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Fights to Make After UFC Fight Night 204

By Timothy James  |  March 20, 2022  |  1,685 Comments

UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs. Volkov was a stacked card that ended up being one of the best UFC Fight Nights in years.

It had been more than 2 years since the UFC had visited London, and the promotion wanted to provide the UK fans with something special. They delivered with a super stacked card that featured multiple PPV-worthy fights. The card not only met sky-high expectations, it exceeded them.

It was a good night for the hometown crowd, with the British fighters going  7 for 10 on the event. There were multiple fights that could have headlined their own Fight Night event, but all the biggest names in British MMA succeeded in upping their stock and putting on memorable performances for the home crowd.

Here are some intriguing matchups that make sense to make after UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs. Volkov.

Tom Aspinall Makes It Look Easy Against UFC Veteran Alexander Volkov

The main event featured one of the most promising young fighters to come to the UFC’s heavyweight division in a long time, Tom Aspinall. Ranked 11th in the UFC heavyweight division, Aspinall was poised to catapult himself into the top of the division with a win over grizzled veteran Alexander Volkov, who came into the fight ranked 6th.

It didn’t take long for Aspinall to take control of the fight, making surprisingly quick work of the giant Russian known as “Drogo.” Not only was he clipping Volkov on the feet, his double-leg takedowns were timed perfectly against a man considered to be one of the harder guys to take down in the division.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Aspinall finished Volkov via a straight armbar in the very first round. It was as complete of a performance as you could hope for from a young fighter, who should find himself firmly in the top 5 after such a beautiful showing.

There’s two fights that come to mind as being good candidates for Aspinall. Tom himself called for a bout with another promising young heavyweight, Tai Tuivasa in what would be a great battle of young heavyweights, something the UFC hasn’t seen in a long time. However, others are more intrigued by a matchup with Ciryl Gane, which would make for one of the most technical heavyweight bouts in UFC history.

As for Volkov, the fight to make is a rematch with Derrick Lewis. He was winning for most of the fight back at UFC 205, until the Black Beast does what he does, knocking out Drogo at the last minute. Both men are veterans whose championship aspirations seem murky, with both needing a win to stay in contention for the belt at heavyweight.

Paddy the Baddy Keeps the Hype Train Chugging

Paddy “the Baddy” Pimblett followed up his first-round TKO finish of Luigi Vendramini with another first-round finish, this time by rear-naked choke against Rodrigo Vargas. It was somewhat reminiscent of his UFC debut, taking a big shot early before turning around the momentum.

Pimblett’s star continues to grow, with the UK fans supporting him en force. His charisma, personality, and abilities in the MMA cage have some speculating as to whether Paddy the Baddy could be the UFC’s next superstar, following in the footsteps of Conor McGregor. Others aren’t quite ready to board the hype train yet, citing Pimblett’s questionable defense as something that will hold him back as he climbs up the ranks.

There was some backstage tension built up with Ilia Topuria, who confronted Pimblett during the build up to the event over Tweets mocking Georgians. Topuria went on to knock out Jai Herbet in spectacular fashion, a friend of Pimblett’s, and called him out during his Octagon interview.

Unfortunately for the fans, Pimblett seems disinterested in a fight against Topuria, who normally fights at featherweight but accepted a lightweight bout against Herbert on short notice. It seems like a tailor-made fight, with a backstory that could sell a Fight Night headline or PPV main-card event easily.

However, if Pimblett doesn’t accept the Topuria confrontation, then a showdown with Alexander Hernandez is an intriguing matchup. Hernandez was once considered a promising lightweight prospect, but has fallen on hard times, going 3-4 in his last 7. It would be an opportunity for Hernandez to show that he can still be the guy people thought he might be coming up, while Pimblett could prove that he’s the real prospect at 155.

Arnold Allen Crushes Dan Hooker in UFC Featherweight Return

Both Arnold Allen and Dan Hooker were making reunions to featherweight action, though in different ways. Hooker was dropping down a division after stalling at lightweight, hoping to find new opportunities at featherweight. Across from him, Allen was coming back after a year long layoff. Both men wanted the momentum, with Allen riding a win-streak and Hooker looking to stake a claim at 145.

Things didn’t go well for the Hangman. He looked particularly drained and slow in his new weight class. The speed difference between him and Allen was instantly noticeable, and it didn’t take long for Allen to step on the gas.

Despite a moment where Hooker rocked his adversary with a hard counter, momentarily dropping the Englishman, Allen was relentless, pouring it on Hooker. Flurry after flurry and the ref had no choice but to call off the action as Hooker was being mercilessly pummeled.

Arnold Allen has now won 9 consecutive fights in the UFC featherweight division, putting him in the mix for a title shot. Another solid win or two could get him there, and his Octagon callout made perfect sense. He called for a bout against Calvin Kattar, who beat Giga Chikadze earlier this year. It’s a perfect matchup for the 5th ranked Kattar and 7th ranked Allen.

As for Dan Hooker, he has to decide whether the move to featherweight was worth it. He was noticeably affected by the weight cut and doesn’t have a good track record at 145. Some have floated the idea of him fighting Alex Caceres, or an unranked lightweight. However, the move may be for him to move up to welterweight. He’s had more success at 170 and a less depleted Hooker is a more dangerous one. A matchup with UFC veteran Alex Oliveira makes sense, as it’s a fun fight stylistically, with each competitor desperately needing a W.

Gunnar Nelson Looks Great in UFC Return

Coming off a 3 year layoff, Gunnar Nelson dominated his fight against Takashi Sato. It was one of the few lackluster fights on the card, as Sato was content just to survive rather than to fight to get out of positions. Nonetheless, Nelson looked sharp and ring rust didn’t seem to be an issue.

After his dominant performance, the next step should be a rematch with Santiago Ponzinibbio. They share a somewhat similar trajectory, as Ponzinibbio himself was sidelined for years with an injury before making his UFC return. His KO win against Nelson back at UFC Fight Night 113 was controversial, as several brutal eyepokes seemed to contribute to the knockout.

With Ponzinibbio 1-2 in his last 3, Gunnar could do a lot to regain his momentum at 170 by getting that win back.

Paul Craig Continues His Dark Horse Path

It seems that every time Paul Craig is an underdog, he wins via triangle submission. His performance at UFC Fight Night 204 was no exception. Despite not finding his rhythm on the feet and eating some big ground and pound, Craig was able to finesse his signature submission against the very talented Nikita Krylov.

The Scot called for a fight against Anthony Smith, who is currently the 5th ranked Light Heavyweight. It’s the perfect callout for Craig, as Smith is riding a 3-fight win streak and trying to throw himself into the mix for a title shot at 205. The UFC Light Heavyweight belt is up for grabs, and Smith vs. Craig would be a fascinating fight in the scramble for the gold.

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