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Staff Predictions: Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall | UFC London

Staff Predictions: Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall | UFC London

Tom Aspinall

Two ranked heavyweight fighters will share the cage in this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 208 main event. The promotion travels to London, England, with 14 fights scheduled for the fight card that takes place this Saturday, July 23.

Blaydes is currently ranked #4 in the heavyweight division after two consecutive victories against Chris Daukaus and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Blaydes has just one defeat in his last seven fights, and that came against Derrick Lewis in February last year.

Blaydes will be defending his spot in the rankings against the fast-rising contender, Tom Aspinall. Aspinall is undefeated after five fights in the UFC and has most recently picked up big wins against Alexander Volkov, Sergey Spivak, and Andrei Arlovski. Aspinall is now ranked #6 in the division and is on a fast track to title contention, especially if he manages a win against Blaydes this weekend.

As always, our team has provided their insights and analysis before this UFC main event bout. Read on for our Blaydes vs. Aspinall predictions, staff picks, as well as the latest betting odds.

Betting Odds

Oddsmakers have this one booked as a tough, competitive fight between these two ranked heavyweights. Blaydes will enter as a slight underdog at odds of +105. Aspinall, on the other hand, will enter as the favorite.

Read on to learn why all of our expert analysts are picking Aspinall to win this weekend.

Staff Picks

Braeden Arbour

Fantastic fight! Aspinall vs. Blaydes is one of those matchups that involve two massive waves of momentum crashing down on one another, Aspinall undefeated in the UFC and Blaydes coming off of huge wins over Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Chris Daukaus. Stylistically, the two men are problematic for the division in very opposing ways. Aspinall is potentially the most well-rounded heavyweight on the roster, with wicked fast hands, footwork like a welterweight, and black belt level jiu-jitsu.

Blaydes, on the other hand, is a wrestler through and through, with vicious ground and pound. While Aspinall is dangerous everywhere, Blaydes has a route to victory, which has been honed to a point where every opponent knows what’s ultimately coming and few have been able to stop it.

Tom Aspinall’s success in the division is largely due to his unique light of foot approach. While the same can be said of a few heavyweights over the history of combat sports, most relevant currently being Cyril Gane – Aspinall moves like he is multiple weight classes lower than he is. He has fluid footwork and this is partially the reason he has been so difficult to takedown. He has consistently been able to circle out and remove his hips from close contact a beat faster than most other heavyweights would expect, and this is a massive advantage against a guy in Curtis Blaydes, who we know is going to be looking for that shot.

Offensively, it’s all about the hand speed for Tom Aspinall, he has a slick 1-2 which he hits from far out with his burst in and out. He tends to back his opponent up by fainting front kicks off both legs, which is especially effective because knees down the middle are always a weapon his opponents and, even more so, Blaydes has to be wary of. One potential issue with Aspinall is he does tend to leave his head on center line once he plants and commits to Ting off on his opponent against the cage, however, because his flurries come in close quarters, and Blaydes likes to utilize straight shots primarily, stuffing that range may take away Blaydes ability to fire back as much as he’d like.

For Blaydes, his primary root is definitely looking to take Aspinall down and rain down elbows from atop. His striking is always improving between fights, as evidenced by his most recent fight ending by KO against Daukaus, however, the arsenal of attacks and their purpose has been relatively unchanged over his evolution. Blaydes has emotionless striking, meaning he never overcommits out of becoming over-aggressive or zealous, his punches are meant to sting and tease his opponent into countering. If they land flush and knock his opponent out that’s great but any heavyweight can knock any other out if they hit the money, and Blaydes has shown he is consistent at looking to dominate and not chase a risky finish.

His long 1-2 combination sets up the takedown, once he lands it a few times, opponents believe they read the straight coming behind the jab and set their feet to counter, at which point the level change comes behind the jab. Once on top Blaydes is very good at mixing up the angles of his elbows, between fully loaded shots that roll over the shoulder and tight short elbows that allow him to remain chest to chest. His mount is almost immovable.

