It has been three years since the UFC held an event at the O2 Arena. Originally scheduled to return in March 2020 with UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs. Edwards, the event ended up being one of five that were cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the promotion was set to finally make its return to the UK, they were going to have to put on one hell of a show for all those fans who had waited oh so patienty, and on March 19th, 2022 in London, at UFC Fight Night – Volkov vs. Aspinall (aka UFC Fight Night 204), they did just that!
With a star-studded card featuring the likes of Molly “Meatball” McCann, Gunner “Gunni” Nelson, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett, Dan “The Hangman” Hooker, Arnold “Almighty” Allen, Alexander “Drago” Volkov, and Tom Aspinall, it guaranteed there wasn’t going to be any shortage of show-stopping action that night.
This event was significant, not least for the amount of post-fight bonuses awarded to fighters. With the current record for UFC bonuses standing at four, it would take some exceptional finishes to break that barrier.
However, the finishes that night were off the charts with a record nine winners being awarded Performance of the Night.
On this dramatic night with so much at stake, it’s only fitting that we should highlight some of the most career-boosting combat masterpieces from this unforgettable event.
So, without further ado, let’s take a trip through the beefy British barnstormer that was UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Jai “The Black Country Banger” Herbert vs. Ilia “El Matador” Topuria
For the first fight on the main card, former Cage Warriors Lightweight Champion Jai “The Black Country Banger” Herbert, took on undefeated Georgian fighter, Ilia “El Matador” Topuria, who was making his lightweight debut.
As the two lightweights began round 1 trading blows, Herbert knocked “El Matador” down with a solid head kick, yet Topuria managed to save himself by returning to his feet, pressing Herbert against the cage and lifting him up for a slam.
As Topuria transitioned from crucifix to full guard, Herbert caught him with an attempted triangle choke, but the Georgian managed to escape the choke hold, resulting in both men continuing in stand-up.
Herbert struck with a perfectly-timed knee to the head, forcing Topuria’s piece out of his mouth. Both fighters ended round 1 exchanging blows to the head.
Round 2 began and ended with Topuria pressuring Herbert back toward the cage with a flurry of hooks, surprisingly putting Herbert down with a right hook to the chin.
The fight was stopped at 1:07 of round 2, to declare Ilia Topuria the winner via knockout.
4. Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett vs. Rodrigo “Kazula” Vargas
After debuting in the UFC in September last year, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett had his first UFC bout in London against Rodrigo “Kazula” Vargas and looked to match his first Performance of the Night with another spectacular finish for the fans.
The scouser began round 1 with a leg kick, but was open to Vargas’ right hand, knocking him down to the canvas with Vargas landing in full guard.
When it looked like an anti-climax was on the cards, Pimblett got back to his feet with Vargas pressing him against the cage. Paddy “The Baddy” held on the clinch with an overhook, following up with an impressive judo throw.
Transitioning to Vargas’ back, Paddy locked his legs over his opponent, finishing with a rear naked choke (RNC) for the win at 3:50 of round 1.
After coming back from the brink of defeat and delivering another well-rounded performance, the scouser’s star continues to rise.
3. Nikita “The Miner” Krylov vs. Paul “Bearjew” Craig
The fourth fight on the preliminary card pinned Scottish fighter Paul “Bearjew” Craig against no.9-ranked light heavyweight, Nikita “The Miner” Krylov.
In round 1, Krylov landed a head kick to the temple of the Scottish fighter, following through with a takedown.
The Scottish native was on the receiving end of Krylov’s vicious ground-and-pound. It looked like “The Miner” was on the verge of mauling “Bearjew” into defeat, but out of nowhere, Craig caught Krylov’s right hand, dragging him towards him and locking him into a triangle choke.
With no way out, “The Miner” tapped out at 3:57 of round 1, declaring Paul Craig the winner via submission care of an impressive triangle choke.
Paul Craig earned his fourth, consecutive victory and became the second fighter to earn a Performance of the Night bonus.
2. Alexander “Drago” Volkov vs. Tom Aspinall
It was time for the main event! Two heavyweights going head-to-head for the no.6 rank position in the UFC. No.11-ranked Tom Aspinall, had his sights set on overthrowing Alexander “Drago” Volkov and moving one giant step up the heavyweight food chain.
Beginning round 1, Aspinall connected with a swift jab and cross combo early on. Volkov landed two body kicks, but it was going to take more than that to stop Aspinall from pursuing for a takedown.
Once into side guard, Aspinall started laying some serious ground-and-pound, including elbows to the head, and an attempted kimura, before the two got back to their feet, but not without Aspinall first greeting Volkov with a knee and cross.
With Volkov’s back against the wall, Aspinall began scoring with head shots and leg kicks. Although he slipped, landing on the canvas (drawing a gasp from the crowd), he managed to get back to face his opponent in the centre.
Defying the curb of a heavyweight, Aspinall dodged a head kick and countered a right cross with a shoot takedown.
Demonstrating sheer dominance over Drago, Aspinall landed several elbow strikes, before ending Volkov’s misery with a straight armbar at 3:45 of round 1.
In his fifth straight win in the UFC, another dominating performance from the Englishman continues to tarmac his road toward the heavyweight elite.
1. Molly “Meatball” McCann vs. Luana “Dread” Carolina
In the second fight on the main card, former Cage Warriors Women’s Flyweight Champion, “Meatball” Molly McCann, took on two-time Muay Thai Champion, Luana “Dread” Carolina, in front of a supporting London crowd.
At the start of round 1, McCann caught Carolina’s body kick, returning a right hand. Looking to press “Dread” against the cage, “Meatball” Molly rocked Carolina with a right hand and continued the pressure with a flurry of strikes.
Carolina saved herself with a clinch, with both fighters reversing positions and pressing each other against the cage.
Catching another body kick, McCann landed a left hook and a right hand, continuing to unleash her fury on Carolina. With her back against the cage, Carolina was once again at the mercy of Meatball Molly’s onslaught.
Ever the entertainer, McCann decided to put on a show for the crowd, taunting her opponent, throwing a wild, spinning-wheel kick and landing one more blow to the head before the end of round 1.
Carolina came back in round 2 with a knee and elbow, but that didn’t deter Meatball Molly from stalking her prey, lifting her opponent from her feet and slamming her to the canvas.
The Brazilian scored more points, relying on her clinch to land knees and elbows over McCann, yet Meatball Molly ended round 2 with a crowd-pleasing slam.
In round 3, whenever Carolina landed more shots against the scouser, McCann just kept on coming, until finally catching another body kick, culminating in an earth- shattering spinning elbow to Carolina’s head, knocking her out cold at 1:52 of round 3.
Carolina lay unconscious as Meatball Molly celebrated her first knockout for the promotion, marking it as a potential contender for Knockout of the Year.