It has been three years since UFC’s last event in Europe. That will change on Saturday night, as the promotion will return to The O2 Arena in London, England for a “Fight Night” card.
The event is jam-packed with European prospects and veterans that are expected to have support from the live crowd. In the main event, a name that has built himself up during the pandemic will get a tough test. Heavyweight Tom Aspinall will headline his first-ever UFC card when fighting Alexander Volkov.
Here’s a preview of the show.
Prelims (1:30PM EDT / 5:30PM GMT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)
Bout 1: Muhammad Mokaev (5-0) vs. Cody Durden (12-3-1) (Flyweight)
Super-prospect Muhammad Mokaev will make his UFC debut in the first bout of the evening, facing Cody Durden at flyweight.
At a glance, it looks as if Mokaev only has five wins. But that’s only half the truth. Before debuting in 2020 as a pro, Mokaev had an incredibly impressive amateur career that consisted of 23 wins and zero losses. In recent years he has dominated Brave CF, with his last win being a submission victory over Blaine O’Driscoll in September 2021.
Durden is coming off his first-ever UFC win, which was a decision over Aoriqileng in November 2021. Before then, he took a loss and a draw in the promotion.
Bout 2: Elise Reed (4-1) vs. Cory McKenna (6-1) (Strawweight)
Two strawweights early in their careers, Elise Reed and Cory McKenna, will meet on Saturday night.
McKenna had a strong UFC debut over a year ago, picking up a unanimous decision win against Kay Hansen. McKenna is returning after a long time outside of the cage. However, since she is still 22 years old, she still has a lot of time left in her career.
Reed lost her UFC debut last year, getting finished in the first round by Sijara Eubanks in a flyweight bout. She had a short but strong run on the regional scene before then, earning a CFFC belt in 2020 and defending it once before moving up to the UFC.
Bout 3: Jack Shore (15-0) vs. Timur Valiev (18-2) (Bantamweight)
Jack Shore’s lengthy undefeated record will be put on the line in the next fight, facing Timur Valiev at bantamweight.
Shore, a former Cage Warriors Champion, has scored four wins since joining the UFC in 2019. His last victory was in September 2021, where he beat Liudvik Sholinian via unanimous decision. He was originally scheduled to face Umar Nurmagomedov on the card, but was later given this matchup.
Valiev has also yet to lose in the UFC. While he was finished in his UFC debut by Trevin Jones, that result was later overturned to a no contest due to a test on Jones that found marijuana in his system.
Bout 4: Nikita Krylov (27-8) vs. Paul Craig (15-4-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Paul Craig will fight to keep his momentum going against Nikita Krylov on the prelims.
Craig has picked up three consecutive wins since 2020. He notably handed Jamahal Hill his first pro loss in June 2021, as an arm injury put an end to their fight in just the second minute.
Krylov is fighting to bounce back from a decision loss he took against Magomed Ankalaev last year.
Bout 5: Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-6) vs. Sergei Pavlovich (14-1) (Heavyweight)
Sergei Pavlovich will make his return to the cage on Saturday night, facing Shamil Abdurakhimov in a heavyweight fight.
Pavlovich has scored two wins and one loss in the UFC. However, all of those fights came from a short run between 2018 and 2019. Competing for the first time in over two years, Pavlovich will get the chance to earn another win on Saturday night.
Abdurakhimov will be fighting to snap a two-fight losing skid. He has been winless since 2019, although his last two fights have come against high-level heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus.
Bout 6: Mike Grundy (12-3) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (16-7) (Featherweight)
The prelims are set to wrap up with a featherweight fight between Mike Grundy and Makwan Amirkhani. Both fighters are due for a win, having both lost consecutive fights.
Amirkhani has lost his last three fights, meaning a defeat on Saturday could mark the end of his UFC career. He suffered a finish loss in his last showing, getting beat by Lerone Murphy in October 2021.
Main Card (4:00PM EDT / 8:00PM GMT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass Canada)
Bout 7: Jai Herbert (11-3) vs. Ilia Topuria (11-0) (Lightweight)
Undefeated prospect Ilia Topuria will make his lightweight debut on Saturday night against Jai Herbert.
Topuria has quickly attained three wins since joining the promotion in 2020. His last win came in July 2021, defeating Ryan Hall with strikes. He is moving up to lightweight after having an unsuccessful weight cut down to the featherweight limit in January.
Herbert is coming off his first UFC win, which was a finish loss against Khama Worthy in October 2021. He took two losses in the promotion before then.
Bout 8: Molly McCann (11-4) vs. Luana Carolina (8-2) (Flyweight)
Fan-favorite Molly McCann will take on Luana Carolina in the next matchup.
McCann broke a two-fight skid in her last appearance, defeating Kim Ji-yeon via unanimous decision in September 2021. This was her fourth win through seven UFC appearances.
Bout 9: Gunnar Nelson (17-5-1) vs. Takashi Sato (16-4) (Welterweight)
Gunnar Nelson will make his return this weekend against short-notice opponent Takashi Sato.
Nelson is appearing for the first time since September 2019. The UFC vet is returning the with intention of snapping a two-fight skid that he absorbed in his last stint.
Bout 10: Paddy Pimblett (17-3) vs. Kazula Vargas (12-4) (Lightweight)
Flashy lightweight Paddy Pimblett will compete in his second UFC bout on Saturday night, facing Kazula Vargas.
Pimblett gained notoriety through the years as a charismatic fighter in European promotion Cage Warriors. He made his long-awaited UFC debut last year, prevailing in a back-and-forth battle against Luigi Vendramini with a first-round finish win.
Pimblett is listed as a heavy favorite against Vargas for this fight. Vargas snapped a two-fight losing streak in his last UFC appearance, defeating Rongzhu via unanimous decision in April of last year.
Bout 11: Arnold Allen (17-1) vs. Dan Hooker (21-11) (Featherweight)
Returning to featherweight for the first time in over five years, Dan Hooker will face rising contender Arnold Allen in the co-main event.
Hooker has spent the past few years competing in the lightweight division. He initially joined the UFC roster in 2014 as a featherweight, but ended up going to lightweight in 2017.
Hooker lost his last appearance, suffering a first-round submission loss to Islam Makhachev in October 2021.
Allen has yet to lose through eight fights in the UFC. His last win came against fellow rising name Sodiq Yusuff, defeating him via unanimous decision in April 2021.
Bout 12: Alexander Volkov (34-9) vs. Tom Aspinall (11-2) (Heavyweight)
Veteran heavyweight Alexander Volkov will attempt to stop the momentum of rising heavyweight Tom Aspinall in the main event of Saturday’s card.
Aspinall has yet to lose since joining the UFC in 2020. All four of his wins for the promotion have come via stoppage, with his longest fight lasting just over six minutes in total. His last win came in September 2021, scoring a first-round finish win over Serghei Spivac.
Volkov’s experience at a high level of MMA makes him a tough test for Aspinall on Saturday night. The 33-year-old fighter appeared three times last year, with two of those fights being a main event appearance. After starting his year with a win over Alistair Overeem, he took a five-round loss to Ciryl Gane. Later that year he bounced back with a win over Marcin Tybura.
Aspinall’s run up the heavyweight ranks could get a big boost tonight, or veteran Volkov will be able to pull off the win and show his experience.