The Severe Spotlight: Tom Aspinall

Tom Aspinall walked out to a hero’s reception on Saturday night at The O2, London. Arms wide, soaking in the energy from his home crowd via his lunchbox sized palms.  A day shy of another trip around the sun Aspinall made the same walk to the same octagon in the same arena. Yet, in 15 seconds suffered a catastrophic knee injury that abruptly halted what was billed to be his breakout performance into the elite echelons of the UFC Heavyweight division.

Those injuries are pivotal in a fighter’s career, obviously from a physiological perspective. How does the injury recover? Is the body still able to perform in an optimal way after the injury? But more importantly for a fighter, the mental ramifications of such an injury is vast. When the toolkit used for battle fails a fighter, the deep mind/body connection that is forged over years of earnest work is severed, or at best depleted. Tom Aspinall had to answer to those anxious grumbles from the belly of The O2 against Marcin Tybura.

In saying all of that the one minute and seconds of work it took for Aspinall to dispatch of his Polish counterpart allowed us to view much of the new and improved Tom Aspinall but also answered many of the questions of inter-bodily trust Aspinall might have been having; the answer was none.

The usual confident bouncing cadence welcomed Aspinall to the centre of the octagon, as did a gracious glove touch for his foe. He asked footwork questions twice before a shot was thrown, strafing the inside and outside lines of the lead southpaw foot of Tybura, inching closer to the pocket as he did so. He opened his account with a heavy right high kick off a reset – Tybura stumbling backwards under the weight. Its poignant to note that it was that same right leg that ended the fight for Aspinall against Blaydes.

A conscious decision to throw the very same leg as his opening shot? Poetic, if so.

Maybe too fervently but Aspinall sensed a chance to bounce, 12 seconds in. Tybura checks a right hook into the guard to Aspinall to ensure he was aware the fight was still live. Back to the flowing cadence until the first pocket exchange saw Aspinall land a clean left hook, taking a moment to draw the left from Tybura before engaging back into the pocket for another 1-2. He eats a shot from Tybura for his efforts.

A raucous noise echoes over the crowd as Aspinall slams a right kick to the midsection of Tybura as the first minute of the bout ends.

Aspinall bounds out of the way of a Tybura attack before lining up what was the finishing sequence. Aspinall resets to the shape of a pizza crust, a little jagged but semi-circular all the same. As he bounds back in he drives his lead foot deep in between the sanctums of the Tybura stance. Immediately stepping through with a right elbow, Tybura covers, but not before a jab and a crushing right hand begins to send him to the canvas. Aspinall races and crowds a desperate Tybura who had managed to attain a clamp grip of the left hand of Aspinall – yet had been unable to do anything with the right hand which rained shots the size of boulders into the Pole.

Referee Marc Goddard didn’t wait and called the fight off at the perfect time. Waving his arms aloft Tybura to signal the return of the UK star. Tom Aspinall is back.

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