UFC betting: Is there a future champion on Saturday's London card?

·Betting analyst
·4 min read

The UFC returns to London on Saturday for an early card to help get the juices flowing and the money rolling in. The 13-fight lineup begins at 1 pm E.T. with the main card starting three hours later.

I have always enjoyed the occasional early Saturday start times. Every MMA fan has a few surreal moments when they watch the TV in disbelief. Whether it was Chris Weidman dethroning Anderson Silva, or Rashad Evans icing Chuck Liddell, you never forget when legends looked human for the first time in the Octagon. One of those profound moments that will always stick with me is from UFC 85. On a Saturday afternoon, Thiago Alves smashed Matt Hughes in a second-round KO in the same O2 arena in London. The welterweight division was never the same, but that afternoon 14 years ago reinforced the energy that keeps me anticipating the fights every weekend. This card might not have household names, but future stars can become contenders with one punch.

For the first time in a few weeks, we have a closely lined main event with Tom Aspinall vs. Alexander Volkov. Aspinall is currently a slight favorite in the battle of the two heavyweights. I will break down my betting recommendation for the headliner along with my two best bets. Let's make this card one to remember.

Tom Aspinall (-130) vs. Alexander Volkov (+110)

The stakes are high for Aspinall. The winner of his first four UFC fights gets a huge opportunity to catapult himself into the top five with a win over the sixth-ranked Volkov. Like with many up-and-coming fighters, the biggest question is how Aspinall will respond in the later rounds against a solid veteran. In 11 career fights, he has never been to a decision, finishing his opponent in all nine of his wins. Aspinall's output is jaw-dropping, averaging 7.19 strikes per minute and 2.73 takedowns per three-round fight. He is up against a very durable veteran in Volkov, who has only been finished three times in his 43-fight career.

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 4: Tom Aspinall meets with the press following the win at UFC Apex for UFC Fight Night - Vegas 36 - Event on September 4, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV, United States. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages)
Tom Aspinall coud be in the UFC top five with a win Saturday night. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages)

Volkov doesn't possess one-punch knockout power. He will have to rely on volume and hope he can capitalize by accumulating damage on his opponent round after round. That strategy can only be successful if he keeps the fight standing and survives Aspinall's onslaught. Aspinall has the more explosive arsenal with three legitimate paths to finishing the fight. If he takes Volkov down, his top game is punishing as he can pound his opponent into submission. Just two fights ago against Andrei Arlovski, he demonstrated the ability to choke out a more experienced, longtime UFC veteran.

There are times as bettors we can project a fighter's weakness simply because he or she hasn't had the opportunity to prove it's not one. There is a chance the veteran pulls the rising star into deep waters and Aspinall takes a step back in his progression, but I can't wager my money on it. Tom Aspinall is the faster, more skilled fighter with more paths to victory. I don't hate Aspinall inside the distance, but at this price, there is no reason to risk turning a winning ticket into a losing one.

The bet: Tom Aspinall (-130)

Nikita Krylov (-190) vs. Paul Craig (+155)

Krylov is the more exciting fighter between these two light heavyweights, but also brings a higher level of variance of which I think Craig can take advantage. Craig is a technically sound grappler who handed Magomed Ankalaev his last loss in 2018.

Krylov has a tendency to get a little sloppy, and I can see Craig's opportunistic style landing himself another upset here. In his interviews leading up to the fight, Craig seems confident, focused and motivated to put on a performance that improves his position in the rankings. At this price, Craig is very live as an underdog and is worth a play at the implied odds of 39%.

The bet: Paul Craig +155

Timur Valiev (-120) vs. Jack Shore (+100)

If somebody told me that a future champion was on this card, my money would be on Jack Shore. The modern-day Matt Hughes of the bantamweight division has ground his way to a 15-0 record and a 4-0 start to his UFC career. Shore's a dominant grappler who excels at taking his opponents back and flattening out his prey on the canvas. If his striking continues to progress, he will be a problem in the division for a long time.

Valiev will be Shore's stiffest test, but his takedown defense will not be able to withstand Shore's pressure. Shore will relentlessly and methodically impose his will and trap Valiev like an anaconda. In his four UFC fights, Shore has 15 takedowns, illustrating how he successfully breaks the will of his opponents. Saturday will be no different. Valiev will make Shore eat some shots on the way in, but he will eventually succumb to being Shore's next victim.

The bet: Jack Shore (+100)

Stats provided by ufcstats.com.