UFC heavyweight Alexander Volkov after his KO of Fabricio Werdum. | Photo by Simon Cooper/PA Images via Getty Images
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC London card.
The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC London, and most of us are going with Alexander Volkov over Tom Aspinall in Saturday’s heavyweight main event. Likewise for England’s Arnold Allen over Dan Hooker in the featherweight co-main event. To see the latest betting lines for these fights, head over to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Zane Simon entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Alexander Volkov vs. Tom Aspinall
Mookie Alexander: I’m a believer that Aspinall has high upside but I’m not quite there on him beating someone of Volkov’s caliber. His power, speed, and diversity of strike selection are legit but Volkov has only ever been stopped by strikes against Vitaly Minakov and Derrick Lewis. The only thing that gives me pause with Volkov is how conservatively he fought the Greg Hardy fight right after losing to Lewis, and these last two less than stellar outings against Ciryl Gane and Marcin Tybura. A lower output Volkov who may be a bit more gunshy when he gets hit is a Volkov I believe Aspinall can beat. But ultimately Aspinall never being outside of round two and competing in a five-rounder gives me major questions about his cardio and what happens when he doesn’t get a finish. Is Aspinall going to try and wrestle Volkov or go to the mat with him at all? I doubt it even though Volkov has had issues with being taken down and accepting being on his back. If anything I can see Volkov testing Aspinall’s ground game especially as the fight drags on, especially if Volkov pecks away at Aspinall’s body early with his kicks. Despite Aspinall’s potency I give Volkov the edge in technical striking and I see him weathering the early storm, picking Aspinall apart and getting him tired before finishing him from top position. Alexander Volkov by TKO, round 3.
Zane Simon: I won’t exactly be shocked if Tom Aspinall can pull this off. For heavyweights like Volkov, who don’t have big, crushing power, they’ll always be playing just slightly against the odds with any decent young talent who hits like a truck. Tom Aspinall definitely appears to be that guy. But, for the bulk of his career, Volkov has buttressed his volume-based striking offense with an iron jaw and decent late fight cardio. Fighters that beat him tend to have to do so for round after round after round (unless they’re Derrick Lewis, then the can do it for 5 seconds in the last round). Aspinall has proven that he’s got a lot of talent, but he hasn’t yet proven he can win a grueling, difficult fight. Volkov will give him that. Alexander Volkov by decision.
Staff picking Volkov: Mookie, Dayne, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Aspinall: Lewis, Stephie
Arnold Allen vs. Dan Hooker
Mookie Alexander: I’m just not feeling the Dan Hooker to featherweight move. I’ve never looked at any of his losses at lightweight and thought his size was a factor in his defeats. If he can deal with Allen’s wrestling and grappling effectively then I suspect Hooker will be able to clearly win with his striking whether in the clinch or at range. I’m not going to bank on that and especially not when Allen has shown himself to be a pretty underrated fighter in terms of physical strength. Arnold Allen by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m entirely torn by this fight. On the one hand, Allen is on a hell of a run and (like Mookie) I just don’t see the sense in Hooker returning to featherweight. But, Allen also just has a tendency to make fights difficult on himself, or, barring that, try to just negate the fight in general, by staying way out at range. Hooker is almost certainly going to be too tall and long to make that a reasonable option. And if Allen lets Hooker have the front foot and pressure, then he’s giving Hooker a lot of opportunities to build momentum. End of the day, I think this could be an incredibly close, scrappy fight. But I’m gonna take Dan Hooker via decision.
Staff picking Allen: Mookie, Lewis, Dayne, Stephie
Staff picking Hooker: Victor, Zane
Paddy Pimblett vs. Rodrigo Vargas
Mookie Alexander: There will be a point in time where Pimblett takes a considerable step up in competition and he gets a harsh reality check. Hell maybe Kazula Vargas gives him the reality check right now. The defensive holes in Pimblett’s game have been there for ages and it almost cost him immediately in his UFC debut. Vargas is a tough fighter but he’s 36 and isn’t exactly a speed demon. I believe we’ll see more of Pimblett’s ground game in this one and he’ll get a finish to excite the fans. Paddy Pimblett by submission, round 2.
Zane Simon: I do think Vargas is very overlooked in this bout. He’s never been knocked out, he’s only been submitted once, and he’s the much cleaner technical striker. If Pimblett can’t get him down and is just going to settle for 50/50 exchanges like he did with Vendramini, he’s setting himself up to potentially get caught clean again, and this time by a better puncher. But, I think the pace and aggression that Pimblett operates behind can continue to be his secret weapon for now. As long as his chin holds, he’s willing to create absolute chaos, just constantly upping the tempo on opponents until they crack. And for all that he does well, Vargas doesn’t necessarily like to push a high pace. Paddy Pimblett via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Pimblett: Mookie, Lewis, Dayne, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Vargas: Victor
Molly McCann vs. Luana Carolina
Mookie Alexander: This should be a crowd-pleaser in terms of action. I’d be surprised if we saw many (or any) takedown attempts given how these two prefer to fight. If anyone does make it a ground battle it’ll be McCann and that’s not a particularly high probability. I guess I’ll lean towards McCann to win the type of brawl that she tends to gravitate towards. Molly McCann by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This fight is honestly set up for Carolina to win, IMO. Both she and McCann are better off the back foot, counterpunching by a mile, than they are pushing forward. But, between them, only McCann likes to pressure and will take the opportunity to do so. So there should be a lot of McCann walking Carolina down and eating punches in the process. But, Carolina is also just a much worse defensive fighter in all phases than McCann, and I can easily see McCann nullifying counters with lots of clinch pressure. So I’ll take Molly McCann by decision. But if she can’t cut Carolina off, this could get real ugly.
Staff picking McCann: Mookie, Dayne, Lewis, Stephie, Zane
Staff picking Carolina: Victor
Gunnar Nelson vs. Takashi Sato
Mookie Alexander: Unless Nelson’s absence aged him by 20 years there’s no reason to believe this won’t be anything other than a takedown and a submission of his choice. Gunnar Nelson by submission, round 1.
Zane Simon: Stylistically, this is a layup for Nelson. Sato tends to need a round or so to get his timing down, and otherwise just isn’t active enough to deter takedowns. Great chance for Nelson to crash distance into the clinch, hit a trip, and get this fight to the floor. Gunnar Nelson via submission, round 2.
Staff picking Nelson: Mookie, Dayne, Lewis, Stephie, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Sato:
Jai Herbert vs. Ilia Topuria
Mookie Alexander: Herbert looked way out of his depth on the ground against Renato Moicano, and I suspect he’ll experience the same fate against Topuria. Only concern I have for Topuria is the size disadvantage he’ll have but I think he has the quickness and wrestling to dictate the terms of this fight and prevail. Ilia Topuria by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Herbert will probably get a couple really good clean long strikes off early. But once Topuria crashes the pocket, all the skill balance shifts clearly into his favor. He’s the better pocket puncher, with better balance, a better takedown game, and the better grappler. Herbert is long and has great speed, but his grappling is too big a liability. Ilia Topuria via submission, round 1.
Staff picking Herbert:
Staff picking Topuria: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Victor, Zane