UFC London: Aspinall vs. Tybura Preview

The UFC is set to return to the UK for the fourth time in a year this Saturday, as heavyweight contenders take centre stage at London’s 02 Arena.

Dana White’s promotion attracts thousands of passionate fans whenever it travels across the Atlantic, and UFC Fight Night 224 looks ready to bring the heat to the capital once more.

Headlined by a showdown between Manchester-born sensation Tom Aspinall and experienced Polish titan Marcin Tybura, British MMA enthusiasts will yet again get to witness some of the country’s top talents on a global platform.

Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s card:

Preliminary Card

  • Jafel Filho vs. Daniel Barez: Flyweight
  • Shauna Bannon vs. Bruna Brasil: Women’s Strawweight
  • Chris Duncan vs. Yanal Ashmouz: Lightweight
  • Ketlen Vieira vs. Pannie Kianzad: Women’s Bantamweight
  • Makhmud Muradov vs. Bryan Barberena: Middleweight
  • Mick Parkin vs. Jamal Pogues: Heavyweight
  • Marc Diakiese vs. Joel Alvarez: Lightweight
  • Danny Roberts vs. Jonny Parsons: Welterweight
  • Davey Grant vs. Daniel Marcos: Bantamweight

In a stacked preliminary card filled with both young prospects and competent veterans, there’s a few fights fans should certainly watch out for.

Mick Parkin (6-0) makes his promotion debut in the second half of the prelims, following on from his Contender Series win against Eduardo Neves via first round rear-naked choke. English fans have waited eagerly for 11 months for the homegrown talent to enter the UFC octagon.

The 27-year-old is a knockout specialist with five of his six wins coming in said fashion. Formerly fighting in Rise and Conquer, Parkin has six finishes to his professional record, four of these coming in the first round. He’ll be taking on another fighter signed from the Contender Series in Jamal Pogues (10-3); ‘The Stormtrooper‘ previously fought in LFA, and won his UFC debut against Josh Parisian back in February.

Most UFC fans will be well-aware of Marc Diakiese, who first became known on the promotion scene for the vast array of strikes in his arsenal, as well as his flamboyant celebrations.

Since then, it’s far to say the 30-year-old has been through an inconsistent period, often struggling to put together a solid number of victories. ‘Bonecrusher’ has become more conservative in recent times, earning two wins and a loss in his last three fights.

Diakiese is scheduled to meet Spanish lightweight Joel Alvarez, who has become increasingly inactive in recent times. ‘El Fenomeno‘s last fight came in February 2022, in a second round TKO loss to Arman Tsarukyan.

Alvarez had experienced a promising promotion career until that point, going into the Tsarukyan clash on a four-fight all-finishing win streak. It will be intruiging to see whether the 30-year-old’s inactivity hampers his performance levels.

Main Card

Lerone Murphy vs. Joshua Culibao: Featherweight

The UFC career of Lerone Murphy (12-0-1) is one filled partly with promise, but ultimately with frustration. The Englishman was first signed to the promotion back in 2019, and has subsequently had five fights cancelled with just one being due to self-reasoning.

The Miracle‘ has always been an exhilirating fighter to watch since back in his FCC days, and fans were ecstatic in March to hear he’d be meeting Nathaniel Wood in the octagon at UFC 286 for a war of countrymen. This bout was unfortunately scrapped due to an injury for Wood, and March 18th saw Murphy beat Gabriel Santos via split decision instead.

His opponent, Australian fighter Josh Culibao (11-1-1), will be looking to earn his fourth straight win under the UFC banner. ‘Kuya‘ suffered his sole career loss in his promotion debut back in 2020 against Jalin Turner on short notice, and has since gone on to overcome Shayilan Nuerdanbieke, Seung Woo Choi and Melsik Baghdasaryan.

At 29-years-old, the future is still bright for the Aussie.

Jai Herbert vs. Fares Ziam: Lightweight

Fighting out of the West Midlands, Jai Herbert (12-4-1) is no stranger to a UK-based UFC event, yet Saturday will be his main card debut.

The Black Country Banger‘ consistently delivers action-packed fights for the fans, with just two of his six promotion bouts making the final bell. Herbert drew last time out against Ludovit Klein on the undercard for UFC 286 back in March, and will be looking to go three fights undefeated for the first time under the promotion banner.

Team Renegade is quickly becoming one of Europe’s leading MMA gyms, and Herbert will need to take heed of his coaches’ advice as he looks to overcome French all-rounder Fares Ziam.

The 26-year-old comes into the contest nine years younger than his octagon counterpart, and will be looking to build upon his decision win last time out against Michal Figlak.

