Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contender, Tom Aspinall, makes his long-awaited return to the ring in friendly territory this Saturday (July 22, 2023), headlining the promotion’s return to O2 Arena in London, England, opposite Marcin Tybura. Also on tap is Molly McCann vs. Julija Stoliarenko, as well as a battle of submission artists pitting Andre Muniz against Paul Craig.
We’ve still got four UFC London “Prelims” undercard bouts to examine (check out the first batch here), so let’s get on that ...
135 lbs.: Davey Grant vs. Daniel Marcos
The three-fight win streak for Davey Grant (15-6) — his longest since 2012 — petered out thanks to back-to-back “Fight of the Night” decision losses to Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez. Undeterred, he returned to his finishing ways by stopping Louis Smolka and Raphael Assuncao, upping his bonus total to five in the process.
His 11 professional finishes are split 7:4 between submissions and knockouts.
Peru’s Daniel Marcos (14-0) battled his way past Brandon Lewis to claim a contract on Contender Series. The win set up an Octagon debut against Saimon Oliveira, whom Marcos overpowered en route to a second round technical knockout.
He stands one inch shorter than Grant at 5’7.”
The power and tenacity are clearly still there for Grant, but he’s had some worrying hiccups of late. He gave away the second round against Smolka and both of the first two against Assuncao. That’s not going to cut it against a young, powerful, aggressive fighter like Marcos; Grant can’t rely on turning things around with one big punch, especially since Marcos carries his power late.
Grant is still much more proven and experienced than Marcos, and “Soncora’s” win over Oliveira is somewhat undercut by Oliveira utilizing the worst gameplan imaginable. At 37 years old, though, I’m not sure Grant has enough left in the tank. In the end, Marcos out-slugs him to a clear victory.
Prediction: Marcos via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Danny Roberts vs. Jonny Parsons
Danny Roberts (18-7) opened his UFC career 5-2, notably winning “Fight of the Night” for his victories over Dominique Steele and David Zawada. He now finds himself 2-4 in his last six, including a knockout loss to Jack Della Maddalena in Nov. 2022.
“Hot Chocolate” will enjoy four inches of height and five inches of reach on Parsons.
Jonny Parsons (8-3) rode a four-fight win streak into Contender Series, where he entered as a sizeable underdog against Solomon Renfro. He nearly succumbed to an early flurry from “The Black Dragon,” but battled back to win the last two rounds and claim a split decision win.
“The Sluggernaut” fights for the first time in 21 months, as a planned Feb. 2022 debut against Micheal Gillmore fell through.
I do not rate Parsons highly. Though he boasts decent Muay Thai, his win over Renfro was less due to Parsons’ abilities and more due to Renfro’s inability to maintain his output. At the same time, Roberts would be 1-5 in the last five years had the judges scored his fight with Ramazan Emeev correctly. He’s so fragile that he can’t be trusted even against someone this limited.
It’s more a gut pick than anything, but I’m going with Parsons. While I acknowledge that Parsons is a step below the people who’ve beaten Roberts before, Parsons just seems like the more reliable fighter. In short, a knockdown proves the difference in a competitive striking battle.
Prediction: Parsons via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Marc Diakiese vs. Joel Alvarez
After ruling the roost in BAMMA, Marc Diakiese (16-6) battled his way to a perfect (3-0) UFC start highlighted by a lethal one-punch finish of Teemu Packalen. He’s since dropped six of 10, among them a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson last time out.
“Bone Crusher” stands five inches shorter than Joel Alvarez (19-3) and faces a four-inch reach disadvantage.
“El Fenomeno” put an unsuccessful UFC debut behind him to win four straight, including upset finishes of Joe Duffy and Thiago Moises. His efforts earned him a fight with Arman Tsarukyan, who battered Alvarez to hand him his first stoppage defeat since 2015.
This marks his first bout in nearly 17 months.
While he made his name as a knockout artist, Diakiese has always been willing to wrestle; in fact, it’s what carried him past Frankie Perez in his second UFC bout. That said, he seems to have lost all confidence in his standup, which is bad news here. We saw against Damir Ismagulov and Tsarukyan that Alvarez is far from invincible off of his back, but he’s more than good enough to punish the sloppy shots Diakiese has become increasingly reliant on.
If he fought perfectly, “Bone Crusher” could theoretically tear up Alvarez’s legs and potshot his way to victory. As is, he’s too prone to the poor decision-making that Alvarez thrives on punishing. When the dust settles, “El Fenomeno” finds his neck inside of five minutes.
Prediction: Alvarez via first round submission
265 lbs.: Mick Parkin vs. Jamal Pogues
Mick Parkin (6-0) went 7-0-1 as an amateur before turning professional in 2019. He quickly won his first five professional bouts to earn a spot on Contender Series, where he choked out Eduardo Neves to secure a UFC contract.
All of his professional wins have come inside of two rounds, five of them by knockout.
Three years after cruising past Marcos Brigagao in his first Contender Series appearance, Jamal Pogues (10-3) returned to the program as a Heavyweight to beat Paul Renato Jr. He made his UFC debut six months later, powering through injury to win a unanimous decision over Josh Parisian.
He gives up one inch of height and two inches of reach to Parkin.
I really, really like this matchup. You don’t get a lot of genuinely skilled Heavyweights under 30, so seeing two of them square off is a treat.
While it’s close to a mirror match, I’ve got Pogues by a hair. His hands look a bit sharper and a damn sight faster than Parkin’s, and though he’s still carrying a lot of excess weight, his UFC debut was a marked improvement from his second Contender Series bout. Parkin’s boasts better top control, but Pogues is quite adept at getting back to his feet and showed off some wrestling skills of his own against Parisian. Plus, he’s a lot more seasoned than Parkin in terms of opponent quality and experience in deep waters. I say he takes over down the stretch for a competitive decision.
Prediction: Pogues via unanimous decision
UFC London’s main- and co-main events are a bit iffy, but there’s some nicely competitive matchmaking throughout. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current Prediction Record for 2023: 98-61-1 (2 NC)
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 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.