UFC Fight Night 208 takes place tomorrow in London, England and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall
Though he’s yet to fight for the heavyweight title, the No.4 ranked Blaydes continues to be a prominent force in the division with six wins from his last seven fights, and now he goes up against a rising UK star in Aspinall, who has emerged victorious in all five of his UFC fights to date.
A well-rounded fighter by heavyweight standards, Blaydes has solid boxing ability, though his strongest suit is his very good wrestling, which is complemented by vicious ground-and-pound.
Blaydes push for a title shot has been thwarted a few times now thanks to two of heavyweight’s heavy-handed strikers in Francis Ngannou (twice) and most recently Derrick Lewis. Those represent the only three defeats on Blaydes 20 fight resume, but it has exposed a flaw in his game as he can have issues safely closing the distance at times to land punches or set up his takedowns attempts.
At 29, Aspinall is a relatively young heavyweight and likes Blaydes he has a good all-round skillset. I believe he’s the better of the two on the feet, with faster, crisper boxing ability and while he’s not as hard a one-hit puncher as the likes of Ngannou and Lewis, it doesn’t take long for his combination work to take effect.
Aspinall also appears to have good fight IQ and is able to relatively smoothly transition from striking to takedown attempts, while he also has a good submission game too.
Blaydes has the wrestling advantage here though and we’ve still to see Aspinall really tested fully in terms of his takedown defense, so that’s a big factor to consider here.
There’s a lot to like about how Aspinall has performed in the UFC so far though and I feel he can get the better of the exchanges on the feet and will trouble Blaydes with counters as he gets into range for his all-important takedowns, which will eventually lead him to a second round TKO stoppage victory.
Pick: Tom Aspinall wins by TKO in Rd2.
Chris Curtis vs. Jack Hermansson
Curtis has got off to a great start in the UFC with three wins since joining nine months ago and now comes in as a short notice replacement for Darren Till to fight Hermansson, who has been alternating between wins and losses for his last six fights.
Curtis maybe relatively new to the UFC, but he’s a very experienced campaigner on the regional circuit with over 40 fights in his career to date, and during that time he’s developed a solid skill-set with robust striking, good defensive wrestling to keep the fight upright and dependable cardio.
Hermansson is a fairly solid striker in his own right with a rangey style that will benefit from 3″ in height and 2.5″ in reach over Curtis. That being said, his stand-up game has lacked bite recently and there are slight question marks over his durability, which will be a concern against Curtis.
Hermansson is a very good grappler though and has sharp finishing instincts on the mat whether by nasty ground-and-pound or his good submission ability, but getting the fight to the mat in the first place presents more of a problem.
Despite his patchy form it’s worth remembering that Hermansson’s losses were against high-ranking opponents, and that together with his ground game does make me wary of picking against him. Nevertheless, I think Curtis has a real chance to stuff his early attempts to get the fight there and in a stand-up battle I’ll take Curtis to deliver a higher work-rate and the more damaging strikes to secure a decision win.
Pick: Chris Curtis wins by decision.
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jordan Leavitt
Pimblett is a big fan favorite in the UK and is looking for third UFC win when he goes up against Leavitt, who has gone 3-1 since joining the promotion.
A larger-than-life character, Pimblett has quickly made a name for himself in the UFC, and he’s not just all talk as he is an exciting fighter who had an impressive finishing record both on the feet and on the mat during his long run in the Cage Warriors promotion, and he’s continued to deliver in the Octagon so far with a knockout and submission win already under his belt.
That being said, though he’s not had to make it out of the first round in his two UFC fights so far, there’s already been worrying moments for Pimblett as his stand-up ability is not polished and his chin is there to be hit. As such, he was visibly rocked in both of those bouts, though he did show good powers of recovery and quickly regained the upper-hand to emerge victorious.
Still, it does leave major concerns about how he’ll fare against higher-level strikers, though that’s not a question that’s likely to be answered this time out as Leavitt isn’t known for his stand-up prowess and instead has somewhat of an awkward striking style and little in the way of power.
However, Leavitt is a crafty submission specialist who even managed to lock up a Peruvian necktie in his first ever fight and has gone on to find finishes with everything from an inverted triangle choke to an anaconda choke since.
