The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to London, England for the first time since March 2019 and delivered one of the best cards in recent memory. Highly touted U.K. stars such as Paddy Pimblett, Tom Aspinall, Molly McCann-Pearson, and Arnold Allen were all part of the card and all of them delivered with unforgettable finishes. Other notable fighters on the card were Muhammad Mokaev, Gunnar Nelson, and Paul Craig. While BJJ’s role is MMA is still widely debated, it was clear that grappling and jiu jitsu played a huge role in many of the fights in London.
Muhammed Mokaev came into his fight in London as the youngest fighter on the UFC’s roster at just 21 years old. Mokaev wasted no time taking the fight to his opponent, Cody Durden. He opened the round with a flying knee that hurt Cody and dropped him to the canvas. Mokaev latched onto a guillotine in the transition and got the tap in the first round.
Submission specialist Paul Craig took on Nikita Krylov in a light heavyweight bout with important ranking implications. Of Paul’s 16 career victories, 13 have come by way of submission. Krylov landed heavy shots early and put Craig on his back. Although this is often Craig’s preferred attacking position, Krylov was doing a great job shutting down early attacks by landing powerful punches from the top position. With about a minute left in the first round Krylov threw a huge right hand that left him open to Craig’s infamous triangle. As soon as he locked it up, it was clear that Krylov didn’t have much time before he’d pass out. Krylov tapped and Craig earned another huge submission victory in the light heavyweight division.
Welterweight Gunnar Nelson came into UFC Fight Night London having lost three of his last four fights. He faced some of the stiffest competition the UFC had to offer including Gilbert Burns, Leon Edwards, and Demian Maia. He looked like he had something to prove in this fight as Gunnar dominated the grappling and took Takashi Sato’s back multiple times. Gunnar landed hard shots from the back position and displayed a dominant grappling game that earned him a unanimous decision victory.
One of the most highly anticipated fights of the night was Paddy Pimblett against Kazula Vargas. Despite only being Paddy’s second appearance in the UFC, he’s already one of the promotion’s biggest stars. Kazula started the fight strong, dropping Paddy with a right hand that forced him to attempt an off balance shot. Kazula took top position, but it was Paddy’s defense that really stood out. He controlled the distance making it difficult for Kazula to land effective strikes and worked his way back to his feet. From there, Paddy hit a beautiful judo throw from an over hook. Once on top, Paddy’s pressure forced Kazula to turn his back, which Paddy used to lock in a body triangle and a rear naked choke.
In the main event, BJJ black belt Tom Aspinall took on Alexander Volkov. Volkov, a 6’7 heavyweight, came into the fight ranked 6th in the division and provided Aspinall with his toughest test to date on paper. From the opening bell, Tom proved why he is such a highly regarded prospect. He used incredible head movement and speed to set up his shot against Volkov on the feet, hurting him early with various combinations. Tom landed two takedowns in the first round and used the second to setup a kimura attack. Volkov straightened his arm to defend, and Tom finished the straight armbar to get the victory.
The UFC’s return to London was a massive success as many of the UK’s top fighters earned victories. Many of the fighters relied heavily on their jiu-jitsu, showing that the grappling art is always going to be an effective way to control and finish opponents in combat.
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-Team Progress Jiu Jitsu