One of the most hyped prospects to enter the UFC in recent memory, Paddy “The Baddie” Pimblett will finally make his debut in the world’s largest MMA promotion on Saturday.
Unlike most fighters, Pimblett’s signing with the UFC earlier this year did not represent the first time the organisation had tried to sign the Cage Warriors Lightweight Champion. In fact, Pimblett had previously been offered UFC deals on two different occasions in 2016 and 2018, turning down both. The Liverpudlian lightweight recently explained that he wanted to continue to develop as a fighter outside of the UFC in order to make waves at 155lbs when he finally arrives.
A scrappy fighter capable of absorbing damage in the pursuit of an array of submissions, Pimblett has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting fighters on the European MMA circuit and will finally get his chance to showcase his skills in the Octagon against 3 fight UFC veteran Luigi Vendramini.
The Brazilian/Italian Vendramini’s sole UFC win came from a KO over Jessin Ayari just 1 minute and 12 seconds into the very first round. Likewise, Pimblett’s last two wins have come from finishes in the opening frame, so don’t be surprised if this matchup proves to be a barnburner right from the opening bell.
In a division where the champion is considered a young man at 34, and with the highest average age for ranked fighters in the UFC, 28-year-old heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall has time on his side.
After struggling to find fights in British regional promotions during his early career, Aspinall briefly flirted with the idea of going into professional boxing, serving as one of Tyson Fury’s sparring partners and even stepping into the ring as a professional, winning his sole outing as a boxer with a first-round knockout.
Since returning from his pugilistic hiatus in 2019, Aspinall has claimed 5 consecutive stoppage victories including his last three in the UFC. In his last Octagon appearance, Aspinall defeated former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski and demonstrated his diverse skillset by becoming just the second man ever to submit the Pitbull.
After his original opponent, Sergei Pavlovich was ruled out of the fight due to visa issues, Aspinall is now set to face 6-fight UFC veteran and #14 ranked heavyweight Sergey Spivak in the co-main event. With two of the promotion’s best young heavyweight talents going at it, this fight is definitely not one to be missed.
Of all the fighters to find their way to the UFC after finding success in the European regional scene, Jack Shore might just be the brightest prospect. After compiling a 12-0 record as an amateur, including winning the IMMAF European Open Championships, Shore turned pro in 2016 and immediately set his sets on the UFC.
With ten consecutive professional victories, including winning and defending the Cage Warriors Bantamweight Championship, Shore signed with the UFC in 2019 and has since racked up three wins in the notoriously prospect-packed 135lbs division.
Shore was initially scheduled to face Said Nurmagomedov (no relation) before visa issues forced the Russian to withdraw from the fight last month. Determined to keep Shore on the card, the UFC has drafted in 9-1 Ukrainian bantamweight prospect Liudvik Sholinian.
Nearly two years removed from his last fight, and making his UFC debut, Sholinian is the largest underdog on the card in the eyes of the bookmakers and it’s not difficult to see why. With Shore looking to build on his impressive UFC start, this could be just the fight to get a finish that could propel himself towards the top 15 of the UFC’s bantamweight shark tank.
One of the most recognisable names in all of MMA thanks to his hilarious antics outside of the cage, one-time UFC title challenger Darren Till finds himself at something of a career impasse leading into his headlining fight with Derek Brunson this weekend.
After a bright start to his UFC career, since earning a title shot with a win over Wonderboy in his hometown Till has gone 1-3, with his only win coming from a contentious decision against Kelvin Gastelum. In his last outing, Till looked every bit the middleweight contender as he forced all-time great Robert Whittaker to a razor-thin decision with the Aussie ultimately getting his hand raised after five hard-fought rounds of action.
While the spirited performance against a former UFC champion in Whittaker will surely give Till confidence as he moves forward at 185lbs, results are the only thing that will drive the Englishman towards a title shot – and he knows that.
With reigning champion Israel Adesanya already saying how he likes the stylistic implications of a bout with Till, the Brit could well find himself in the title picture if he can get a win over Brunson on Saturday. But as so many others have found out at middleweight over the years, that is easier said than done.
A perennial contender in the middleweight division, Derek Brunson has been personally responsible for halting many a surging contender in their tracks since making his debut with the promotion as part of the Strikeforce acquisition all the back in 2012.
Throughout his time in the UFC Brunson has been repeatedly characterised as a gatekeeper, significantly better than most fighters but crucially unable to defeat the upper echelons of talent in the 185lbs division and earn a title shot.
However, after years of setbacks and disappointments, Brunson looks to have reached the stage of his career where he is able to launch a real run for UFC gold.
Riding a four-fight win streak each halting the momentum of his opponents over Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Kevin Holland Brunson finds himself ranked #5 in the UFC’s middleweight division.
In order to continue his ascent up the rankings towards a title shot, Brunson will need to solve the puzzle that is Darren Till’s technical striking output, and really impose his game on the Englishman.
In terms of name value, there are few fighters in all of the UFC quite as valued by fans as Till, and a dominating victory over the Brit could be exactly what Brunson needs to secure a rematch with reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
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