Ahead of every championship fight, UFC staff writer E. Spencer Kyte will sit down with one of the sharpest coaching minds in the sport to break down the action and provide UFC fans with insights into each championship pairing from the men that spend their days getting these elite athletes prepared to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
For UFC 295, Kyte called upon Tyson Chartier, head coach of the New England Cartel, to provide his thoughts on four points of interest heading into the captivating interim heavyweight title clash between Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall that serves as the co-main event on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Best Trait of Each Fighter
Kyte: At a time in the sport where everyone is pretty solid everywhere, generally speaking, what is the one thing that each of these competitors do better than anyone else? What is the one element to their game that stands out the most?
Chartier: Man, with Sergei it’s gotta be his power, right? What is it now — six first-round finishes?
He got finished by (Alistair) Overeem, came back, and now it’s six first-round finishes in a row. He’s one of those guys where you can tell he has that raw power where he doesn’t have to hit you clean, almost like that Dustin Poirier style. He hits you, and even if it’s not a crisp, straight punch, you feel that thud and you’re like, “Whoa!”
Maurice (Greene) fought him and it’s a different kind of power. When you get hit by it, you’re like, “Oh.” People feel it in the fights and you’re like, “Oh, man.”
Kyte: We throw around “he’s got fight-changing power” too liberally when talking about these athletes without always fully explaining things, but he really is one of those guys where he hits you and it seems it’s just different than when another big heavyweight hits you.
Chartier: Yeah, and it’s eye-opening. It’s impressive when you feel it, and it’s like, “That’s not just a big guy hitting; it’s a big guy hitting that has pop.”
Kyte: That’s a really good way to put it.
Chartier: I always describe it as there are two types of power: mechanical power, which I think you see with someone like Calvin Kattar — he gets behind his punches, he’s crisp, his mechanics are good, and he’s hitting you with efficiency.
And then there is the thud power where they can just close their eyes — and I’m not saying this is what he does — but they can close their eyes and swing, and anything it hits, it shocks. I think he’s got that thud power; it’s different.
Aspinall, he’s got power, too, but he’s more of an athletic striker where he can move. He moves really, really well for a big guy, and athleticism and well-roundedness are his traits. He can knock you out or submit you, and that well-roundedness is the best trait for him.
He’s almost like a Ciryl Gane. Imagine if Ciryl Gane was good at jiu jitsu; that’s kind of how I look at Tom Aspinall.
Kyte: The thing to me that elevates Pavlovich’s power and elevates the danger of it is what we saw in the Tai Tuivasa fight: he’s got that thudding power, but then he doesn’t go bonkers; he sits there and measures. It’s “I’m gonna land three more and we’re gonna be done rather than throw 15 and be exhausted if I somehow don’t get you out of here.”
He’s economical and smart in the application of that freakish power.
Chartier: The athleticism gets me, too. When guys are that big and move like that, and it looks like they could have five-round cardio? That’s scary. He doesn’t look like a guy that is going to slow down.
Kyte: He’s gone 25 minutes before and he looked good. He’s one of those great big, thick, gigantic human beings.
With Aspinall, I agree with you about the well-roundedness. I wrote up the preview for this fight and said, “He low-key has outstanding jiu jitsu and people just don’t know it” because he didn't have to show it that much. The straight armbar win over (Alexander) Volkov showed a little of it, but he’s always kind of said he’s only going to show little bits and pieces when he has to, and, for me, that’s his best trait.
He’s got a complete tool kit and we haven’t had to see it yet.
Chartier: It’s like you have to catch him to beat him… or hope he hurts his knee. (laughs)
Kyte: He’s one of those guys to me where we haven’t seen it, but I have no real questions about his gas tank or his durability. Yes it’s heavyweight, so if anybody gets hit with a big shot, they can go, but he’s one of those guys for me where I won’t be surprised by it.
Path to Victory for Each Fighter
Kyte: Everyone would love a 10-second knockout or a quick submission, but that’s not often how these things go, especially not at the championship level. Instead, it’s usually the competitor that has crafted the better game plan and did the better job of executing things inside the Octagon that comes away with their hand raised and the gold around their waist.
So, how does either man get it done on Saturday night?
Chartier: Both guys could argue the path to victory is “hit first, hit hard, go for the knockout, but I think Pavlovich needs to land that big shot and do that early, because I do think Aspinall will have better cardio if the fight gets dirty.
I think he needs to engage early, close the distance, close off the cage, not let Aspinall use his footwork; get in his face and look for that big shot.
I think Aspinall needs to do the opposite: use his footwork, get touches, and not commit to power shots early; just touch and move, pull big shots out of Pavlovich. I think he should force the clinch early and wear on him a little bit, and if he can get a takedown early, that’s great.
I think his easiest path to victory would be getting a takedown, but you don’t want to force a takedown on a big guy like that, you know? Use the footwork, draw the big shots out, touch-and-go, wear on him, wear him out, get him tired. You’ve got to weather that early storm.
Kyte: I agree that the ground is probably where the big advantage lies, but like you said, you can’t go in there planning on wrestling the hell out of this dude because he’s a brick wall and you’re draining your own gas tank if you’re trying to drag him down constantly.
