I’m coming off a winning weekend and I’m looking to keep momentum rolling. Here are my breakdowns for UFC London.
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Charles Johnson
Muhammad Mokaev is a young fighter with a lot of hype behind him. He looks like a decent prospect to me, but I’m not seeing anything that leads me to believe he will be a future title challenger or world beater.
Originally from Dagestan, Mokaev grew up in the UK and has a wrestling-centric style.
He likes to tee off at kicking range and then walk opponents onto big counters and level changes. He chains well off the single leg, has a good reactive double leg and is an excellent back taker.
Securing the body triangle is his main aim and the other aspects of his game are designed with this goal in mind.
Mokaev is not the most energy efficient fighter and was looking a bit ragged against Blaine O’Driscoll in Brave CF before getting the finish. His fight against Abdul Hussein also looked sloppy towards the end.
Charles Johnson is a smooth, technical kickboxer. He picks his shots excellently and mixes up his target to the legs, body and head.
While Johnson can be taken down, he is good at reversing positions and getting back up to his feet. So long as he doesn’t get his back taken, I think he has a good chance of scrambling his way out of danger.
His last two opponents were both BJJ black belts and neither could establish a dominant position on him (although Mokaev is the best wrestler he has faced).
Johnson is big, athletic flyweight and a cardio machine. If he doesn’t get instantly slain, I think he can make this fight very competitive.
I feel that Charles Johnson is being disrespected at +375.
Paul Craig vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Paul Craig has taken steps to round out his game, but he is predominantly a guard player. The Scotsman is on an impressive win streak, but I’ve seen a lot of arrogance and stupidity from his opponents.
Because Craig is so comfortable off his back, he can literally just entangle himself with opponents and drag them on top of him. You don’t need to be a stud wrestler if you’re happy to go to the ground in any position – just ask Alexey Oleinik.
While Craig has some functional striking these days, his pocket defense is still awful and he looks susceptible to low kicks. Those are two major issues against the heavy-handed Volkan Oezdemir.
Having spent his last few camps at a smaller gym in Switzerland, Oezdemir has now moved to All Stars in Sweden where he can benefit from higher level training partners.
Oezdemir is limited to low kicks at distance, but he does his best work with big hooks and uppercuts in the pocket. The Swiss fighter is blessed with thunderous power and I don’t think it will take much to detach Craig from his consciousness.
Furthermore, Oezdemir has good takedown defense and I don’t think he’s stupid enough to hang out in Craig’s guard.
Oezdemir should be able to stuff the traditional takedowns of Craig, but will the Scotsman be able to get the fight to the mat in an unconventional manner yet again? His luck has to run out at some stage.
I like Volkan Oezdemir at -150.
Chris Curtis vs. Jack Hermansson
Taking this fight on short notice after a tough war last month, Chris Curtis returns to battle this weekend.
“Action Man” is a slick southpaw boxer with sharp counters and devastating body punches. In stark contrast to his pre-UFC footage, he showcased vastly improved takedown defense against Rodolfo Vieira.
While Vieira is a fantastic BJJ player, he simply couldn’t wrestle Curtis to the mat. I think Curtis’ southpaw stance was disruptive to Vieira, who primarily shoots double legs and couldn’t seem to get the entry that he wanted.
That said, Jack Hermansson is a far better MMA grappler than Vieira. The Scandinavian fighter has a complete arsenal of takedowns and is adept at chain-wrestling in the clinch.
Hermansson is an excellent top player and he mixes his ground strikes with his grappling beautifully – sometimes pounding opponents out from back mount.
I don’t think Hermansson is out of his depth on the feet. He’s not the best pure boxer, but he moves well and mixes in lots of kicks.
When you consider Curtis will always be thinking about the level change, I think this will even up the striking.
Give me Jack Hermansson at +100.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall
Tom Aspinall has looked impressive in his UFC run thus far, finishing all competition in brutal fashion.
The Englishman has fast hands and throws everything in combination. He is also a BJJ black belt and has shown the ability to mix in well-timed takedowns when needed.
Despite his good performances, we’ve never seen him win a fight past a minute into the second round. We also don’t know what his defensive wrestling and bottom game are like.
Perhaps he is able to make something happen off his back or threaten with submissions to force a scramble, but perhaps not.
On the other hand, Curtis Blaydes has proven cardio and presents a wrestling threat unlike anyone else in the heavyweight division. He doesn’t always get the best entries, but is reliable to shoot and re-shoot for as long as it takes and his striking is good enough to keep opponents guessing.
Blaydes is somewhat stiff on the feet, but throws a good 1-2, counter right hand and low kick. I think he has enough striking abilities to avoid getting knocked out early and extend this fight into the later rounds.
I think Curtis Blaydes should be lined as the favorite rather than underdog.