Pimblett is at his best on the mat too though and I think he will prove to the better, stronger fighter there if it comes to it, though it’s most likely that he’ll instead look to press home his advantage on the feet, resulting in a second round TKO finish.
Pick: Paddy Pimblett wins by TKO in Rd2.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Nikita Krylov
After losing his debut fight at heavyweight, Gustafsson spent two years on the sidelines and now returns to light-heavyweight to fight Krylov, who has lost his last two fights.
A multiple-time title challenger at 205lbs, Gustafsson was once a formidable force, but in recent years there’s been plenty of signs that his heart might not be in the sport like it once was, with long layoffs, lackluster performances and talk of retiring.
It’s unfortunate as when he’s at his best Gustafsson is a talented striker with crisp technique and good footwork who is capable of dictating range well and delivers solid combinations, in addition to being a capable wrestler too.
Krylov has been a loose cannon at times in his career due to his eagerness to find a finish, whether on the feet or the mat, but to be fair to him it has often worked out for him with a total of 26 career finishes from 27 career wins.
Nevertheless, his works isn’t the most refined and there are defensive lapses that can be exploited, particularly via submission, where six of his seven career losses stem from.
The version of Gustafsson who delivered a fifth round KO of future champion Glover Teixeira would almost certainly beat Krylov, but it’s worth remembering that was five years ago and the now 35-year-old just hasn’t looked the same since.
At 30-year-old there’s more hunger and desire left in Krylov and he will put it all on the line with a high pace on the feet and the mat, which I think will help him gain the upper-hand against a jaded Gustafsson, though he may well have to settle for a decision victory.
Pick: Nikita Krylov wins by decision.
Molly McCann vs. Hannah Goldy
Like her friend and teammate Pimblett, McCann is another fan favorite who thrives with the crowd roaring her on and will be looking for her third win in a row against Goldy, who has gone 1-2 so far in the promotion.
A tough, gritty and durable boxer, McCann likes to pressure her opponents, closing the distance and throwing hard punches on the inside. She also has a fairly solid wrestling game that she’ll implement at times, though it can lead her into trouble when she’s going up against more technically skilled grapplers.
Goldy did notch up a nice submission last time out, but for the most part she’s a striker who will look to utilize her high-volume striking game on the outside while making good use of her kicks.
I think McCann will do a good job of stopping Goldy from having the kind of space she likes to strike effectively though, and with her notable power advantage and wrestling ability to fall back on if required I think she’ll battle her way to a decision win.
Pick: Molly McCann twins by decision.
Paul Craig vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Craig comes into this fight with an impressive six-fight unbeaten run in the promotion, while Oezdemir has last four of his last six bouts since fighting for the 205lb title.
Craig deserves tremendous credit for what he’s managed to do in the UFC with a very specialized skill-set. Every fighter he goes up against knows that his triangle choke is a finely-honed, absolutely lethal weapon that he’ll lock up in the blink of an eye, yet somehow he continues to be able to pull it off, with a remarkably eight career finishes from that one move, and it’s even helped set up other stoppage wins too.
The rest of his skills aren’t much to write home about though. He does like to throw various kicks on the feet, but he lacks athleticism and so there’s not a great deal of speed or power in those attacks, while he also doesn’t have much of a wrestling game and so he has to rely on being taken down, setting traps or forcing scrambles to get the fight on the mat.
Meanwhile, Oezdemir is a former kickboxer who will be eager to keep the fight standing and will attack both with good technique and finishing power, particularly in his punches.
Oezdemir has been tapped out a couple of times in his career though, once in the UFC and once in Bellator, and he’s not been as potent a threat on the feet in recent years since that fast start he made in his initial title push back in 2017.
Craig has defied expectations so many times, but while it’s fun to watch it does feel like it’s a spectacle that can only keep going for so long and I think if Oezdemir stays disciplined and avoids going to the mat all all costs then he will beat Craig up on the feet and secure a second round TKO win.
Pick: Volkan Oezdemir wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Marc Diakiese vs. Damir Hadzovic
Nathaniel Wood vs. Charles Rosa
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Charles Johnson
Makwan Amirkhani vs. Jonathan Pearce
Jai Herbert vs. Kyle Nelson
Mandy Bohm vs. Victoria Leonardo
Claudio Henrique Da Silva vs. Nicolas Dalby