The UFC promotion returned to London after 3 years in March 2022, and returned triumphantly. Over 17,000 MMA fans saw one of the most memorable nights of martial arts in history at The O2 arena as Englishman Tom Aspinall smothered Russian Alexander Volkov and went on to win the heavyweight title with a Performance of the Night award. In the co-main event, Arnold Allen cemented his status as one of the best fighters in the flyweight division by defeating New Zealander Dan Hooker by technical knockout. The Brits were unstoppable that night as Paddy Pimblett choked out Rodrigo Vargas, Molly McCann knocked out Luana Carolina and Paul Craig defeated Ukrainian Nikita Krylov.
British MMA rose to the top that night and Dana White kept his promise to return that year! On July 23rd, all fans at London’s The O2 arena will once again get a chance to enjoy top fights at UFC Fight Night 208. Here’s an overview of the main fights of the evening and some interesting prelim fights. All the broadcasts of UFC Fight Night 208 will be available for free at 1ufc.net
Main fight of the night: Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall
Yes, there won’t be any title fights at UFC Fight Night 208, but there will be plenty of tough fights. Let’s start with the main event, a heavyweight fight between #4 ranked Curtis Blaydes and O2 arena host Tom Aspinall (#6 ranked).
Curtis Blaydes (16-3) is a definite top heavyweight who has maintained consistency in both spectacle and quality of fights for over 5 years. But the stability goes both ways: Blaydes has consistently fallen short of getting a title fight, consistently losing one step away from a major career fight. “Razor” is 11-3 in the UFC and all 3 losses have been early losses, twice to Ngannou and once to Derrick Lewis. The heavyweight knockouts in 2018 and 2021 are hard to forget, although Blades has more than enough wins.
The 31-year-old ‘Razorback’ has wins over Overeem, Olejnik, Volkov, Hunt and Rozenstruik (twice) and Abdurahimov under his belt. Blades is now on a two-fight win streak and will once again try to get closer to his first career title fight.
Aspinall (12-2) was talked about as a heavyweight title contender just after his March win over Volkov in the main event. Prior to that, the 29-year-old Brit had been performing admirably, with not a single loss in five fights in the UFC (four of them earned “Performance of the Night”) and a 100% early victory rate. Aspinall made his promotion debut in 2020, defeating Jake Collier, followed by wins over Orlovsky, Budo and Spivak, only the legendary Belarusian lasted until the second round. Aspinall defeated Volkov in March this year with a wrench to the arm, something that is incredibly difficult to come across amongst the heavyweights.
Speaking about the clash between Aspinall and Blaydes, it’s worth noting their roughly equal level in the stand-up and ground. The bookies and pundits have more confidence in the Brit, but Blaydes has become more measured over the years, not throwing himself against the grenade. Aspinall will clearly be easier on his feet, outclassing the American in hand speed and combinations. Blaydes will be the better fighter, but he’ll have to be very careful how he gets through the first five rounds, if he gets them.
The main emphasis in this fight will be on functional preparation, it’s hard to predict the final outcome. But 1ufc.net spectators and O2 arena ticket holders will be in for a real treat.
Jack Hermansson vs Chris Curtis
The middleweight co-main event of the evening will feature Swedish-Norwegian Jack Hermansson (22-7) and American Chris Curtis (29-8)
Swede Jack Hermansson, 34, has been in the promotion since 2016, but is not performing very steadily at the moment. However, ranking 8th in the UFC’s middleweight rankings is an excellent showing. The Swede lost to Cannonier, Vettori and Strickland in his last fight, with the last two fights ending in decisions. He has wins over Shahbazian, Gastelum, Souza and Branch to his credit. Interestingly enough, Hermansson scored some notable wins by hooking the heel (Gastelum) and two guillotines.
American Chris Curtis, 35, has been a real boon to the promotion, although he’s not rated. He made his Fight Night debut back in 2013, but has competed there at intervals of four and five years. That said, after another return to the UFC, Curtis has picked up three straight wins over Howes, Allen and Vieira. Curtis is renowned for his powerful strikes, with most of his victories coming by knockout.
In the Hermansson-Curtis fight bookmakers prefer a draw, the odds on the fighter are about the same. However, experts are expecting a fight from the Swede, which Curtis is not strong at all. The skills of the puncher are clearly superior to those of the American, he has excellent stamina and power. However, Curtis had his last fight at UFC on ESPN 38 less than a month ago – for the 35-year-old fighter such a short break can have a negative impact on his functional preparation.
Paul Craig vs Volkan Ozdemir
The main fight among the welterweights will be a showdown between No. 8 and No. 9 ranked Paul Craig, 34, of Scotland (16-4) and Volkan Ozdemir, 32, of Switzerland with Turkish roots (17-6).
Scotsman Paul Craig appeared in the UFC in 2016 with a record of eight undefeated wins. Craig made a lever elbow to Enrique da Silva in his first fight and established himself in the division despite two subsequent losses. Craig truly asserted himself in the 2018 fight against the then undefeated Magomed Ankalaev – the Scotsman was losing three rounds but managed to take the Russian to the triangle in the final seconds of the third.