Saturday will act as ‘Smile Killer‘s first appearance in almost 11 months, so it’s yet to be seen whether ring-rust will be a deciding factor in this bout. Most will be in agreeance that this matchup is more than worthy of a main card spot.

Paul Craig vs. André Muniz: Middleweight

Paul Craig (16-6-1) is thought of by many as the UFC‘s most unorthodox fighter, and it’s no surprise to see the Scotsman return for another London event.

Saturday will mark ‘Bearjew‘s middleweight career debut, following 23 professional fights at light heavyweight. The 35-year-old is widely known for his willingness to gift his opponents top position where he can work at them with bottom striking and triangle chokes.

This can lead to Craig putting on a mix of entertaining and frustrating bouts, and it will be interesting to see how a harsher weight cut will affect his gameplan, or even his overall performance levels. Some may find the decision to drop a weight class intelligent, however, given his devastating first round knockout loss to Johnny Walker back in January.

Standing in the way of a 17th career win will be Brazilian submission specialist André Muniz (23-5), who also comes into the contest off the back of a loss to Brendan Allen respectively.

When two wrestling-heavy fighters come face-to-face, fans can weirdly often expect a standing-orientated matchup. This duo have only heard the final bell five times between them.

Nathaniel Wood vs. Andre Fili: Featherweight

Lerone Murphy may be aggrieved to see his once-scheduled competitor further ahead in the main card, but nobody can claim that 29-year-old Nathaniel Wood (19-5) fails to bring the heat.

Although it’s been almost a year since ‘The Prospect‘ last entered the octagon, his last bout against Canadian Charles Jourdain delivered a spectacle which could be considered as 2022’s fight of the year.

Wood has struggled with finding a rhythm since signing for the UFC, with almost as many cancelled fights as appearances. Injuries have seen the Englishman out of action for notably lengthy periods over the last three years.

His opponent, Andre Fili (22-9), is more than experienced when it comes to fighting under the promotion banner; the American made his UFC debut back in 2013 and has fought the likes of Max Holloway, Yair Rodríguez and Calvin Kattar in that time.

Acting as a gatekeeper to the featherweight division’s ranked spots, Wood will certainly need to be patient and pick his timings correctly if he is to overcome ‘Touchy‘. 11 of Fili’s previous 13 bouts have gone the distance.

Molly McCann vs. Julija Stoliarenko: Women’s Flyweight

Liverpool’s Next Generation MMA have an array of notable fighters across different promotions nowadays, with few more famous than Molly ‘Meatball‘ McCann (13-5).

The Liverpudlian has made a global name for herself alongside the ever-exhuberant Paddy Pimblett, and her bouts across the last year have failed to disappoint when it comes to excitement.

The 33-year-old will once again be looking to impress the home crowd with a finish, especially after coming up short last time out against division contender Erin Blanchfield via first round submission last November.

Julija Stoliarenko (10-7-1) would, at first glance, appear to be a step-down in competition for McCann. The Lithuanian submission specialist is 1-4 under the UFC banner, and lost last time out via TKO to Chelsea Chandler in the first round.

Stoliarenko certainly has a wicked armbar in her arsenal, something that ‘Meatball‘ will have to look out for given she’s shown some vulnerabilities to submission attempts in recent years.

Tom Aspinall vs. Marcin Tybura: Heavyweight

In a heavyweight division containing a number of talented prospects, few are seen as more promising than Manchester’s Tom Aspinall (12-3).

The 30-year-old may have three losses on his professional record, but the statistic is slightly misleading. He tore his MCL 15 seconds into a contender clash with Curtis Blaydes resulting in an early stoppage last time out, as well as losing via DQ to Łukasz Parobiec early-on in his career (in a similar fashion to Jon Jones to Matt Hamill).

Fighting out of Team Kaobon, Aspinall has swiftly manoeuvred through the 265 lbs rankings, dispatching Andrei Arlovski, Serghei Spivac and Alexander Volkov all with first round stoppages.

Next in the journey is Polish powerhouse Marcin Tybura (24-7), fresh off a duo of decision wins against Alexandr Romanov and Blagoy Ivanov.

Tybur‘ has been with the UFC since 2016, and has lost just once in his last eight fights. The 37-year-old has seen his best run of form since the pandemic, stopping the likes of Walt Harris and Greg Hardy in that time.

Aspinall will be entering Saturday’s event as the heavy betting favourite, although if Tybura can survive the early rounds, it will be intriguing to see where his opponent’s stamina levels are at as the fight progresses.

Fellow countrymen Michael Bisping has warned the Mancunian to avoid complacency, although Aspinall’s professionalism is yet to be scrutinised.

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