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UFC Fight Night 225: Tom Aspinall moves closer to title shot

Heavyweight Tom Aspinall marked his return to action in stunning style on Saturday as he stopped Marcin Tybura in under two minutes.

Almost exactly a year to the day, Aspinall lay in agony on the canvas at London's O2 Arena after suffering a serious knee injury just 15 seconds into his contest with Curtis Blaydes.

It was subsequently confirmed that Aspinall had torn his medial collateral ligament and his meniscus, and sustained damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.

Aspinall was riding an eight-fight win streak prior to that loss, with five of those victories coming in the UFC, and was on the verge of getting a title shot.

Following successful surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation period, Aspinall was back in the octagon on Saturday and he didn't disappoint.

Aspinall 2.0

In the build-up to his eagerly-anticipated return - again at the O2 Arena - Aspinall claimed his leg was feeling better than ever.

He appeared more confident in fight week and claimed he had been struggling with a knee injury for years, admitting it would often lock out in training.

With that in mind, it was almost inevitable that he would eventually suffer in a fight and that proved to be the case against Blaydes on 23rd July 2022.

Aspinall promised we would see a new version, a better version, on Saturday in London and he wasn't bluffing.

The number five ranked heavyweight threw a right high kick almost immediately, making contact with Tybura's head to send a message.

He looked loose and light on his feet and enjoyed plenty of early success, as the fight lasted just one minute and 13 seconds.

Atherton-born Aspinall ended the contest with a flurry of punches, sending Tybura, ranked 10 in the division, down to the canvas, before finishing with ground and pound.

Aspinall calls his shot

The Englishman doesn't have a reputation for being massively outspoken, but he used his time on the mic incredibly well after the win.

Aspinall has set his sights on the top of the division.

"I'm going to go to Paris, sit front row for Ciryl Gane against Sergey Spivac, I'm going to beat the winner. If Gane wins, he just fought for the title.

"He’s the guy I want to fight, I want to know I am ready for the title," Aspinall told TNT Sports.

Former interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane faces Sergey Spivac in Paris on 2nd September.

He didn't just settle with Gane-Spivac, though.

Aspinall also called out heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who returned after a three-year absence to win the vacant belt via a first-round submission win over Gane at UFC 285.

Two-weight champion Jones, regarded as one of the greatest to ever step into the octagon, makes his maiden defence against former champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 295 on 11th November.

Aspinall added: "I'm going to beat Jon Jones."

When asked about the potential of being on the Jones v Miocic undercard in New York he added: "Damn right I want to be on that card."

Submission specialist sees off McCann

Molly McCann, who claimed two stunning wins at London's O2 Arena in 2022, was the chief support on Saturday, facing Julija Stoliarenko in the co-main event.

McCann was looking to bounce back from defeat to Erin Blanchfield at UFC 281 in New York.

Blanchfield exposed McCann's vulnerability on the ground, securing victory by submission in the opening round and that didn't bode well when she was matched with Stoliarenko.

The Lithuanian had 10 wins on her record prior to Saturday's contest and nine of those had come by submission.

It took Stoliarenko just one minute and 55 seconds to get Meatball Molly down to the canvas and sink in an armbar submission.

Liverpool's McCann certainly won't back away from the challenge of emerging stronger from defeat - she has a history of doing that.

The flyweight lost successive fights between 2020 and 2021 and came back to win her next three.

Wood and Murphy remain on collision course

English rivals Nathaniel Wood and Lerone Murphy were slated to meet at UFC 286 in London in March, however, Wood had to withdraw due to a leg injury. 

The featherweight pair were both on Saturday's card with Wood beating Andre Fili and Murphy seeing off Joshua Culibao.

As they continue to edge their way towards the top 15 of the division it looks likely they will cross paths in the octagon to settle their feud in the next 12 months.

Craig could be a problem at middleweight

Scotland's Paul Craig made his debut at middleweight on Saturday following successive losses at light heavyweight against Volkan Oezdemir and Johnny Walker.

The UFC didn't make life easy for the Bearjew as they matched him with number 14 ranked middleweight Andre Muniz.

But Craig oozed class to claim a second-round win, forcing the referee to step in as he dropped elbows on to the head of the Brazilian.

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