UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall Predictions
Tom Aspinall vs Alexander Volkov
Aspinall has marked himself out as a major new player in the heavyweight ranks over the past couple of years after picking up four wins in a row since joining the UFC, including stoppage wins over Andrei Arlovski and most recently Sergey Spivak.
The 28-year-old is well-rounded for the weight class, with his boxing ability even gaining plaudits from none-other than Tyson Fury Sr, who has worked with him in the past and credited his hand speed, good movement for his size and punching power.
That’s not the only string to his bow however as Aspinall also has respectable wrestling and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Volkov is a seasoned veteran though who has been on the verge of title contention more than once during his UFC run. A tall, lanky striker with a 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage here whose bulked up a bit more in recent times, Volkov works well from range with straight punches and solid kicks to keep his opponents at bay. Rather than looking for one big strike he’s more of a volume striker who can piece together combinations well and gradually break down his opponent’s.
Meanwhile, Volkov will have to rely on his takedown defense to keep the fight upright as he’ll be vulnerable if he is put on his back. I think that could be a key factor here as the striking battle could well be closely contested.
However, Aspinall’s speed and pressure should open up opportunities to get into range for takedown attempts and potential control time on the mat, and I think that will help win him rounds to claim a decision victory.
Prediction: Tom Aspinall to win by decision.
Dan Hooker vs Arnold Allen
After a recent drop in form that’s seen him lose three of his last four fights against a who’s who of the lightweight division, Hooker is now looking to get back on track by dropping down to featherweight. He’s not been handed an easy first fight at 145lbs though as Allen is one of the division’s in-form fighters, having amassed an eight-fight winning streak in the promotion.
Perhaps Allen hasn’t had the credit he deserves during this long run due to a lack of big finishes along the way, with only two stoppage victories, both by submission, in the UFC so far. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Allen is a technically skilled, well-rounded competitor who has a very solid wrestling game, but has also proven to be a smart, patient and methodical striker too.
On the other hand, Hooker is more of all-action fighter who will have a 4″ height and 5.5″ reach advantage here and pulls the trigger far more often than Allen. He makes good use of knees and elbows along with his punches and kicks and has a good finishing rate, particularly on the feet, though he’s had his fair share of submission victories too.
Hooker has taken a lot of punishment in his recent wars though, and while he is still a tough, durable competitor, that does take a toll over time. It should also be noted that in his previous stint at 145lbs back at the start of his UFC run eight years ago he only mustered a 3-3 run.
This is a big test for Allen against a seasoned and respected opponent, but I think he’ll prove to be somewhat elusive on the feet which will frustrate Hooker, while his stronger wrestling will also pay dividends to help him eek out a win on the scorecards.
Prediction: Arnold Allen to win by decision.
Paddy Pimblett vs Rodrigo Vargas
Long considered one of the UK’s top prospects outside of the UFC, the 27-year-old Pimblett finally joined the UFC last year and picked up a first round KO win in his debut. Now he goes up against the 36-year-old Vargas, who lost his first two fights in the promotion, but secured a decision win last time out.
On paper Pimblett’s debut went well, but on closer inspection he did actually face adversity during that fight, being rocked by big shots due to his decidedly flimsy striking defense, and while he showcased the durability and determination to fight back and claim a big win, it did highlight the fact that he’s far from invincible.
Pimblett isn’t just a fighter who is getting attention because of his outspoken, charismatic persona though as there is a lot to like about his game. Despite his KO win last time out it’s his grappling that’s traditionally been a stronger suit for him and whether he’s on top or off his back he’s a real submission threat. His offensive striking game has improved over time too though and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s tightened up his defense since his last Octagon outing.
Vargas will certainly test his defense on the feet as he’s aggressive with his striking and does have finishing power, while he’s a decent grappler in his own right too.
I still carry some question marks about Pimblett’s ceiling in the UFC and if he’s over-confident and continues to leave his chin out in the open then he could be punished here. That being said, I expect him to be a little more cautious here and make good use of his grappling to get the upperhand and secure a second round submission finish.
Prediction: Paddy Pimblett to win by submission in Rd2.
Gunnar Nelson vs Takashi Sato
It’s been well over two years since we last saw Nelson in the Octagon and he now returns looking to cast aside back-to-back losses from 2019 as he takes on a short-notice opponent in Sato, who has gone 2-2 in his UFC run so far.
Nelson has always been a respected fighter at 170lbs, with his grappling in particular being a major asset with his fluid movement, good control and excellent submissions making him a very tricky opponent to deal with. On the feet he has a very karate-orientated style with an almost point-fighting approach, waiting on the outside for the perfect moment to attack, which can limit his output more than you’d ideally like to see.
Sato is a heavy hitter on the feet and will be more active on the offensive than Nelson too and that’s certainly where he has the best chance to create an upset here.
On the mat Sato is capable, but has had trouble fending off submissions in recent times and that sets alarm bells ringing here, so I’m going to take Nelson to get this fight to the mat at some stage in the opening couple of rounds and force his opponent to tap.
Prediction: Gunnar Nelson to win by submission in Rd2.
Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina
After losing two fights in a row, McMann rebounded last time out with a decision win and now takes on Carolina, who has compiled a 3-1 record in the UFC so far.
A tough, gritty and durable competitor who will thrive fighting back in her native England in front of a packed arena, McCann has solid boxing ability and a good level of intensity to her work. She also mixes in wrestling too, and while she can struggle in that regard when going up against fighters who specializes in that area, it can be an effective weapon against others who prefer to keep the fight standing.
Carolina is that type of a fighter as she’ll be looking to engage with McCann on the feet with her muay thai ability and very significant size advantage, being 2″ taller but with a 7″ reach advantage.
I think her long-range punches and kicks could pose some problems for McCann, but the Brit isn’t the type who will back down to that, and instead will continue to apply pressure, opening up more opportunities for her boxing and in particular takedowns that will be key to swinging the fight in her favor, leading to a decision victory.
Prediction: Molly McCann to win by decision.
Ilia Topuria vs. Jai Herbert
3-0 in the UFC so far, Topuira grabbed some headlines earlier this week when he initiated a brief scuffle with another main card fighter Paddy Pimblett in a hotel lobby, but his actual opponent this weekend is Herbert who carries a 1-2 record in the promotion.
Herbert comes in on short notice to replace Mike Davis and has the advantage that he’ll be competing at his natural weight class of 155lbs after Topuira agreed to step up from featherweight following a botched cut last time out.
A lanky fighter by lightweight standards, Herbert will tower over Topuira with a 6″ height and 8″ reach advantage and he’ll look to bring that to bear with his muay thai striking and hard-hitting punches in particular, which has helped delivered nine finishes from 11 career victories.
The undefeated Topuira is certainly the more well-rounded of the two and has showed off his punching power both on the feet and on the mat in the UFC, with his last two fights both ending in KO. However, his real strength is in his well versed and aggressive ground game, and he has an excellent finishing record via submissions.
That’s troubling for Herbert as he was submitted last year by another skilled grappler in Renato Moicano and I feel the talented Topuira can have similar success here, negating the size disadvantage by getting the fight to the mat and locking up a fight-ending sub in the first round.
Prediction: Ilia Topuira to win by submission in Rd1.
UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall Prelims
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Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.