Wednesday, August 17, 2022

UFC London fight card: Paddy Pimblett, Paul Craig among undercard fighters to watch in England

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UFC London is expected to be a raucous event. The event in March at the O2 Arena enticed the promotion to return on July 23 with a significant heavyweight fight pitting Curtis Blaydes against Tom Aspinall.

Individual performers stand out more than paired matchups at UFC London. Names like Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, Jai Herbert and Nathanial Wood jump off the page more than opponents Jordan Leavitt, Hannah Goldy, Kyle Nelson and Charles Rosa. Part of that is likely a consequence of roster availability. Part of that is also by design: the London faithful are there to buoy their English fighters against any opposition. Expect an electric atmosphere on Saturday.

Take a look below at three fights worth watching before Aspinall and Blaydes make their walks to the cage.

Paddy Pimblett vs. Jordan Leavitt

Pimblett has established himself as one of UFC’s most reliable talkers in just two Octagon appearances. The beauty of Pimblett’s brand is how he deeply divides fans. Some love his brash personality and others despise it. His supporters will point to two first-round finishes in the UFC while his critics will argue that he nearly lost each of those fights to sub-optimal competition. It does not matter how you feel about “Paddy the Baddy,” only that you care. Leavitt is not the biggest b-side in the sport, but he is certainly Pimblett’s toughest UFC test. Leavitt can usurp some of Pimblett’s star power with an impressive win. Pimblett can continue to boost his profile and further legitimize himself with a victory on Saturday.

Jack Hermansson vs. Chris Curtis

Jack Hermansson vs. Darren Till was originally scheduled for UFC London before Till stepped down with an undisclosed injury. Swapping out TIll for Curtis is a reasonable call. Both have infectious personalities and while Till would have received a hero’s welcome in London, Curtis has much more momentum and is ready to make a step up. Hermansson had plenty of knockouts early in his career but emerged as a beastly submission specialist up the middleweight ladder. He tapped out Kelvin Gastelum, David Branch and Gerald Meerschaert. He also got the better of jiu-jitsu legend Ronaldo Souza by decision. Curtis is a crisp striker who remains a threat at all times. His defensive wrestling held up against one-dimensional jiu-jitsu ace Rodoflo Vieira and stoppage wins over Brendan Allen and Phil Hawes prove that he is a serious threat.

Paul Craig vs. Volkan Oezdemir

Craign and Oezdemir are uncomfortable bets to wager on and that is what makes this light heavyweight scrap so much fun. Craig is on the best run of his UFC career with four stoppage wins and a draw against “Shogun” Rua, which he avenged. Oezdemir is coming off consecutive losses, but they were to highly-touted contender Magomed Ankalaev and new champion Jiri Prochazka. Craig is as dangerous of a submission threat as you will find at 205 with an 82% finishing rate via submission. Add to that only one of his 21 pro fights has gone the distance. Oezdemir has gun powder in his knuckles and can put away fighters like Ilir Latifi, Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov. The chances of his bout going three full rounds is slim-to-none.

Honorable mentions: Molly McCann vs. Hannah Goldy, Jai Herbert vs. Kyle Nelson

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