Five Reasons to tune into UFC London this Weekend
When it comes to European MMA, there are no events that really have quite as much prestige as a London fight card. And although I could probably fit ten reasons to tune in on Saturday night, for the purpose of this video, I’ve whittled it down to five reasons why UFC London is going to be one hell of a night of fights.
So let’s get into it.
The Return Of Gunnar Nelson
First off, we have the return of the Icelandic submission specialist Gunnar Nelson - a man who just so happens to have made a second home of Ireland during those crucial opening years of his career. Even when the extremely divisive rise of Conor McGregor was going down - Gunnar always had a certain level of legitimacy and popularity that was separate to that. Cause Nelson is stoic, he’s calm, and generally quite likeable - and if you ask me, his 8 and 5 record inside the octagon doesn’t really do a good job at conveying just how elite he is and can be. Losses to guys to Leon Edwards, Gilbert Burns, Demian Maia, and the blatant eye-pokery of Santiago Ponzinibbio may have left Gunni’s pursuit of the top-5 in a bad spot by the time he last competed. But the dude is only 33 - and given that he hasn’t made the walk to the cage in over two and a half years - I am just excited to see him attempt to carve out some more consistency this year. In front of him, Takashi Sato will serve as the perfect opponent for Nelson to try and work his submission magic - and as far as octagon returns are concerned, watching this Irish - sorry Icelandic man getting back to competition is going to be a real high point for this card.
The Debut Of Muhammad Mokaev
The debut of Muhammad Mokaev is without question one of my most anticipated UFC debuts in quite some time. Coming into the UFC at the age of 21 - this kid has a surprising amount of experience, both on the back of his 6 and 0 professional record, and his stellar 23 and 0 run as an amateur. Born in Dagestan but raised in England, while there is limited footage available of Mokaev’s professional career up until this point - what we do have showcases a flyweight - and sometimes bantamweight talent who really does look like the complete package. Whether he makes a run at the top-15 now or has a slow, drawn-out rise - I see Muhammad Mokaev as a real danger who will likely blossom into something very special over the next 6 or 7 years - regardless of what happens on Saturday. Opposite him, Cody Durden should prove to be a fitting test - he’s got more experience, some solid wrestling credentials - and ultimately we’ll likely know a lot more about both of these guys by the time this prelim matchup is through.
Ok, I’m going to cheat a little with this one. On the subject of local talents on the European scene, there are more than a few fighters here who do seem to be on the verge of finding a statement victory. The featherweight contender Arnold Allen, who is ranked as the number 7 145lb fighter in the world - he has managed to compile an incredibly impressive 8 and 0 UFC record under the radar. In Dan Hooker he will have the type of name value and technical challenge that could see him leave the arena as a star. Paul Craig could likely submit any 205lb fighter on the planet - with wins over Magomed Ankalaev and Jamahal Hill proving to be his standout victories. And perhaps my biggest title-hope of all, the bantamweight prospect Jack Shore - an incredibly calm and composed performer who has somehow had his bout buried on the prelims - despite his status as one of the best rising 135 pounders in the game. Those who have followed the fight-week drama surrounding Paddy Pimblett - who I’ll get to shortly - will no doubt be aware of Ilia Topuria - a fighter who is an absolute handful in that octagon. Fresh off of a KO win over Ryan Hall last year - Topuria has the athleticism, the power, and the excellent ground game to be a real threat at 145lbs or his current weight, 155.
One To Watch
Paddy Pimblett is a fighter who I’ve been watching for years now. If you’re a regular viewer of Cage Warriors, it would have been practically impossible to avoid noticing this magnetic Liverpudlian making his way towards promotional gold. And though, if I’m honest, I’ve never really seen him as an elite fighter - on a global level, I’m not willing to rule out the possibility of seeing him really make a serious push if he can get his head on straight. You look at the guys who have beaten Paddy The Baddy - Nad Naramani - who has a 2 and 2 UFC record, Soren Bak - who’s an absolute beast fighting under the Bellator banner. Not terrible losses by any means, but I think for me, I need to see how this heightened exposure has affected Pimblett. Will he be hindered by his fame - or will he rise to the occasion - building off his rather uneven debut with a performance that really turns a lot of his detractors into supporters? The foundation is there, I just think the real pull factor with me here is that I genuinely don’t know what to expect from this guy. Either way, I’m intrigued, and you should be too.
The Next Big Thing At Heavyweight?
And finally, we have perhaps the best fight of the night in terms of real consequences for the division in question. Where my doubts about Paddy Pimblett’s prospects for a run at the top of his division, my trust in Tom Aspinall’s abilities is a lot more concrete. The dude has speed and precision for a heavyweight that, when coupled with his prowess as a methodical, but devastating finisher - makes him a real danger within this weight-class. But, that said, Alexander Volkov is a truly underrated athlete - a guy who has only lost to the very best of the best - while picking up wins over some real mainstays within the heavyweight ranks. This is a major step up for Aspinall - and for Volkov, a major opportunity to find his way back into a top-5 matchup. I don’t think Volkov has truly hit his stride just yet - I still believe that he has more to showcase - but if Tom Aspinall is as good as I think he is - there’s a chance that it won’t matter. And that for me is the sell. It’s a great main-event - and a pretty fantastic card from top to bottom.