Pre-fight Analysis

UFC London: Aspinall vs Tybura Preview

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The UFC makes a return to London this weekend with a heavyweight showdown. The promotion has made a recent resurgence with UK events in the last few years with their last number of cards in the UK being among the most well-received of recent times. The UFC will be hoping to continue this string of good cards with a spectacular event this weekend.

This card in particular has drawn some criticism for perhaps not being as stacked as previous trips to the UK yet when analyzing the fighters that are present it has all the potential to well and truly deliver. 

Main Event — Tom Aspinall vs Marcin Tybura

This time last year, Tom Aspinall was amongst the most talked about prospects in the sport and definitely considered to be the next big thing at Heavyweight, perhaps even more highly rated than the Russian bruiser Sergei Pavlovich. Aspinall had been undefeated in the UFC leading up to July 2022 and had utterly dismantled Alexander Volkov inside a round before taking on Curtis Blaydes in London. The fight was considered a title eliminator by many but unfortunately would have a very unsatisfying conclusion.

Aspinall would tear his knee in the first 15 seconds of the contest which would ultimately result in a stoppage. A torn MCL, stretched ACL and a torn meniscus has ruled Aspinall out for a year now and fans are desperate to see if he will still possess the same skills and abilities from before the injury. A genuine prospect at heavyweight who was on the brink of becoming a top contender, if Aspinall picks up a win over Tybura and looks as good or even better than he did before, it would not be unreasonable to consider him a candidate for a title shot. At worst, he shouldn’t hang his head about settling for a title eliminator against Sergei Pavlovich.

Tybura, his opponent, will be looking to climb towards the top of the rankings himself. Only losing once since 2020, Tybura is the proud owner of a 7-1 record during this time and has managed to crack the heavyweight top-10 due to this impressive run of form. A loss against Alexander Volkov set him back slightly however he has picked up two wins since against similarly ranked fighters to himself, earning him a chance at taking on a higher ranked competitor.

A comprehensive win over a fighter like Aspinall, who is currently ranked fifth in the division even despite his year layoff, (and was at one point on the cusp of a title opportunity) would almost immediately place Tybura in contention and may even get him a title eliminator. This is undoubtedly the biggest fight of Tybura’s career and a win can allow him to ascend to the top of the Heavyweight division, truly asserting himself as an elite fighter in the weight class.  

Co-Main Event – Molly McCann vs Julija Stoliarenko 

Molly McCann always delivers a show at the O2 Arena. She fought twice in London last year and picked up two performance of the night bonuses, with her fight against Luana Carolina being particularly memorable due to the spinning back elbow finish. McCann was transformed from a 4-3 solid strawweight looking to crack into the top-15 into one of the most recognizable women in the sport who was now riding a three-fight win streak after a contender for knockout of the year. The UFC knew they had a potential star on their hands and provided a step up in competition for McCann in November 2022 against Erin Blanchfield. Unfortunately, McCann would be utterly dominated by Blanchfield being outclassed on the feet before submitted in the first round. McCann will be looking to get back to winning ways and reclaim some of the hype that was lost after the fight against Blanchfield. 

Her opponent, Julija Stoliarenko, has had a turbulent career in the UFC so far, joining the promotion with high hopes after being crowned the Invicta FC Bantamweight champion, Stoliarenko would lose her first three fights in the organization. She would then pick up a win over Jessica-Rose Clark via submission before once again being defeated in her most recent contest by Chelsea Chandler.

This fight against McCann represents a massive chance for Stoliarenko to increase her profile and start building some momentum. It also represents a test for McCann, as if she is serious about becoming a ranked fighter in the Strawweight division than it is vital that she picks up victories over fighters such as Stoliarenko. 

Main Card

Wood vs. Fili

Nathaniel Wood has impressed so far during his time in the UFC, the British fighter joined the organization back in 2018 and has developed a solid record of 6-2 with the promotion during this time. Wood has showed his skill on the ground so far during his time in the organization and is one of a small select number of fighters who has held a 3 fight win streak with each finish coming by way of submission. Currently on a two fight win streak with victories over the likes of Charles Jourdain and Charles Rosa, Wood is undefeated in his time at 145 lbs after coming up from the Bantamweight division where he had spent most of his career. This upcoming fight against Andrei Fili will be an excellent test of his skills at Featherweight and a good performance will give some idea as to how we can expect Wood to preform against the best 145 pounders in the division. A three-fight win streak over names such as Jourdain, Rosa and Fili may well be enough to get him a ranked opponent for his next fight. 