Wearing on him does sound and feel like a pretty smart approach.
Kyte: If there was one thing that was going to significantly impact how this fight plays out — that swings it in one direction or the other — what would it be?
Chartier: I think it’s whether or not Aspinall decides to wrestle.
Sometimes you see these guys where you look on paper and think “this guy probably has a big advantage here,” and they just don’t go for it. Afterwards, you hear them say, “I knew he was a hard guy to take down; I didn’t want to get stuck underneath him and I didn’t want to exhaust myself going for that.”
It’s almost like they scare themselves away from what they’re good at, and push themselves into the other part of the sandbox where their opponent has the best chance of winning it. So I’m interested to see if he’s going to have an ego in this fight and say, “I’m gonna go toe-to-toe and prove I’m the best guy.” It’s cool if it works out.
Or is he going to try to mix in some wrestling, some clinches early to try to test the waters, see if there is a cheap takedown or if he can make him tired and open things up?
To me, that’s the big X factor: does Aspinall come out and try to wear him out in the clinch and with the takedowns?
Kyte: For me — and I’ll admit it’s probably not a particularly fair one — it’s just who is more durable? Who is able to take some of these shots?
We haven’t seen a lot from either of them. They’ve been hammers; they haven’t been nails. Pavlovich was in his debut, but he was just over-matched coming off a year off, thrown in against Overeem overseas, but since, he’s been a monster.
Now, has he been a monster because nobody has tested him yet? Tom’s the same. Like you said, the only way we’ve seen him beaten in the UFC is when he blew out his knee, and so I’m really curious to see if and when one of these boys land, which one of them can take it a little better? Who wears it a little more?
What happens if Pavlovich lands one of those cannons that have shaken everyone else and Tom does the Robbie Lawler thing where he smiles, fixes his gloves, and steps forward. Then what? And if Aspinall lands something funky and the big fella just keeps coming at him, what does that do going forward?
I hope it isn’t a “one shot and we’re outta here” situation.
Chartier: I want to see them fight. I want to see them tangle.
Kyte: Yeah, I want to see what these guys are like in terms of dealing with some of this because I think they both could be special.
Chartier: I’m excited for it.
One Coaching Curiosity
Kyte: Coaches see the sport differently and look at the sport differently than anyone else, picking up on different things and paying attention to movements, habits, or intangible pieces that others might not notice, but that could have a significant impact on the action inside the Octagon.
Every matchup offers its own unique collection of elements that might pique a coach’s interest and get them paying a little closer attention to once the fight gets underway.
So what is that one thing in this matchup?
Chartier: I kind of want to see how Pavlovich looks if it goes past the first round in the UFC.
When you get six first-round finishes in a row, and the loss before that was in the first round, you haven’t been out of the first round in five, six years, so how do you react when it goes to that second round? I’ve seen guys that get on these streaks of first-round finishes, and then all of a sudden, they have to go to the second and they melt because they’re like, “This is so much tougher; I haven’t been here in a while.”
So I’m really interested to see how he deals with a second round in the UFC.
Kyte: That’s my thing, too, and I almost wonder if that’s something Aspinall builds into the game plan a little bit.
Chartier: Move for the first round?
Kyte: Just what we’ve talked about: move, clinch, wrestle. If you can get a trip, great. If you can put him on the canvas easy, great. If opportunities are there, you take them, but you don’t force it and you don’t put yourself in any great risk.
We haven’t seen much of Aspinall in the second round but, for whatever reason, I don’t have the same concerns, which probably isn’t fair.
Chartier: I feel the exact same way and I don’t know if it’s because of the way he moves. He doesn’t seem like a guy that relies on explosiveness and power; he relies on footwork and technique, and generally when you watch those guys, they’re more economical as time goes on and they generally have better cardio.
He moves like a guy that should have good cardio, where Pavlovich, maybe he has good cardio, but he fights like a guy that fades. Most guys that fight like that will generally fade.
Kyte: What’s also weird is that neither of them are guys that are cutting weight to make the heavyweight limit; they’re not these guys that are coming in at 265 pounds.
Pavlovich was 260 last fight, and that’s generally where he comes in, within five pounds or so. He’s not one of these big boys that is cutting a bunch of weight, and Aspinall is the same — he weighed in at 258 last time — but they’re such different body compositions, and you see that power for Pavlovich and think “he’s gonna fade more,” which is probably unfair, and why it’s the correct curiosity.
Chartier: I think we’re filling in gaps that we don’t know with knowledge that we have from the overall fight game; it’s not even specific to them.
You have two guys that are just killing everyone in the first round, and we have to make some assumptions, and that’s what makes this fight exciting is the unknown.
We’re all just speculating.
Kyte: That is a perfect way to put it. Thanks Coach!
Nicksick: And he’s fought Jiri, and I think that is also important.
Kyte: Right! Knows some of the stuff — what the strength is like, what the power is like, what he might chase and not chase. I’m sure if you asked Glover, he’d cop to wanting that fight back so he could correct the couple mistakes he made because he was 30 seconds from winning that fight.
Nicksick: Yep. It’s going to be a good one.
Kyte: I can’t wait for it!
UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!