Tom Aspinall has to avoid ending up underneath Curtis Blaydes at all costs, not only because this is where he is obviously in the most danger, but because he should have the advantage in pretty much any other area. Blaydes has a sharp basic boxing style, but he tends to come in on a straight line utilizing his reach and setting up for direct takedowns. Aspinall has shown how to use angles to cut out his opponent’s options for counters, and the speed to get in and out before they can land anything.

He does, however, have to pick the risks he wants to take, if he skirts the cage then it’s ultimately behind him should Blaydes shoot. It’s not ideal to be between Blaydes and the fence, but it’s far more advantageous than being underneath him in the middle of the octagon where he cannot stay partially erect and try to wall walk. If he pushes Blaydes forward, that’s the risk he runs but leading the striking exchanges won’t allow Blaydes to establish his setups on his own terms. Blaydes typically doesn’t want to counter, he wants to lead with his jab and establish his traps.

Ultimately what I believe Aspinall should do and will likely do is take the center cage more often. I think he may be a bit more reserved than we’ve seen him, but I think with his hand speed, he can get off first and look to draw out the reactive takedown of Blaydes. If Blaydes looks to level change under Aspinall’s strikes rather than set them up first with his own, then Aspinall will be able to set Blaydes up for a knee or uppercut down the middle while Blaydes tries to drive through with the takedown. No one can say whether this can materialize in the finish, but in general, I think that throughout the fight, Aspinall can stay elusive and make Blaydes pay for when he gets too predictable.

Pick: Tom Aspinall to win (-135 odds at MyBookie)

Michael Pounders

On the heels of a 5-0 start in the UFC with all five fights ending inside the distance, Tom Aspinall has quickly and dominantly shifted from prospect to contender. During his winning streak, Aspinall has continued to pass each test the UFC has presented him. He started by knocking out two low-level strikers, then submitted a crafty veteran, then showcased solid takedown defense to knock out another solid prospect, and, most recently, submitted a nasty range striker. Each fight has been a new challenge, and each time Aspinall has showcased a facet of his vast skillset en route to a finish win.

Aspinall represents the new age of heavyweight fighters, still massive men but more focused on a well-rounded game and mobility compared to the plotting power punchers of old. On the feet, Aspinall stands tall with a boxing guard and bouncy footwork that elevate his fluidity. The Englishman is an elite-level boxer with incredible hand speed, precision, and power. He fights intelligently behind a jab, feeling out his opponent early, then he’ll suddenly pounce forward with a devastating combination and exit the pocket safely. His range knowledge, footwork, boxing technique, and hand speed create an offensive powerhouse, but, also help protect him defensively, which especially important since he carries his chin high. Though his striking is elite, what makes Aspinall such a special fighter is his complete game. He is a strong wrestler with slick jiu-jitsu as well. Aspinall has showcased offensive and defensive wrestling with strong takedowns, solid takedown defense, and an ability to find the submission quickly. Ultimately, Aspinall is a completely well-rounded and athletic fighter who has passed each and every test the UFC has thrown his way.

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes climbed the division on the back of his high-level wrestling, but he has not yet been able to beat the final test and earn a title shot despite being atop the rankings for years. Blaydes is wrestling is accredited in and out of the UFC. He is an American-style wrestler who shoots intelligent, technically sound, and powerful single and double-leg takedowns. Then, once he gets fighters to the mat, Blaydes lays with heavy top pressure, controls his foe, and looks to rain down heavy ground and pound with sharp elbows. He earned the nickname “razor” because of his slicing elbows from top position.

On the feet, Blaydes is a basic striker who has developed a solid jab. He’ll paw his jab forward early, looking to get into his preferred range, then he’ll either look for an overhand right hand; or, more often, a takedown attempt. His movement into range is slow, plotting, and he can be hit fairly cleanly. To Blaydes’ credit, he’s only lost 3 times in his professional career and those losses have come against fighters with elite power. More often than not, Blaydes has found success striking early and wrestling his way to a victory.

