Tom Aspinall: A Future Heavyweight Great?
As far as heavyweight breakout wins go - that was up there with the very, very best of them.
And I know that a lot of you have been with me in heralding Tom Aspinall as one to watch for quite some time now - but man, watching him display so many facets of his skill set in such a short amount of time against Alexander Volkov - that is exactly how you make the general public believe in your abilities.
I’ve always referred to Aspinall as a quick but methodical finisher - a fighter who is content to take his time, but always seems to get it done quickly.
Might sound like I’m contradicting myself - but if you’ve watched this guy consistently you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Aspinall Passes His Toughest Test to Date
But in this fight against Volkov, he seemed fired up - seemed confident enough in his ability to assert himself no matter where the fight was going to take place.
And save for one glancing right hand and maybe a couple of kicks, Volkov was left eating Aspinall’s dust.
We got to see the fast hands, the beautiful combos, his kicking game, a pair of expertly timed takedowns, strong top control, devastating ground and pound - both with his punches and some excellent elbows.
And those elbows are a feature of his offense on the feet as well.
I loved his head movement, how he took advantage of every ounce of the speed difference between the two of them.
That sequence that saw him duck back from Volkov’s head kick before slipping his punch and immediately shooting for the takedown - it was an absolutely beautiful display of Aspinall’s speed, but also his awareness, how he immediately saw the opening to ground his man - the decision that set up the fight’s conclusion.
And, of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Aspinall is a fast-handed boxer primarily - which, I suppose he is - but his prowess as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner has always been a very solid foundation.
And with that, Tom Aspinall records the biggest win of his career to date - a legitimate victory over a legitimate veteran of the division who holds some real weight.
A Resurgence in the UFC Heavyweight Division
One of the main themes of most of my heavyweight-centric videos of late is that, finally, after what seemed like an eternity of mediocrity - and I mean that in relation to the other divisions in the UFC - finally, it seems like the most prestigious weight-class in the sport is picking up steam - with a fresh new batch of contenders coming through.
You’ve got the excitement of a guy like Tai Tuivasa - a fighter who is certainly on the rebound after a tough spell, but even if he’s known as much for his fun personality outside of the cage as he is for his skillset in it - I wouldn’t be overly confident in saying that I know where his ceiling is.
He’s got some serious x-factors and age is certainly on his side.
Ciryl Gane is an absolute joy to watch - something that was even true in his last outing, when, even in defeat, he managed to display his levels in the striking department. I believe that he still probably has the best route to victory over the current champion.
Stipe Miocic is not a fighter I’d ever count out from making a resurgence - just as Derrick Lewis remains a fun, marketable, and incredibly dangerous member of the top-5.
The champion Francis Ngannou will likely see an interim-title created in his absence as he continues to wrestle for power with the UFC - opting to undergo surgery that will keep him out for most of this year.
Jon Jones is a looming presence who I fully expect to make his assault on the division within the next twelve months - and almost as if it was written in the stars - the division, in turn, has blossomed into something far more intriguing for him to enter than it would have been during the later days of his 205lb reign.
And in that upper echelon of talents - Tom Aspinall has officially landed.
All of a sudden, after a win like that, fans aren’t thinking about this guy as a prospect - with his potential on the long finger.
The general consensus, which I absolutely agree with, is that Aspinall is a live dog in this title race.
And when I see three guys within reach of a title-shot who have the real potential to be champion - that’s when we’re getting somewhere.
We all know Jon Jones has a shot at doing it. Just like Ciryl Gane could beat Francis, Jones, or anyone with some minor tweaks to his game over the coming year.
And I think that Aspinall joins them as a real threat up there.
And that’s before the outside picks like Miocic, Lewis, Tuivasa, and Blaydes come into play.
That is the sign of a strong division right there, folks!
What's next for Aspinall?
I think Aspinall is just one fight away from a title-shot - and though it pained my heart to hear his call-out of Tai Tuivasa - because of the fact that I’m a fan of both, it does make sense to some extent.
But, to be honest, I’d rather see each of these young rising prospects taking on a member of the older guard before colliding.
If it happens down the line with one of them as champion, that would be more ideal in my book.
I think the likes of Stipe, Curtis Blaydes - even though he is just 31 - they’re the type of opponent that would work for me personally - as far as Aspinall’s next outing is concerned.
I would actually favour him against all three - including Tuivasa in that number.
But yea, I think building this guy with an established opponent - rather than another prospect is the way to go.
And I do have some real interest in seeing how this all plays out - because as much as I would favour Ngannou to beat any other heavyweight on the planet - Aspinall hasn’t really even shown us his full skillset - because of his tendency to score the quick finish.
But that’s not to say that his cardio is bad, because we have absolutely no evidence to support that claim.
I’m just more intrigued than ever to really get an answer to the many questions I have about this guy - because again, as far as breakout performances in this division are concerned, that was some next level stuff right there.
I generally do end a lot of these heavyweight videos on the same note - but I can’t help but be thrilled that this division is starting to really shine again.
And so long as Francis can work through his issues with the promotion - the second half of 2022 and early 2023 is going to be one hell of a time for the big men.
And betting on the eventual owner of the title by then is getting tougher by the month.
But I’m definitely interested, that’s for sure.