Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes looks to (finally) make his long-overdue breakthrough in hostile territory tomorrow (Sat., July 23, 2022) when he meets surging finisher Tom Aspinall at London’s O2 Arena.
Also in store is a middleweight battle pitting longtime division staple Jack Hermansson against out-of-nowhere contender Chris Curtis, who steps in for the injured Darren Till on less than three weeks’ notice for his second fight in under a month.
Our usual main card guy got pan-fried by the latest heat wave, so this solemn duty falls to me once again. As always, you can check out our UFC London “Prelims” analysis here and here, our odds breakdown here, along with Andrew Richardson’s professional dissection of the other main card bouts here.
Let’s get crackin’.
265 lbs.: Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall
Curtis “Razor” Blaydes
Record: 16-3 (1 NC) | Age: 31 | Betting line: +110
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’4” | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.52 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.68 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 6.06 (53% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 33%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Chris Daukaus
Record: 12-2 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -130
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 0 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’5” | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.33 | Striking accuracy: 65%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.65 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 4.07 (100% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Submission win over Alexander Volkov
An idiom that my Bad Left Hook colleague Scott Christ is fond of states that just because someone hasn’t proven they can compete at a certain level, it doesn’t mean they can’t. It’s unquestionable that Blaydes has a stronger track record than Aspinall; the latter’s biggest win to date came against Alexander Volkov, whom Blaydes also beat (in admittedly less-dominant fashion), and the second-biggest came against Andrei Arlovski.
Aspinall’s just looked so good in the process that he enters Saturday’s bout as a favorite. I’ll readily admit that his skills, from his boxing to his takedowns to his submissions, are all top-shelf among heavyweights.
But man, there’s just a whole lot working against him here.
This is the first time in Aspinall’s UFC career that he’s been at a disadvantage in the wrestling, and as sharp as he is on the mat, I’m not convinced his bottom game is enough of a deterrent to make Blaydes hesitant to shoot. Though he’s still got the technical boxing edge despite Blaydes’ obvious improvements, those takedowns are a big equalizer.
Plus, even if Aspinall’s athleticism and takedown defense hold up early, he’s never gone past two rounds. Again, just because he hasn’t doesn’t mean he can’t, but Blaydes has the experience to know how to pace himself for the full 25 minutes.
That’s all moot if Aspinall can land a quick finish, of course, and that’s plenty feasible. Thing is, it’s incredibly difficult to put Blaydes away. It took running full-tilt into a Derrick Lewis uppercut to put him to sleep, a feat Francis Ngannou couldn’t manage in two attempts. He absorbed two of the nastiest strikes the division had to offer, Mark Hunt’s overhand right and Alistair Overeem’s knee, and went on to win those fights.
Not saying Aspinall can’t, just that it’s an edge case.
For my money, Blaydes is just too seasoned and too well-equipped to take Aspinall’s best weapons off the table. He puts the fading Brit away with accumulated ground-and-pound either just before or in the early portions of the championship rounds.
Prediction: Blaydes def. Aspinall via third-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Chris Curtis
Jack “The Joker” Hermansson
Record: 22-7 | Age: 34 | Betting line: -115
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’1” | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.97 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.83 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 1.73 (30% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 75%
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Split decision loss to Sean Strickland
Chris “The Action Man” Curtis
Record: 29-8 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -105
Wins: 16 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 12 DEC | Losses: 1 KO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 5’10” | Reach: 75” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.23 | Striking accuracy: 65%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 6.28 | Striking Defense: 48%
Takedown Average: 0 (0% Accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Rodolfo Vieira
Chris Curtis is an easy man to underestimate. A journeyman-looking record, a long stretch of fighting at 170 pounds, and a brutal knockout loss to Ray Cooper III in PFL combined to make his UFC middleweight run look like a pipedream. All signs pointed to him getting manhandled by bigger, stronger fighters before either dropping back down or washing out of the organization entirely.
Well, he’s beaten three consecutive bigger, stronger fighters and looked damn good in the process.
Admittedly Hermansson is a much different beast than the likes of Brendan Allen and Rodolfo Vieira. He’s unquestionably the most potent striker Curtis has faced since the latter’s debut against Phil Hawes and the most seasoned against top-shelf competition. Still, the tools that Curtis has shown thus far look like they’ll work a treat.
Hermansson’s vicious ground-and-pound is neutered by his limited offensive wrestling, which doesn’t figure to be any more potent than what Curtis has already seen and turned aside during his UFC tenure. That leaves his standup, which struggled to get any purchase against Sean Strickland’s basic kickboxing. Curtis, who has Strickland in his corner, offers an even greater punch output and should have plenty of opportunities to sneak in his signature body shots between “The Joker’s” big swings.
Plus, going by the level of punishment Curtis absorbed against Hawes before turning things around, he’s also got the edge in durability.
Hermansson’s gas tank is too deep for him to fade the way other Curtis victims have, but “The Action Man’s” airtight takedown defense and slick boxing are enough for him to keep it on the feet and dominate. He outworks Hermansson to a decision victory.
Prediction: Curtis def. Hermansson via unanimous decision
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC London: “Aspinall vs. Blaydes” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.