI HERBERT (11-3, 155) VS ILIA TOPURIA (11-0, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Herbert used his range to tag Topuria in his way in, before dropping him with a perfectly timed head kick. Herbert made the mistake of not backing away from Topuria however, and this gave Topuria the opportunity he needed to close the distance and chase after a takedown. Herbert attempted to grab the cage in an attempt to stop the takedown, but Topuria was eventually successful in taking Herbert down, and Topuria began to work from the guard of his opponent with half of the round remaining. Herbert escaped, however, and he tagged Topuria multiple times upon returning to the feet. Herbert knocked out Topuria’s mouthpiece with a knee and landed a big right hand before time expired in the round.

Topuria pressured Herbert into the cage in the opening minute of the second round, and after digging into the body with a left hand, he threw a brutal right hook that knocked Herbert unconscious.

WINNER: Ilia Topuria by KO at 1:07 of Round 2

Topuria was a massive favorite going into this fight, but Herbert nearly pulled off the upset in the first round, hurting Topuria repeatedly in what was likely a 10-8 round. By the end of the first round, Topuria’s body language was poor, he was bleeding, and he didn’t seem to have any answers for Herbert’s range. In round two, however, Topuria looked like a different fighter; he pressured forward constantly, fighting very aggressively, and he closed the range with combinations, trapping Herbert against the cage. The finish was one of the most brutal knockouts of the year, and it was made all the more spectacular by the way the fight was going leading into it. Topuria called out Paddy Pimblett after the fight, in an expletive-filled speech that was almost entirely censored by the ESPN+ broadcast.

MOLLY MCCANN (11-4, 125) VS LUANA CAROLINA (8-2, 126) – FLYWEIGHT

An early right hook from McCann stunned Carolina, and she rushed forward in pursuit of a finish. It felt as though McCann threw a hundred strikes within the next minute, teeing off on Carolina against the cage. Carolina was able to recover, however, and McCann began to chase a takedown against the cage. Carolina defended, but she was having trouble dealing with McCann’s speed and power, despite having the reach advantage. Whenever McCann started fighting aggressively, she was getting close to finishing the fight, and it seemed as though Carolina has very little to offer McCann in return. Dominant round for McCann.

McCann brought Carolina to the ground roughly ninety seconds into round two, where she began to work from north-south position. She transitioned into side control, and Carolina was looking a bit lost on the ground. Eventually, McCann made the choice to stand back up, but she was caught by an elbow not long after. Carolina found a bit of success in the clinch, landing elbows and knees to the body, but was taken back down before the conclusion of the round.

Carolina was fighting aggressively on the feet to begin round three, which prompted McCann to start hunting for another takedown. Carolina defended, but she was losing precious time against the cage while down on the scorecards. The fight reached its end when McCann threw a spinning elbow after an awkward exchange in the pocket that landed flush, knocking Carolina unconscious.

WINNER: Molly McCann by KO at 1:52 of Round 3

Just moments after we were treated to a knockout of the year contender with Ilia Topuria’s finish of Jai Herbert, we were treated to another strong candidate with this spinning elbow finish from McCann. Carolina was down for a considerable amount of time after the knockout, so this was a bit of a concerning one to watch live, but that is the nature of this sport. McCann was one of the most popular fighters on this card, and the crowd went wild as she celebrated in the cage with a replica UFC Championship. This marked McCann’s first finish in the UFC, and she is now 5-3 in the promotion.

GUNNAR NELSON (17-5-1, 171) VS TAKASHI SATO (15-4, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT

Nelson seemed a bit sharper in their early exchanges, as both fighters tested their range, trying to gauge their opponent’s timing. Nelson eventually shot for a takedown, where he quickly took the back of Sato after bringing him to the ground. Nelson struck effectively from the back of Sato, and while the finish never presented itself, this was a strong end to the round for Nelson. 10-9 Nelson.

A straight right hand from Nelson knocked Sato back about ninety seconds into round two. He found a home for that strike again, before shooting for a double leg, successfully taking Sato back to the ground. Nelson took the back of Sato yet again, and rode out the remainder of the round in this position, peppering Sato with strikes. 20-18 Nelson.

Not long into the third round, Nelson brought the fight back to the ground, where he quickly locked in a body triangle as he worked from the back of Sato. The entirety of the round was spent here as Nelson chased after a rear-naked choke, and while Sato’s defense held up, Sato was unable to escape from this position, and time expired with Nelson on his back yet again. 30-27 Nelson.

