The UFC's emphatic return to the O2 Arena in London after 3 long years was a return to remember. With a record breaking 9 performance bonuses handed out for every single finish on the card really shows how successful the amazing card truly was. With a live record of over 17 thousand packing inside London saw the hometown favorites Molly McCann, Paddy Pimblett, Tom Aspinall and Arnold Allen earn highlight reel finishes and other spectacular finishes from Paul Craig, Ilia Topuria and the debuting 21 year old Muhammad Mokaev. With the eyes brought to the UFC from the London crowd and their hometown fighters, many fighters on the card can see bigger things in the near future. With a card that ended with only 3 decisions over a 12 fight card, many fighters on the card moved the needle and have ranking and even potential title implications after the memorable night (or evening if you watched from the United States) of fights.
The Glorious Meatball
The most memorable knockout from the entire card and will be seen on every YouTube compilation and UFC highlight package for the rest of our lives, Molly "Meatball" McCann (12-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) earned the finish of her life with a 3rd round spinning elbow knockout over DWCS Brazil contract winner Luana "Dread" Carolina (8-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC). With all the adrenaline with fighting in her hometown, McCann came out firing in the first round and had her hurt on the feet with a flurry of punches on multiple occasions and actively searched for the takedown up against the fence. The second round saw the fight a bit more competitive with Carolina landing elbows and punches using her dirty boxing after her flurries. McCann landed a big slam late in the 2nd round to swing the momentum in her favor for the final frame. The 3rd round started the same as the 1st and after Carolina tried to clinch up about 1:50 into the 3rd, Mrs. Meatball timed up a picture perfect spinning elbow and left her opponent out cold and celebrated with the crowd and grabbed a UFC belt from the crowd and cherished the moment with her hometown fans. With her 1st finish inside the octagon and 2 straight bonus earning fights, big things are coming out of Molly "Meatball" McCann.
The Almighty Stakes His Claim
The UFC's dark horse of the featherweight division broke the door down and comfortably entered the top 5. Arnold "Almighty" Allen (18-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) came into his main card slot against New Zealand's own Dan "Hangman" Hooker (21-12 MMA, 11-8 UFC) riding an 8 fight win streak spanning over 7 years with wins over Mads Burnell, former Strikeforce lightweight champion and two time UFC lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez and current #11 ranked featherweight Sodiq Yusuff. Hooker was seen as Allen's hardest challenge to date with the UFC experience at the top level and high level outside striking he possesses, but Allen turned the tide to the words once the fight started. Allen came out pressuring Hooker (who dropped down from lightweight for this bout) and having him fight off the backfoot. He landed quick and early and soon became a firefight for all of the 2 minutes and 33 seconds it lasted with both men rocking one another with hooks. The finish came after a solid left hook left him up against the cage and a flurry of knees and elbows sealed the deal, earning him his first UFC finish since 2018. His post-fight interview saw him call out New England's own Calvin Kattar and a win over Kattar would solidify himself into the title picture and potentially a shot at gold at the tail end of 2022.
A Comeback For The Ages
Everything involving fight week for now #15 ranked featherweight Ilia "El Matador" Topuria (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) was as hectic as fight week can. After signing on to fight the former Cage Warriors lightweight champion Jai "The Black Country Banger" Herbert (11-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC) up a weight class and dealing with an 8 inch reach advantage, in the middle of fight week got into an altercation with fellow prospect and hometown favorite Paddy Pimblett over comments made about the country of Georgia. Many expected the fight to be a cake walk for Topuria coming in as the -500 favorite and to take him down and use his superb grappling to snag an easy submission, instead Herbert came out in the first and showed excellent striking and nearly finish Topuria with a head kick. Topuria went back and licked his wounds and came back out for the 2nd round and found himself inside the pocket and threw a lead body hook to overhand right combination that left Herbert out cold 1:07 into the 2nd round. The post-fight callout of Paddy further showed the hatred that the two men share and down the line, could involve rankings or even a championship on the line. Ilia showed great heart and survived being in deep waters for the first time in his UFC career and has the makings of a UFC champion down the line.
Never Forget About Bearjew
Scotland native and BJJ specialist Paul "Bearjew" Craig (16-4-1 MMA, 8-4-1 UFC) has had an up and down UFC career so far. Coming up short to fighters with solid standup like Khalil Rountree Jr. and Alonzo Menifield and has submitted the likes of Magomed Ankalaev, Gadzhimurad Antigulov, Kennedy Nzechukwu and now Nikita Krylov all with his patented triangle choke. The first ten seconds were as hectic as possible with now #8 ranked light heavyweight Paul Craig surging forward with a front kick which lead to a quick takedown by Krylov and right into Craig's strong suite. However, Krylov threw heavy ground and pound and nearly had the 1st round TKO but Craig weathering the storm throughout the first round and sticking to his fantastic submissions, locked in a triangle choke when Krylov overextended and the quick tap earned him his 4th first round finish and a locked spot as a light heavyweight contender. In his post fight interview, he called out #5 ranked Anthony "Lionheart" Smith to a main event slot in June in his home country of Scotland. With a potential win over Smith, that comfortable leaves Craig in the title picture and may earn UFC gold and become the first Scottish born UFC champion.