Blaydes could find success wrestling, his skillset is that high-level; however, I see Aspinall winning this one. Aspinall will have the edge in speed, movement, striking, and even in grappling. Blaydes is likely the better wrestler, but Aspinall’s transitions and submissions will pose a new threat to Blaydes. I like Aspinall to out-strike Blaydes early, force a sloppy entry, defend it, and then piece Blaydes up later for the finish. Until I see a weakness, I am not going to assume someone can exploit a part of Aspinall’s game.

Pick: Tom Aspinall to win (-135 odds at MyBookie)

Joe Pounders

I will start my breakdown of Tom Aspinall with this: I have yet to see a weakness in his fight game. While this does not mean he does not have a weakness, it does showcase how great he has been throughout his UFC career.

On the feet, it is not surprising that Aspinall has elite boxing, given he is a long training partner of Tyson Fury – the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. More specifically, Aspinall uses athletic movement to land quick, tight boxing combinations and then exit range avoiding a counterattack. Furthermore, when he is at range, he has an underappreciated kicking game that exacerbates the differential between his elite movement contrary to that of slower-moving opponents.

On the mat, Aspinall has showcased his lengthy training of grappling as a youth in direct preparation to become an MMA fighter, has paid dividends. When analyzing his last fight, seeing 2 of 2 takedowns against the kickboxing fighter of Volkov may seem like an easy accomplishment, but when you dive deeper into the track record of Volkov combating takedowns – Blaydes excluded – and you quickly ascertain that Aspinall has a strong wrestling attack with a slick submission game. In total, Aspinall has the quickness, power, technique, and well-rounded game to contend for a belt in the near future. But, the fight intelligence of his game has had him, yes him, slowing down his progression through the division as he understands gaining experience in the short-run will only aid in his long-term success, thus illustrating he has great intelligence on top of his elite physical arsenal.

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes has one of the best nicknames in the UFC, not because of the “cool” factor of the nickname itself, but rather as a visionary aid to what makes him an elite fighter – razor-sharp elbows. These elbows are primarily seen in top position on the mat, and are often seen in his fights, given Blaydes has one of the best wrestling attacks in the division. So, when Blaydes is on, he shoots a successful takedown, gains control on the mat, and then inflicts damaging ground and pound with punches and elbows alike.

I chose the phrase “when Blaydes is on” to allude to an aspect of his fight game that is an odd negative, that is, surprisingly inconsistent performances. Inconsistent is inherently accompanied by having some good (and some bad), and this is the predominant performance Blaydes puts forward.

Whether it is his fight against Volkov, whereby he relentlessly wrestled him the entire fight, or in his most recent fighter, where he showcased a snappy, powerful jab accompanied by a very nice right hand, Blaydes does have very good tape on file. But, when looking into either fight from 2021 and negatives arise. Primarily, Blaydes tends to want to establish his striking prior to wrestling – which is a positive – but, the moment striking somewhat falters, he tends to blindly wrestle from there on out. Luckily for Blaydes, is that his wrestling is truly next level, whereby he can often secure a victory by blindly wrestling, but as seen in the Lewis fight, if his opponent can see the striking differential is perceived to be in their favor, then they can simply wait patiently for a blind takedown with nothing in front of it which allows for a timed punch/knee to land with a high probability of success.

There are many people in the MMA community that believe Blaydes has the skills necessary to become the heavyweight champion. While I identify he has the wrestling, cardio, and underrated right hand to be in the conversation of fighters who have the potential to contend, I believe he has shown far too many inconsistencies to back him as a future champion. Meanwhile, Tom Aspinall has the same well-rounded game as Blaydes but has been far more consistent accompanied by having the greater high-end skills at nearly all levels. So, I believe Aspinall will put forth a performance that showcases he is the faster and more dangerous striker than Blaydes, and therefore, Blaydes will revert back to blindly shooting, which will likely prove ineffective against Aspinall given Aspinall has very strong grappling himself.

Pick: Tom Aspinall to win (-135 odds at MyBookie)

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