Sanabul Fight News: Week 6
Many are saying that UFC London was one of the best cards they have ever seen, and although recency bias may play a role, that is still an amazing statement considering this was a free card. With 9 out of 12 fights on the card being finished, many up and comers made significant statements that are super exciting for their growth and careers.
The prelims delivered amazingly Saturday night with Muhammad Mokaev starting the card off in an explosive way. Muhammad was a highly touted prospect going into UFC London and with a newly found 7-0 undefeated record, Muhammad is going to start making some waves in the flyweight division with his explosive ability to finish fights, and his vast skillset in MMA. Muhammad had a 23-0 record in Amateur MMA at an international level, and is another Dagestanian-born fighter who enjoys carrying his opponents into his own corner to hear his own coaches, and assert his dominance of course. I don’t want to jump the gun, but at a skillset and dominance level this may look like the Khamzhat Chimaev of the flyweight division at this point in time.
Jack Shore moved his record from 15-0 to 16-0 on Saturday night with a controversial decision win as a relatively large underdog against Timur Valiev. Considering the hype building around the Wales native, Shore, I was honestly surprised to see him as an underdog, but as the fight went on it was easy to tell how good both men were, and it was a relatively evenly matched fight from the two prospects, leading to a decision win for Jack Shore that many took to Twitter to disagree with.
In one of the most exciting fights of the night we saw Paul Craig get in a little bit of trouble early on to Nikita Krylov, with Paul being a +275 underdog in the matchup by Vegas. Paul has shown many times that he is almost never out of a fight, and if you slack on your technique at all as you look for a finish, he will make you pay for it in a big way. As Nikita went in to finish Paul with some ground and pound Paul slipped in a beautiful Triangle Choke amidst the chaos, and got the finish nearing the end of the first round. Paul is on a five fight win streak, which includes a win over surging Jamahal Hill, and still holds a win over huge prospect Magomed Ankalaev in 2018! Craig may be getting underlooked in the Light Heavyweight division, and could definitely be looking at a top 5 matchup next fight, maybe Anthony Smith who he called out for during the post-fight press conference.
The last two fights of the prelims both had first round finishes, with Sergei Pavlovich knocking out 40-year old Shamil Abdurakhimov in the heavyweight division as a big prospect at 15-1, Sergei will be looking for a bigger name in the division in his next matchup, and a chance to really prove himself against a better opponent in the division. Olympic wrestler Mike Grundy took on a big task in the featherweight division in the featured prelim against Makwan Amirkhani, with the matchup ending at the end of the first with Makwan via Anaconda Choke. Makwan really exposed some of the weaknesses of slacking on your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a strictly wrestling base, and Mike will have to hit the drawing board (and the mats) to solidify his BJJ before his next matchup.
From start to finish the Main Card of UFC London did not disappoint, and this started off with Ilia Topuria in an incredibly exciting matchup against Jai Herbert. After some scuffles between Ilia and Paddy Pimblett throughout fight week, many were wondering if Ilia was going to come into the fight focussed enough on his actual opponent. The fight started off looking like Ilia was not going to be able to get in range enough to Jai to really hit him, Jai was piecing him up from the outside and it wasn’t looking good for Topuria. With Ilia moving up to lightweight at only 5’6, it was looking like it was a mistake for him to make this move (this still could be true), but Ilia closed the distance during the second and flatlined Herbert, showing his power and striking skill, and moving up to a 12-0 Pro record. Moving forward, I’m not sure how good of a move it would be to take on Paddy, but his ego may get the best of him and we might see this matchup Main event a Fight Night or co-main a PPV.
Molly McCann and Luana Carolina had an outstanding war with a total of 175 strikes being thrown by the two women, the fight was relatively even going into the third round. Molly also completed 2/2 takedowns and it was looking as though the decision would go her way, but this wasn’t enough for Molly fighting in front of her home crowd in London. With a little over three minutes left in the fight she used a little leg kick feint, getting Luana to drop her hands, and came over the top with a spinning elbow to flatline Luana and get the third round finish. As an unranked fighter, I can see Molly beating multiple women in the top 15, and some good matchups for her to get ranked would be Maycee Barber, Jessica Eye, or Andrea Lee.
Paddy Pimblett took the media by storm throughout fight week, and delivered on Saturday night. Many weren’t sure if the hype of Paddy was real, and honestly many still aren’t as Vargas isn’t necessarily a big test in the Lightweight division. But let’s have Paddy have his moment, most viewers knew Paddy for his standup fighting and his fun knockouts, but not many knew him for his 8 Professional wins via submission, and his incredibly explosive and offensive Jiu Jitsu game. For a 27 year old, Paddy is quite well-rounded as a fighter, and although his explosiveness is what helps him get these finishes, it is right to be worried about what will happen if he doesn’t get the finishes, and ends up gassing out. As he moves up in the rankins we will see if he is able to continue at the pace he fights at for a full three rounds, or even five rounds possibly soon enough. Paddy got the early win via Rear Naked Choke over Vargas, and moved up to a record of 18-3.
One of the bigger stories of the card was Dan Hooker moving down a weight class to return to the Featherweight division against surging prospect Arnold Allen. Arnold was always going to be a massive test for hooker, and many may have been backing Hooker for personal reasons, as he is always a fan favorite. It was clear that Arnold was the more aggressive, motivated, and skilled fighter during the matchup, Dan has seemed like a very passive fighter ever since his fight with Chandler, and Arnold took advantage of that with an amazing first round TKO. Honestly, it wasn't a very technical matchup, with a barrage of hooks for about a minute, Allen finally landed enough that the fight was stopped, while being dropped once in the process. After the fight, Hooker was playing with his gloves lots which led fans to believe he was going to finally take them off, losing 4 of his last 5 fights, but we may have a chance to see him compete a couple more times, hopefully making some significant changes.
Tom Aspinall displayed some incredible technical skills in the division during Saturday's Main event against Alexander Volkov. Many were curious to see if Tom possessed the skills to mix in some grappling with the striking and possibly display some BJJ. Tom impressively dipped around a couple of Volkovs strikes to a double-leg takedown to get Volkov where he wanted him on the ground. Tom took the early first-round submission via Straight Armbar, and displayed the grappling prowess everyone was interested to see, and called out Tai Tuivasa for a look-ahead at what may be next for Aspinall as he gets closer to a title shot. Volkov may forever be a gate-keeper in the division, unless he can start making some changes in his camp and finishing his next few fights.