The O2 arena in London hosts this week’s UFC event, with prelims beginning at noon ET/9 a.m. PT. The card features 14 bouts in the larger 30-foot octagon.
Last week Lauren Murphy beat the brakes off of Miesha Tate, further proving that once retired, athletes should remain so … especially in MMA. Murphy via decision + 250 hit as did the straight-up + 195 half-unit investment.
Insight the Octagon 2022 profitability: 17-10 + 5.82 units
Tom Aspinall (-140) vs. Curtis Blaydes (+ 115)
Heavyweight (256 pounds) | Main event
These heavyweights are fighting to determine who remains a top-six talent in a division that is only really six men deep in worthy contenders. Jon Jones is included, which means there’s pressure on the loser of this bout. For Blaydes, it means further delay in gaining one more shot at the belt. For Aspinall, any setback should be temporary because he is still very much developing as an elite heavyweight fighter.
Aspinall, the sixth-ranked Englishman, was last seen finishing Alexander Volkov via armbar in the first round of their fight in March in the same arena. I thought Volkov would provide Aspinall a stern test that night, which of course could not have been further from the truth. My release of that bout to see the fourth round was made folly by Aspinall’s athleticism, footwork and speed.
Aspinall, young for a heavyweight at 29, has quickness, speed and athleticism. Under the tutelage of his father, he developed a wrestling base with boxing and a black belt in BJJ.
The Volkov fight was a step up in competition for Aspinall and he passed that test easily. Blaydes is a higher caliber of opponent for Aspinall.
Blaydes is the fourth-ranked heavyweight in the division. He’s been bested only by current champion Francis Ngannou (twice) and Derrick Lewis on a fluky flash KO, partly because of a mental mistake by Blaydes. Blaydes is a mainstay in the top six of this division, savvy, experienced, with world-class wrestling skills and eager to put Aspinall in his place.
Advantages in experience, level of competition faced and physical size are Blaydes’ assets in this fight. Though Blaydes is a touch shorter than Aspinall, he’s a thicker, more deliberate fighter vying against a nimbler opponent who has yet to be tested into the late second round as a professional.
Blaydes’ plan will be to use pressure and patience in order to force Aspinall to work against legitimate heavyweight force for more than 10 minutes. Blaydes’ dynamic pressure wrestling must be employed to force the Brit to defend while simultaneously negating Aspinall’s striking, then deliver this fight into the later rounds, where Aspinall has not been.
Blaydes’ advantage really lies on the canvas, so if he can get Aspinall against the fence, then onto the floor, he has a chance to display dominance. Forcing Aspinall to the mat will neutralize his speed and allow Blaydes to rain ground and pound from top position.
Aspinall will want to try to touch Blaydes early. Blaydes has shown to be a bit chinny and does not have Aspinall’s speed or quickness with his legs or hands. While Blaydes has confidence in his striking, he must minimize engaging with Aspinall early while Aspinall’s at his most dangerous.
Aspinall will want to work his whole game plan from a standing position and coax Blaydes into accommodating him on the feet as I see little way that he can compete with Blaydes on the canvas.
Blaydes must sell his soul to drag Aspinall and this bout into the championship rounds. There, Blaydes’ cardio, size, experience and championship pedigree will be too much for Aspinall, a talented but inexperienced heavyweight.
Blaydes opened -130 for this bout, and the public, which loves newbie heavyweights, and the European market have pushed Aspinall’s price into the favorite position.
That’s exciting, as Blaydes at any dog price is attractive. I’ll be watching this one closely to lock in the absolute best possible plus price on …
Play: Blaydes + 115
Total in this fight: 3.5 rounds Under -175
Paddy Pimblett (-255) vs. Jordan Leavitt (+ 215)
Lightweight (155 pounds)
Pimblett, fighting in his backyard, is almost as popular with the English fan base as Conor McGregor is to the Irish. However, Pimblett has only decent grappling skill and modest striking.
The best compliment I can give to his handlers is that they’re bringing him along with dynamic care and diligence, picking only opponents he has ability over. Pimblett will have to fight someone with ability after this fight, which his team is surely looking past.
Leavitt is a well-rounded fighter with little power but fine precision striking and effective BJJ acumen. Leavitt also knows he’s been targeted as the next win on a most limited character’s trajectory and he has little intention of “playing sucker to a sucker.”
Pimblett has faced some soft opponents, and Leavitt will do his best to boomerang Pimblett’s media popularity into his own MMA career. I’ll be looking hard at this fight as we move into the week understanding that the English will be betting the UK athletes leading up to these bouts, so my attempt to “buck the Brits” must come late when underdog pricing is at its apex.
Total in this fight: 2.5 rounds Under -175
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