Some of the UFC’s greatest fighters – including Georges St-Pierre, Conor McGregor and Dominick Cruz – have overcome serious knee injuries in their pursuit of the championship. Heavyweight Tom Aspinall is on a mission to add his name to the list. Last July, against Curtis Blaydes, Aspinall suffered a serious knee injury 15 seconds into the biggest fight of his career. The injury ended the fight, breaking his eight-fight winning streak and preventing the Englishman from advancing in search of the belt.
Aspinall returns to the O2 Arena on Saturday to face Marcin Tybura as the -500 favourite. It’s clear the promotion is bringing the UK’s most promising prospect back into action, but the wide odds make it an uphill struggle for punters to find value. Putting -500 on a fighter coming off major knee surgery is a tough bet to make, even if Aspinall is the clear side in the fight.
What’s the best way to cash in on your expected dominance in the main event? I’ll share how I’m banking on a big win in Aspinall’s return, and review some of the available props that should be on your radar.
Tom Aspinall (-500) vs. Marcin Tybura (+360)
When people talk about who could dethrone Jon Jones, there’s a reason Aspinall’s name comes up. His elite combination of striking and grappling is rare in a division where most fighters have a unique path to victory. Aspinall has great power, throws solid leg kicks and a devastating right cross, as well as getting effective takedowns to utilize his grappling when advantageous. He is dangerous from all sides and does an excellent job adapting his approach to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses. Of his five UFC wins, three were by TKO and two by submission.
The biggest criticism of the fifth-ranked Aspinall is that it hasn’t really been tested yet. That’s not likely to happen in Saturday’s clash with Tybura. Four of Aspinall’s five UFC wins came in the first round, and the only opponent to survive the first round (Andrei Arlovski) was eliminated just over a minute later. Aspinall’s odds of winning within the distance are identical to his moneyline price (-500), forcing bettors to be more precise with their bets on the exact outcome of Saturday’s main event.
This is a big step forward for Tybura (11-6 UFC), who enters the fight with two straight wins against a much lower level of competition. He is on a 7-1 streak, but his most recent opponent, Blagoy Ivanov, was recently cut from promotion. Tybura is in a whole different world with Aspinall, and that’s a major factor in why I expect this to end soon. Tybura’s win condition normally revolves around him taking some damage early on and working his way through his wrestling to gain control of the fight. His meager +0.24 hit differential demonstrates how part of his success relies on his ability to absorb his opponent’s hits.
He is not surviving Aspinall’s attack. Aspinall averages a significant 7.41 strikes per minute and leads all ranked fighters in all divisions with a striking differential of +4.54. Add in the fact that Aspinall is the advantage grappler, and there’s not much data that points to him getting past the first round. Tybura has already been knocked out by Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai, so I’m confident he’ll crumble when Aspinall inevitably hits him with strikes.
There are a few different ways to attack the victory props method. Here are the three options on BetMGM that are a reasonable alternative to putting -500 on the money line:
Tom Aspinall by KO/TKO or DQ (-165)
Tom Aspinall to win in Round 1 (-115)
Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO at Rd 1 (+100)
If I had to bet on how Aspinall submits his opponent, it’s much more likely to be striking than submitting. It might be tempting to pay the extra fifteen cents (-115) for Aspinall to win in the first round to cover the chance of a submission, but it’s not worth it considering the historical data. Tybura has never been submitted in 31 career fights spanning 11 years and has held his ground against elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists like Fabricio Werdum.
The key question for punters is whether they are more confident of Aspinall winning the first round or a knockout victory. It’s an easy decision for me, but your response shapes the support that offers the best value. It’s hard to gauge how Aspinall feels in the Octagon after having major surgery. If that’s a concern, backing Aspinall at -165 to win KO/TKO is a solid bet. I believe it’s in Aspinall’s DNA to be aggressive, and once he gets a feel for his opponent, he’ll want to pass the test as quickly as possible.
My money’s on Tom Aspinall to win by TKO in the first round. He has a lot of movement for a heavyweight and should be very successful in exploiting gaps in Tybura’s striking defense. He has the power and explosiveness to knock out Tybura’s lights devastatingly. The crowd at the O2 Arena will go absolutely wild, pumping their adrenaline and fueling the heavyweight to deliver exactly what he came to see. I will also be betting 0.20 of a unit on Tom Aspinall to win KO/TKO in Round 2 as a small buffer at +500 to guard against any kind of sentiment process.
Best Bet: Tom Aspinall to win by KO/TKO in Round 1 (+100)
Statistics provided by ufcstats.comRichard Mann