Saturday, August 13, 2022

UFC Fight Night predictions — Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall: Fight card, odds, start time, stream, London

For two years, Tom Aspinall has been making light work of the UFC’s heavyweight division. On Saturday, Aspinall will be looking for the biggest win of his career when he faces Curtis Blaydes in the main event of UFC London in front of Aspinall’s home crowd.

Aspinall made his Octagon debut in July 2020, taking just 45 seconds to beat Jake Collier. The speed of that debut victory proved to be a sign of things to come for the Brit. Now with a 5-0 UFC record, Aspinall’s fights have lasted a combined 14:44, less than the full length of a standard UFC fight.

This past March, Aspinall took a big step up the heavyweight ladder when he faced longtime contender Alexander Volkov. It took just 3:45 for Aspinall to lock up an armbar and secure his second submission win in the promotion.

In Blaydes, Aspinall faces a man who has established himself as a threat to the top end of the division, even if he’s been unable to take that final step against the elite of the elite.

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Blaydes has an 11-3 record in the UFC. He started his UFC campaign with a second-round TKO loss to Francis Ngannou in April 2016. After a five-fight win streak, capped off with wins over Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem, Blaydes was again stopped by Ngannou, this time in just 45 seconds in their November 2018 rematch.

That cycle repeated itself again, nearly note for note, with Blaydes ripping off another four wins before again hitting an elite roadblock, this time in the form of multi-time world title challenger Derrick Lewis, who knocked Blaydes out in the second round in February 2021.

In a heavyweight division struggling for fresh contenders, even in the injury and contract-driven absence of current champion Ngannou, the winner of the bout between Aspinall and Blaydes inches closer to their first shot at the world title, though it may be easier to make the case for a fresh challenge in Aspinall than a third fight between Blaydes and Ngannou.

UFC London card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

Tom Aspinall -140

Curtis Blaydes +120

Heavyweight

Chris Curtis -115

Jack Hermansson -105

Middleweight

Paddy Pimblett -260

Jordan Leavitt +210

Lightweight

Nikita Krylov -200

Alexander Gustafsson +170 

Light heavyweight

Molly McCann -410

Hannah Goldy +320

Women’s flyweight

Volkan Oezdemir -155

Paul Craig +130

Light heavyweight

Prediction

Grappling could be the key to this fight. Aspinall has the edge in striking. While Blaydes has improved on the feet, Aspinall’s hands are simply quicker and his boxing skills are more refined. While Aspinall has solid wrestling, Blaydes is a bit better than him in that department. And, knowing he is likely at a disadvantage in the striking game, Blaydes will likely look to challenge Aspinall with that strong wrestling game.

Should Blaydes be able to get the takedown, or even force Aspinall into prolonged clinch battles, we’re going to learn a lot about Aspinall’s cardio. Blaydes has five decision wins in his career while Aspinall has never even seen the third round of a fight. Blaydes understands how to go the distance, even in a five-round fight such as this. Whether Aspinall can do the same is a big question hanging over this fight and one that will become even more interesting if Blaydes can force prolonged stretches of pressure.

Also, if Blaydes can take Aspinall down, questions will be answered about Aspinall’s grappling skills. He’s a solid offensive grappler who has been very slick at times. But he has not been forced to fight from underneath someone with a top game as good as Blaydes.

What makes this such a good fight is that it provides Aspinall with a chance to answer these big questions. Does he have the cardio to go five hard rounds? Can he handle the wrestling and top game of someone like Blaydes? Will he even need to?

This is a very tough fight to predict because so many qualities are unknown. Aspinall will likely have success early, especially if Blaydes tries to work primarily on the feet. No one but Lewis has been able to actually shut Blaydes’ lights out so a clean knockout seems unlikely for Aspinall. But the more Blaydes is forced into looking to wrestling first, the more he may be able to tilt the fight in his direction. It feels like a razor-thin decision that could go either way is in the cards, but a mild upset is possible. Pick: Curtis Blaydes via SD

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