The UFC’s long-awaited return to London after three years away was an electric one.
Featuring some of the best talent to ever come out of the U.K., the home fighters absolutely delivered this past Saturday at UFC Fight Night 204.
Fans at the O2 Arena were on their feet all night. The performances collectively were so good that UFC president Dana White handed out a whopping nine “Performance of the Night” bonuses to every fighter who scored a finish. White was so elated with how the night turned out that he promised U.K. fans that the UFC will return before 2022 ends.
From Tom Aspinall at the top of the bill to Muhammad Mokaev, who kicked off the night with a bang, here are eight reasons why UFC London was one of the promotion’s all-time great events.
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Muhammad Mokaev (red gloves) defeats Cody Durden (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Unbeaten as both a professional and amateur, the expectations were high for Muhammad Mokaev. The 21-year-old, who has a goal of breaking Jon Jones’ record as youngest champion in UFC history, turned heads when he shot down an opportunity at Dana White’s Contender Series.
A post shared by Farah Hannoun (@farahannoun)
Mokaev said he deserved a direct route to the UFC and wanted to debut in front of the U.K. fans. He called out Cody Durden, got his wish and needed less than a minute to choke him out.
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Jack Shore (red gloves) defeats Timur Valiev (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
In an event filled with so many finishes, it’s easy to forget about Jack Shore.
There was nothing forgettable about his performance, though, as Shore showed off his well rounded skills in his tough matchup against Timur Valiev. Shore kept Valiev on the backfoot and was able to fend off the elite grappler by spending little time on his back. The pair engaged in some beautiful scrambles, and Shore looked like the slicker of the two on the feet.
Shore dropped Valiev with a beautiful one-two to kick off Round 3 and dropped him again towards the end of the round with a beautiful left hand. He capped off his great performance with a late takedown.
Valiev's lack of defense in the pocket and habit of getting dropped multiple times finally caught up to him against Jack Shore (🏴). pic.twitter.com/AZz9Xnf0j6
— Miguel Class (@MigClass) March 19, 2022
The former Cage Warriors champion remained unbeaten and should draw a ranked opponent next after his solid win over Valiev.
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Paul Craig (blue gloves) defeats Nikita Krylov (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
How can Paul Craig possibly keeping pulling these incredible finishes off?
Craig found himself rallying once again, but continued to show why his jiu-jitsu is absolutely not to be messed with. It’s time to consider Craig as a legit contender, but what makes his run so incredible is that he once believed he was a fraud…but not anymore!
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Ilia Topuria (blue gloves) defeats Jai Herbert (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no denying that Ilia Topuria is exceptionally talented. A skilled grappler who has developed serious power in his hands, Topuria added another highlight-reel finish when he survived an early onslaught to starch Jai Herbert.
Topuria, who competed as low as 135 pounds, will find himself at a significant size disadvantage at lightweight but can more than make up for it with his well rounded skills.
The Spanish-based, Georgian fighter made a lot of noise when he got into an altercation with Paddy Pimblett, but Pimblett just brushed off his callout.
OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Molly McCann puts Carolina to SLEEP with a spinning elbow!!!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/qyuv0KkWq5
— Follow @FTB_VIDS (@FTB_VIDS) March 19, 2022
Molly McCann’s energy is infectious, and she carried it into her fight.
McCann was all over Luana Carolina and capped off her performance with a nasty spinning back elbow knockout, which is easily an early candidate for Knockout of the Year.
With the fans going wild, McCann jumped over the octagon and grabbed a fan’s replica UFC belt and paraded around with it. All in all, a spectacular showcase for “Meatball” Molly.
PANDEMONIUM! Molly McCann KOs Luana Carolina then brings a belt in the cage 🏆 #UFCLondon pic.twitter.com/xz1dQXQEpx
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) March 19, 2022
Molly McCann has taken a cageside seat with Dana White and is slamming some Howler Head 🤣 #UFCLondon pic.twitter.com/ewV45ZPbwk
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) March 19, 2022
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Paddy Pimblett (red gloves) defeats Kazula Vargas (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Love him or hate him, Paddy Pimblett has grabbed everyone’s attention.
Pimblett was rocked early in his fight against Kazula Vargas, but Scousers don’t get knocked out! The rising star practically had his own concert at the O2 Arena with his electric walkout and delivered on his first-round finish prediction when he submitted Vargas in Round 1.
It was pretty great to see “Meatball” join in the post-fight celebration.
That walkout though 🤯#paddythebaddy #PaddyPimblett #UFCLondon @theufcbaddy pic.twitter.com/6B3UR7rQXx
— The MMA Fan Podcast (@mmafanpodcast) March 20, 2022
Paddy the Baddy makes an impact. Meatball joined in the celebrations. #UFCLondon #PaddyPimblett pic.twitter.com/YIbxFpgRZ6
— Australian Talk (@australiantalk) March 19, 2022
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Arnold Allen (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dan Hooker (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Everyone knew Arnold Allen was good, but a finish alluded him.
Going into his fight with the battle-tested Dan Hooker, Allen had gone the distance in his past four fights which, rendered him as one of the more under-appreciated fighters in his division.
Under-appreciated no more as Allen, who admits he ditched Firas Zahabi’s game plan, slugged it out with Hooker. Although he got cracked, he bit down on his mouth piece and swarmed “The Hangman” for the first-round TKO.
He proceeded to call out Calvin Kattar, claiming that he’s the better boxer. Great fight.
Mar 19, 2022; London, UK; Tom Aspinall (blue gloves) defeats Alexander Volkov (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
I recall Tom Aspinall telling me on “Fight Island” that he was in no rush to get to the top.
Well, if he keeps on putting performances like Saturday’s, he will get there fast. In his sternest test to date, the cool, calm and collected Aspinall made it look easy against Alexander Volkov by submitting him in the first round.
A headliner for the first time in his UFC career and in front of his home fans, Aspinall represented the U.K.’s growing talent in the best way possible.
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