Saturday’s UFC London event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in England, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at the O2 Arena.
1 – Alexander Volkov
Sometimes we tend to look at a fighter’s past results and assume that he won’t make much noise in the big show. So when Alexander Volkov dropped back-to-back fights to Tony Johnson and UFC vet Cheick Kongo in 2015, I didn’t expect the Russian to become a serious contender in the Octagon. I was wrong. And after four UFC victories capped off by a fourth-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum, I think he’s got the potential to make a solid run at the winner of July’s heavyweight title clash between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. At 6-foot-7, he’s a nightmare style matchup for anyone, he survived Werdum’s world-class ground game, and his striking style is more punishing than the type that gets you out of there with one shot. In a five-round title fight, that’s a good weapon to have, and my days of doubting “Drago” are over.
2 – Jan Blachowicz
Timing is everything, right? Well, it looks like this is Jan Blachowicz’ time at 205 pounds. After an up and down start to his UFC career, he’s now on a three-fight winning streak that hit three last weekend as he decisioned Jimi Manuwa, evening the score with the “Poster Boy” in the process. The win will likely push him into the light heavyweight division’s top 10 and set up another big fight. So who should that fight be against? Manuwa again? Shogun Rua? Glover Teixeira? Ilir Latifi? I’m in for any of those, and with a win against any of those names, a move into the title conversation should be next for the world’s biggest fan of “The Witcher.”
3 – Danny Roberts
I like Danny Roberts. He’s an honest fighter who always shows up ready to throw down, sometimes to his detriment. But you can’t switch that instinct off in a guy like that. When the Octagon door shuts, he’s looking to fight. You have to respect that. At the same time, in a black and white sport with no gray areas, wins matter. So it was nice to see him get a big knockout victory over Oliver Enkamp, and in his hometown of London at the same time. And while the welterweight division is a shark tank, if he can pick his shots and stick to the game plan, he can make some noise. And he’s earned the right to have that chance to battle the best.
4 – Danny Henry
Some fighters have it, some fighters don’t. Danny Henry has it. So what is “it?” It’s the charisma that, when added to fighting talent, can make someone a star in this game. Shameless plug, but go back and read my pre-fight piece on Henry for a little look into his back story, as well as the greatest line uttered in an interview this year. The Scotland native can tell his story, and as he’s proved in a pair of UFC bouts, he can go to war (against Daniel Teymur) or finish a foe quick (against Hakeem Dawodu). He’s going to be fun to watch in the featherweight division.
5 – Paul Craig
Paul Craig started his pro MMA career in fine fashion, racing out to a 9-0 record that included a Performance of the Night win over Henrique da Silva. Then two knockout losses to Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree followed, and he was on his way to a third straight defeat against Magomed Ankalaev last Saturday. Three consecutive losses in the UFC isn’t great for job security, but that’s a conversation that we’re not having this morning because Craig pulled off a miracle submission win with one second left in the fight. That kind of victory says a lot of things, but the main takeaway is that Craig’s fighting spirit never waned. He could have accepted the loss, figured out the next step when it came and moved on. He didn’t. He still wanted to win and he found a way to do it. That’s a winner in more ways than one.