Curtis Blaydes (+110) vs Tom Aspinall (-140)
Blaydes: DK: $7.9k | Aspinall: DK:$8.3k
This one’s an awkward heavyweight scrap with future title fight implications. I say awkward not because of clashing styles or unorthodox techniques, but awkward because Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall represent two recently scorned Weekly KO fighters. This is awkward like running into two ex-girlfriends at a party; one’s now dating a Big Lots manager and the other an LA Fitness Zumba instructor, two upgrades. Awkward like standing in an empty men’s room with four available urinals, and the next guy through the door pulls up to one right next to you. I spent six hundred words touting Tom Aspinall as the next big thing in the heavyweight division and then went and picked Alexander Volkov to beat him. I glossed over Curtis Blaydes’ 11-3-1 UFC record with two losses coming to one man, Francis Ngannou, and picked Chris Daukaus to beat him.
The good news: This here’s my shot at redemption. The bad news: I’ll have to scorn one of them again. But if there’s any solstice for the predicted loser of this fight, it’s that the MMA Pick ‘Em Gods have been moving heaven and hell to prevent me from winning main events this year. Just look at how Brian Ortega lost last week.
Tom Aspinall is 12-2 for his career and 5-0 in the UFC with five finishes, and only one fight made it to the second round. Aspinall is Paul Wall flossin’ with the diamond fronts, tippin’ on Vogues, all the bling, and all the show. He’s a highlight reel of flashy KO’s and submissions brought about by blinding hand speed and devastating power. His submissions look like he’s in the front yard torturing G.I. Joe’s, twisting their limbs to impossible angles after burning them with magnifying glasses and clipping the little rubber band in their midsections.
Tommy is on an eight-fight winning/finishing streak, and a dub against Curtis Blaydes would make him the next title challenger or one fight away. That all depends on if the Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic ever happens.
Aspinall moves like Ciryl Gane and has possibly the best hand speed I’ve ever seen at heavyweight. Tom uses intricate techniques like shoulder rolls, stepping off at angles, and striking while moving in all directions. He blends boxing techniques with kickboxing hand/kick combinations, is light on his feet, and uses a Karate-like perpetual bounce. Sprinkle in excellent takedowns and heavy ground and pound, and you got yourself a well-rounded fighter; all paths leading to victory against him are overgrown and treacherous.
Head movement is the catalyst for Aspinall’s entire game. He uses slick head movement not only to avoid strikes and counter, but also to set up takedowns. Aspinall will slip to the outside of the punch and level change into power double-legs; he makes you miss, and in your moment of vulnerability, takes you down.
Weaknesses? There aren’t many to the untrained eye, but that’s why you come to the Weekly KO; for Mary Jane enhanced eyes trained at the world-class Couch Performance Institute. Thousands of reps, doobie curls until failure and watching fights nonstop like a Guantanamo prisoner forced to watch American Pickers marathons.
Aspinall is hittable. His defense on the feet is leaky and, at times, too nonchalant. It looks flashy with slick head movement and precise range management, but Aspinall tends to use a half-assed Philly Shell that can be penetrated with extended combinations. If you stop throwing after one or two strikes, Aspinall will make you miss and make you pay, so the key is to continue to pursue with third and fourth level strikes. You can’t head hunt against Aspinall, you have to punch at his chest and threaten with up the middle attacks to discourage level changes.
But Aspinall’s biggest question mark is his gas tank. His fights rarely last five minutes; what will happen if he can’t find the early finish? Does Aspinall have the dog in him? Also, what does Aspinall’s guard look like? Curtis Blaydes has the wrestling and heavy top control to answer those questions.
Curtis Blaydes is a perennially underrated fighter who, despite having an excellent finishing rate, tends to underwhelm with his performances. I don’t know what it is, but even his KO’s are forgettable five minutes later. Blaydes’ right hand can Jimmy Hoffa you in a blink; make you completely disappear off the face of the earth, and he has eleven KO’s in sixteen career wins to prove it. But sometimes, Blaydes’ perpetuates wrestling-heavy game plans and shows no desire to finish the fight. For a guy who averages six takedowns per fifteen minutes, he has exactly zero point zero submission wins. He can ground and pound you through the Octagon but is often content to just hold on and maintain position.
In his last bout, Blaydes boxed Chris Daukaus’ ears off but chose to fight Daukaus at his strength. He can’t afford to do that against Tom Aspinall. Blaydes needs to get the fight to the mat before Aspinall does and before getting clipped on the feet by something he never saw coming.
Aspinall will be stepping in as the early (-140) favorite, and the odds (-205) favor a finish before the final bell. The sweet spot is over/under 2.5 rounds, which will return plus money at (+115) or (+225) over/under 1.5 rounds. This one going the distance will provide (+155) odds, and it’s not too far fetched if Blaydes can take Aspinall down and slow play the fight, but an early finish is the most likely outcome. And an early finish is dripping with value. In fourteen career fights, Aspinall has never seen a third round; his speed overwhelms early and will likely create a finishing sequence one way or the other.
Last week marked the second time in 2022 that I lost a main event via spontaneous injury, when Brian Ortega dislocated his shoulder, pulling out of an armbar in the first round. Side note: if you didn’t see Su Mudaerji vs. Matt Schnell, stop what you’re doing and get on that shit. Anywho, the main event-winning streak had a short but fulfilling life, and now it’s back to square one. Tom Aspinall via TKO, round two.
Winner: Tom Aspinall | Method: TKO Rd.2