The UFC visited London for the second time this year Saturday, treating British fans to the surprisingly deep UFC Fight Night 208 card. But unlike its predecessor, UFC Fight Night 204 in March, Saturday’s card did not exactly blow the roof off the host O2 Arena.
The most disappointing moment of the night occurred in the main event, when No. 4-ranked heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes took on the UK’s Tom Aspinall, the division’s No. 6 contender. It was a fight that could have ended any number of ways. The ending we got was one of the worst possible, as Aspinall was ruled out of the fight with a flukey knee injury just 15 seconds into the first round—seemingly the product of a leg kick gone wrong.
Rising Liverpudlian stars Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann both picked up big wins at the event, stopping Jordan Leavitt by submission and Hannah Goldy by TKO, respectively, but beyond that, the card featured few memorable moments.
Longtime middleweight contender Jack Hermansson picked up a solid victory over the rising Chris Curtis, but it wasn’t exactly a barnburner, and the unranked Curtis took the fight on short notice, so the victory won’t do much to improve Hermansson’s standing in the division.
Light heavyweight contender Nikita Krylov also scored a decent win on the card, knocking out former light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson, but that was more sad to watch than anything, as the Swedish veteran is clearly ready to call it a career.
It wasn’t the best card, but they can’t all be home runs. And at the very least, it did open the door to some nice matchmaking opportunities. Keep scrolling for the fights we’re hoping to see when the dust settles.
Curtis Blaydes didn’t get the win he wanted at UFC Fight Night 208, but it is a win nevertheless.
For his next fight, it’s tempting to suggest a rematch between Blaydes and Aspinall, since their fight in London told us almost nothing about either of them. But Blaydes told reporters post-fight that he isn’t willing to risk his spot in the rankings by fighting Aspinall again. That’s a bit disappointing, but he has always taken a very sensible approach to his career, and it’s hard to fault him for it.
So, with an Aspinall do-over off the table, we’d like to see him fight Ciryl Gane next. Gane, the heavyweight division’s No. 1-ranked contender, is slated to fight Tai Tuivasa on September 3. However, the Frenchman was soundly beaten by heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in his last fight, so even if he wins, he probably won’t be in position for a title shot. And if he loses, that goes without saying.
One way or the other, he’d make a good opponent for Blaydes, not only because they’re both ranked in the Top Five, but because he’s one of the few people in the Top 10 the hardworking American has yet to fight.
It’s a fresh matchup, and depending on the outcome of Gane’s fight with Tuivasa, the winner could be in line for a title shot.
Swedish-born Norwegian Jack Hermansson looked great in London, using his footwork and superior range to frustrate Chris Curtis to a lopsided unanimous decision victory in the co-main event.
As impressive as the win was, however, it’s unlikely to give the No. 8-ranked middleweight much of a boost in his weight class, as Curtis was outside the Top 15 heading into the fight.
Still, Hermansson’s previous work in the division, which includes wins over the likes of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Kelvin Gastelum and Edmen Shahbazyan, should guarantee him a decent name for his next fight.
One appealing option is a fight with England’s Darren Till, whom he was originally supposed to meet in London until an injury opened the door for Curtis to step in. But Hermansson isn’t keen on that option and offered up some nice alternatives instead.
“I’ve fought a lot of guys already inside those rankings, so somebody I haven’t fought.,” he told reporters post-fight. “You’ve got Paulo Costa, Robert Whittaker—two names I haven’t fought.”
Costa, the UFC’s No. 5-ranked middleweight contender, is set to fight the division’s former champ Luke Rockhold at UFC 278 next month. If he wins, which he should, he’d make a great opponent for Hermansson. And if Rockhold pulls off the unlikely upset, he should get enough of a boost that he’d make a solid choice for the Norwegian, too.
Liverpudlian lightweight Paddy Pimblett had a tough first round against Jordan Leavitt on the UFC Fight Night 208 main card but ultimately got the win he sought with a second-round rear-naked choke. It was his third victory in the Octagon after a pair of first-round finishes over Luigi Vendramini and Rodrigo Vargas.
Firmly established as one of the UFC’s fastest-rising stars, the trash-talking Pimblett has options abound for his next fight. Our pick is Bobby Green.
Green, a true veteran of the lightweight division, is riding a first-round TKO loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov student Islam Makhachev, who is now set to fight Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title. But Green took the fight with the Russian juggernaut on short notice, so it’s hard to fault him for his loss. In fact, he deserves a reward for jumping at the chance to challenge such a dangerous foe under such unfavorable circumstances.
A fight with a big name like Pimblett would be just that.
Green also seems like a perfect rival at this point, as he is not afraid to talk a little trash himself and, more importantly, won’t be swayed by Pimblett’s hype in the Octagon.
Shades of Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz in this one. Book it on a pay-per-view main card, and let the two outspoken stars do the rest.
Paddy Pimblett’s close friend and training partner Molly McCann picked up arguably the most impressive win of the entire UFC Fight Night 208 broadcast, stopping Hannah Goldy with a sizzling first-round onslaught in a main-card flyweight fight.
Goldy isn’t exactly a world-beater, but it was McCann’s second highlight-reel finish in a row and her sixth victory in the UFC. The fanfare she received before and after the win also affirmed her status as one of the most popular fighters in her division.
McCann is already 32, with 17 pro fights behind her, so there’s no sense in building her up slowly. If she hopes to parlay her popularity into a title run, now’s the time. That means a fight with a ranked opponent.
Our pick is rising contender Maycee Barber, who—after consecutive losses to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso—has crept into the No. 10 spot in the flyweight rankings with wins over Miranda Maverick, Montana De La Rosa and Jessica Eye.
It’s a bit of a jump for McCann, but let’s not act like Barber is Valentina Shevchenko. It’s a winnable fight for both women, and it’d bring a lot of interest to whatever card it lands on.
European light heavyweight contenders Volkan Oezdemir and Nikita Krylov both picked up decent wins at UFC Fight Night 208. Oezdemir was up first, defeating Scottish grappler Paul Craig, the division’s No. 8 contender, by unanimous decision. Krylov was up next, decimating fading Swedish legend Alexander Gustafsson in a first-round knockout victory that was admittedly a bit hard to watch.
After his win over Gustafsson, Krylov called for a fight with Oezdemir. We don’t need to spend a lot of time on this one because it makes a ton of sense. Krylov was ranked just two spots behind Oezdemir heading into the event, they have never fought each other before, and best of all, they’re now on the exact same fight schedule.
The UFC “is exploring the possibility” of heading to Sweden later this year, according to MMA reporter Nolan King, and could be looking for European stars with which to bolster the card. Look no further.
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