A Heavyweight mainstay meets the division’s “Next Big Thing?” this Saturday (July 23, 2022) when Curtis Blaydes travels to O2 Arena in London, England, to meet fast-rising Englishman, Tom Aspinall. UFC London’s co-feature sees Chris Curtis step up on short notice to meet Jack Hermansson, while Paddy Pimblett returns to action against Jordan Leavitt and Nikita Krylov welcomes Alexander Gustafsson back to the Octagon.
UFC London features a hefty eight “Prelims” undercard bouts to get through first, though, so let’s get on that ...
155 lbs.: Jai Herbert vs. Kyle Nelson
Three fights into his UFC career, Jai Herbert (11-4) finally made it into the win column with a first-round knockout of Khama Worthy. He looked poised to make it two straight after dropping the heavily-favored Ilia Topuria with a head kick, but wound up falling victim to a lethal overhand right early in the second round. All but one of his pro victories have come inside the distance, nine of those via knockout.
Kyle Nelson (13-4) brought a six-fight win streak into the Octagon that included a 63-second knockout of Khama Worthy in 2017. He currently sits at 1-3 in the world’s largest fight promotion, most recently suffering a technical knockout loss to Billy Quarantillo.
“The Monster” fights for the first time in 22 months.
UFC brass have not been kind to Herbert. Pitting him against Francisco Trinaldo, Renato Moicano, and the aforementioned Topuria in his first four Octagon bouts was just cruel, though Herbet did come dangerously close to stopping two of them. Nelson seems like a much more manageable task; though a decent striker with good power, “The Monster” is a long-time Featherweight with a tendency to fall apart later in fights.
And that’s not the best skillset to have against a fleet-of-foot kickboxer with the know-how to use his six-inch reach advantage properly.
Nelson will have all kinds of issues getting into the pocket safely, which also limits his ability to get his wrestling going and take advantage of Herbert’s weak ground game. In the end, Herbert puts him down late in the second or early in the third.
Prediction: Herbert via second round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Mandy Bohm vs. Victoria Leonardo
Mandy Bohm (7-5) capped off her perfect (7-0) professional start by stopping Jade Masson-Wong for the TKO Flyweight title and subsequently beating Griet Eeckhout in her Bellator debut. This led to a 2021 UFC debut against Ariane Lipski, who out-struck “The Monster” to hand her her first professional defeat.
She has knocked out and submitted two professional foes apiece.
Victoria Leonardo (8-4) left Invicta FC on a win before pounding out the favored Chelsea Hackett to secure a UFC contract on the Contender Series. She’s still looking for her first Octagon victory, having suffered stoppage losses to Manon Fiorot and Melissa Gatto.
She faces a two-inch height disadvantage and a seven-inch reach disadvantage.
If losses can age well, Leonardo’s fit the bill. Miranda Maverick and Erin Blanchfield account for her other two defeats, meaning she’s only fallen short against high-level opponents. I’m not convinced Bohm fits that description; though decently mobile, she couldn’t keep the shorter Lipski off of her or exploit her historically weak takedown defense.
This looks to be the fight where Leonardo’s wrestling can come into play for the first time since the win over Hackett. So long as she stays on the front foot and doesn’t let Bohm rack up free strikes, she grinds out her first UFC victory.
Prediction: Leonardo via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Claudio Silva vs. Nicolas Dalby
It took him more than five years, but Claudio Silva (14-3) worked his way to an undefeated (5-0) UFC start that featured a split decision over Leon Edwards. He now finds himself winless since 2019 thanks to consecutive decision losses to James Krause and Court McGee.
He’s submitted 10 professional opponents and knocked out one other.
Three years after leaving UFC’s roster, Nicolas Dalby (19-4) came up big in his return by out-dueling Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. A 1-1 (1 NC) run followed, which most recently saw him lose a decision to Tim Means in June 2021.
He boasts a 3.5-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter man.
Dalby’s skill and heart are never to be questioned, but the man can’t start fast to save his life. He had one stretch in the Octagon where he got dropped in three consecutive first rounds, and his takedown defense likewise needs five or so minutes to get warmed up. Not a great problem to have against “Hannibal.” Old, one-dimensional, and figured-out though the Brazilian may be, he’s still damn good on the mat.
This match up just gives me the same vibes as Dalby’s run-in with Jesse Ronson, the sense that Dalby’s going to get caught cold before his myriad advantages can come into play. Sometimes you’ve gotta go with your gut.
Prediction: Silva via first round submission
155 lbs.: Ludovit Klein vs. Mason Jones
Ludovit Klein (18-4) destroyed Shane Young in his UFC debut to extend his win streak to eight, only to fall to Mike Trizano and Nate Landwehr in quick succession. A move to Lightweight appeared to be just what the doctor ordered, as he fought his way to a split decision over Devonte Smith.
His 16 professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Unbowed by a “Fight of the Night” debut loss to Mike Davis, Mason Jones (11-1) took Alan Patrick apart before settling for a no contest due to an eye poke. There was no such controversy in his third UFC bout, a three-round slugfest with David Onama that saw Jones emerge victorious via decision.
He steps in for Ignacio Bahamondes, who was slated to face Klein at UFC 277 before running into visa issues, on just over a week’s notice.
For my money, Klein had a very real chance of upsetting Bahamondes, who operates at “Mr. Highlight’s” preferred distance and isn’t the most difficult man to hit. Jones isn’t exactly a defensive wizard himself, but his relentless forward advance and judo prowess present issues that Klein has struggled with in the past. Even if you, like me, believe that Klein deserved the decision against Trizano, the Landwehr fight showed a serious inability to deal with pressure.
Klein doesn’t deserve to be the +275 underdog some bookies have him as; he’s a superior overall striker to Jones and will absolutely put him to sleep if he can land one of his patented head kicks. It just seems more likely that Jones doggedly pursues him until the gas tank starts to give out, then pours on combination punches and takedowns to seal the deal.
Prediction: Jones via unanimous decision
Four more UFC London “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the latest from 21-year-old sensation Muhammad Mokaev. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC London fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.
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