Ankalaev’s surrender was the latest among three-round fights in promotion history, with Craig receiving recognition and a bonus for best performance of the evening. Craig has not lost since 2019 after a loss to Alonso Menifield, with Craig smothering Nikita Krylov with a triangle in his last fight at home.
Switzerland’s Volkan Ozdemir has wins over Saint-Preux, Cirkunov and Rakic on his record, but he cannot be called a top fighter. In the promotion, Ozdemir’s record is just 5-5, before fighting Craig he had two straight losses to Prohazka Ankalayev, as well as losses to Cormier, Smith and Reis. Ozdemir had a chance at a featherweight title fight in 2018, but he lost without a chance in the second round to veteran Cormier and was no closer to a title fight.
There is no clear favorite in the Craig-Ozdemir pairing, with bookmakers putting the Swiss slightly ahead. Craig’s 6 fights without defeat, and Ozdemir has not been in the octagon since October 2021, are in Craig’s favor.
Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson
The second most high profile bantamweight event is the most high profile bout in terms of names between erstwhile title challenger Alexander Gustafsson (18-7) and Nikita Krylov (27-9). The 35-year-old Swede Gustafsson is a legend in the promotion, having fought in the top division since 2009! He has three bantamweight title fights under his belt, but all three times they were unsuccessful. However, everyone remembers his fights against Jon Jones, the first of which was not only the best of the year, but also inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame! Two defeats from Jones and one from Cormier broke the Swede, he was in the last years very badly. Despite wins over Blachowicz in 2016 and Teixeira in 2017 Gustafsson is now considered an outsider in the division and is not in the top 15. The veteran gets one of his last chances to stay in the promotion, while the opponent is quite suitable. Three straight defeats, including his last heavyweight loss to Werdum in 2020, do not make Gustafsson the favorite, but the legend always has a chance of winning.
Ukrainian Nikita Krylov, 30, is an average fighter by the promotion’s standards, having never beaten top division opponents unless you count a win at Saint-Preux at UFC 236. Krylov made his promotion debut in 2013 but has never come close to fighting for contender status, losing to more serious opponents. Cirkunov, Blachowicz were confident in picking up wins by choke, while Teixeira won by split decision. Krylov can easily knock out opponents, yet his striking technique is considered extremely weak, and there has been little mention of fighting on the ground in recent years. Krylov lost his last two fights to Ankalaev by decision and Craig by triangle in the first round. Of his strengths apart from punching it is worth noting his excellent functional training.
The fight between Krylov and Gustafsson will be the most notable at UFC Fight Night 208 in London. How the fighters will prove themselves, especially the Swede, will be very interesting to watch. Gustafsson hasn’t fought in over 2 years, his attempt to move up to heavyweight failed miserably – Alexander looked incredibly tough in his defeat to veteran Werdum, but his striking technique stayed with him. Many are waiting for the fight to unravel in the opening rounds.
Paddy Pimblett vs Jordan Levitt
The 27-year-old Briton Paddy Pimblett (18-3) is a rising star in not only the English, but also the world promotion, and most became aware of him just after his striking victory in London. Pimblett choked Mexican Rodrigo Vargas from behind and deserved a more status fight. The young Briton is dangerous in both the stand-up and the ground and made his UFC debut with a first-round knockout against Italy’s Luigi Vendramini. Two wins out of two in the promotion is not a bad bid for success.
American Jordan Levitt (10-1), 25, made his promotion debut a year earlier and has a 3-1 record. His only loss was to Claudio Puelles by decision. Notable among his victories was a fight with Ogden, which ended in Leavitt’s favour by a judge’s decision. Leavitt had a very strong debut, knockout in 22 seconds against Wyman.
The Pimblett-Levitt fight is widely expected to be decided by the home team at the O2, and rightly so, even though the American has more experience in the sport. The American looks more powerful and promising in TKO, they both have comparable skills in the clinch, both fighters have long careers ahead, and a victory at UFC Fight Night 208 could be the starting point for either fighter to move up in the light heavyweight division
Molly McCann v Hannah Goldie
The only fight in the women’s main card will be at flyweight as England’s Molly McCann (12-4), 32, fights American Hannah Goldie (4-3), 30.
Molly McCann has two wins in a row in the UFC, including a spectacular knockout on home turf at UFC Fight Night 208, then defeated by Luana Carolina. Previously, Ji-Young Kim was defeated by unanimous decision. McCann has seriously asserted herself in the last 2 years and could be in the top 15 of the lightweight rankings.
Hannah Goldie broke her two defeat streak in 2021 with a win over Emily Whitmire, she is better known from Dana White’s Contender Series than the UFC. The American has a 1-2 record in the main promotion, and a fight with McCann could be her last chance to secure a foothold in the division. Goldie won her last fight by painful hold (elbow takedown), but due to her lack of experience, bookmakers and specialists see British titleholder Molly McCann as the clear favorite.
In general both are seen as good punchers, Goldie has never had an opponent of this level.