Andre Fili is now in his 10 year in the UFC and has established himself as a key gatekeeper to the rankings at 145 lbs. Fili has gone 10-8 with one no contest during this time. This may not seem like the most impressive record yet when examining his losses it is clear that he has only fought the best of the best. Losses to Max Holloway, Bryce Mitchell, Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez to name a few highlight the elite competition Fili has fought and it is clear that he only loses to fighters that have what it takes to be in the top 15. If Wood manages to defeat Fili then it is a massive statement at 145 pounds and certainly gives him a case for a place inside the top-15 ranking. 

Craig vs. Muniz

Paul Craig is set to make his debut in the middleweight division this weekend with a move down from Light Heavyweight. Craig had a mostly successful career at 205 pounds but had long discussed the possibility of moving down to middleweight. After losing two on the bounce, Craig affirmed his intention to drop down to 185 pounds stating that that he was looking for new opportunities in a new division. Despite losing his last two at 205, Craig holds submission victories over both former champion Jamahal Hill as well as Title contender and highly rated Magomed Ankalaev. A win over Andre Muniz at Middleweight will see him immediately enter the rankings and his slick submission skills make him a threat for anyone in that division. A quick winning streak could see him elevate himself into the title picture sooner rather than later. 

Andre Muniz will be looking to get back to winning ways after a nine-fight winning streak was snapped by Brendan Allen. 5-0 in the UFC Muniz cracked the top-15 before losing by submission to Brendan Allen earlier this year. A win over Craig would immediately put him on the right track once again and would add an impressive name to his record.

Herbert vs. Ziam

Jai Herbert is a former Cage Warriors Lightweight champion yet has had a mixed career in the UFC since signing. Going 2-3 during his career so far with the company and 1 draw, Herbert has admittedly fought some heavy competition such as Ilia Topuria, Renato Moicano as well as Francisco Trinaldo. A win and a draw in his last two fights have stabilized him a little and he will be looking to avoid picking up a fourth loss. Known for his ability to knock his opponent out from anywhere Herbert will be looking for the highlight reel stoppage on Saturday.

His opponent, Fares Ziam, is in a somewhat similar situation to Herbert going 3-2 with the competition and will be looking to establish himself as a name to watch at lightweight.

Murphy vs. Culibao

Lerone Murphy has established himself as one of the most promising fighters to come out of the UK in recent years. Murphy is undefeated in his MMA career and after drawing his first UFC bout back in 2019 has gone on an impressive four-fight win streak. Most recently he picked up a split decision win over fellow highly rated prospect Gabriel Santos. Murphy is an excellent striker and has picked up some devastating finishes during his time in the UFC so far such as his knee KO over Makwan Amirkhani. He will be hoping to add to this highlight reel on Saturday night as well as extend his winning streak to five in a row, which would surely put him in a fight against a ranked opponent in the not so distant future. 

His opponent Josh Culibao is a serious prospect in his own right, Culibao is undefeated at Featherweight after being defeated by Jalin Turner at Lightweight back in 2020. A draw and three wins since then show that Culibao is more than capable of racking up some wins at 145 lbs and should be considered a serious fighter in the division. A win over Lerone Murphy would be among the most high profile of his career and would bump him noticeably closer to a spot in the rankings. Riding a three fight win streak Culibao will be seeking to disrupt the homecoming of Lerone Murphy and take the young Brits 0. 

Prelim Fight to Watch — Bannon vs. Brasil

This weekend will see the UFC debut of former Invicta fighter Shauna Bannon. Bannon is an accomplished kickboxer who has managed to amass an impressive MMA record of 5-0. Bannon is a technical striker who will be hoping to make big moves in the strawweight division. Hailing from Tallaght, Ireland, Bannon is set to become the first women’s Irish fighter in the promotion since Aishling Daly made her final octagon appearance back in 2015.

She will be making her debut against Bruna Brasil who is another highly rated striker prospect at women’s strawweight. Brasil would make a statement with her appearance on Dana White’s contender series where she would land a devastating head kick to pick up the knockout victory. Unfortunately, she would be defeated in her first bout with the promotion by Denise Gomes. Looking to get back to winning ways, Brasil will be hoping to replicate her form from the contender series.

This is set to be a great battle on the feet between two very technical strikers and is not one to be missed.

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