WINNER: Gunner Nelson by unanimous decision (30-26 all)

Nelson’s last bout took place in September of 2019, so he was coming off of a significant period of inactivity going into this fight. Despite this, I thought Gunnar looked as good as he ever has here, albeit, facing a lower level of competition than he has throughout recent years. Sato was a step behind Nelson on the feet and had absolutely no answers for him on the ground (although his rear-naked choke defense was impressive). This marked Nelson’s first win since 2018, and his promotional record now stands at 9-5.

PADDY PIMBLETT (17-3, 155) VS RODRIGO VARGAS (12-4, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT

Pimblett received a massive reaction from the London crowd as he was introduced. Vargas dazed Pimblett with a combination of strikes to begin the fight and took him to the ground against the cage, where he began to work from the guard of Pimblett. Pimblett picked himself up against the fence with three minutes remaining in the round and threw Vargas to the ground with a hip toss, where he immediately took the back of Vargas. Pimblett began to hunt for a rear-naked choke, and he quickly locked it in, forcing Vargas to submit.

WINNER: Paddy Pimblett by rear-naked choke at 3:49 of Round 1

The story of this one, more so than the actual fight itself, was the reaction Pimblett got from this crowd. He felt like a superstar, and the reaction to the finish was deafening. The fight looked very much like his UFC debut, where Pimblett was hurt early, but came back to finish the fight before the end of the round. While there are many questions regarding Pimblett’s ceiling in the division, there are no questions regarding the entertainment value his two UFC bouts have provided thus far, and he will many eyes on him as he takes another step up the divisional ladder.

ARNOLD ALLEN (17-1, 146) VS DAN HOOKER (21-11, 145) – FEATHERWEIGHT

The first ninety seconds of this fight, I cannot do justice to with my written recap. Allen began to land shot after shot on Dan Hooker, rocking him repeatedly, but somehow, Hooker stayed on his feet and fired back, hurting Allen in the process. Despite nearly being dropped, Allen never stopped throwing, and he wobbled Hooker once more as they traded shots like wild men. There was the briefest of pauses in the action as Allen took a moment to recover his stamina, and then he proceeded to get right back to work, throwing bomb after bomb Hooker’s way, rocking him yet again, before sneaking in a head kick that backed Hooker into the cage. Allen recognized just how hurt Hooker was, and continued his onslaught, overwhelming him with strikes against the cage until the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Arnold Allen by TKO at 2:33 of Round 1

This fight was complete madness. Arnold Allen is not someone who typically fights with such a reckless style, but aggression was clearly the base of his gameplan here, and it really paid off for Allen. Despite being on an eight-fight win streak going into this bout, Allen has had a bit of trouble generating hype behind him, but that may very well change after a performance like this. Dan Hooker was the biggest name that Allen has fought to this point, and to finish him in the first round as he did will likely propel him to a top-five opponent in his next bout. Allen called out Calvin Kattar in his post-fight interview, and I think that is the perfect bout to put together next for Allen, who is now on a remarkable nine-fight win streak.

ALEXANDER VOLKOV (34-9, 253) VS TOM ASPINALL (11-2, 252) – HEAVYWEIGHT

Volkov and Aspinall touched gloves to begin the main event. Aspinall caught Volkov with a combination early, before taking him down against the cage. Aspinall postured up from half guard, where he began to drop down elbows, cutting Volkov open. Aspinall started to hunt for a kimura, but this allowed Volkov to get back to his feet, where he landed a right hand. Another right hand from Volkov found its target, catching Aspinall off balance and tripping him to the ground. Aspinall popped right back up, however, and he took Volkov down, where he quickly began to hunt for a straight armbar from side control. Aspinall locked the submission in, and Volkov was forced to submit.

WINNER: Tom Aspinall by straight armbar at 3:45 of Round 1

Aspinall fought a brilliant fight here, capitalizing on all of Volkov’s established weaknesses to create a first-round finish. Aspinall is a skilled and dangerous martial artist seemingly in every area of his game, but his grappling is clearly a notch above most fighters currently in the division, and submitting Volkov is no easy feat. Aspinall called out Tai Tuivasa in his post-fight interview, which is a sensible fight to make between these two fighters who have recently reached contendership status. Ciryl Gane is another name on the table for Aspinall’s next fight, although I could see the UFC holding off on that one, as those are two men who may very well dominate this division for years to come

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