The Severe Spotlight: Tom Aspinall

It just seemed fated, didn’t it? There are some qualities, some markers and some variables that seem to align and fit perfectly when certain fighters burst onto the scene. Progress, for some fighters attracts more progress and that elevation thrives naturally as one builds. Whether that’s building skills, building families, building life experiences – there is often a feeling of comfortability and homeliness when we look upon a fighters rise. Tom Aspinall is one of those fighters.

Aspinall has carried an intellectual poise and calm throughout his entire UFC career. He noted his aspirations but was humble enough to understand that he wasn’t yet ready to compete with the elite of the division but would get there. Alongside the ever-present Father and coach Andy Aspinall he split his training between Team Kaobon and his underground Avengers team consisting of KSW Heavyweight Champion Phil De Fries and UFC heavyweight Mick Parkin to name a few he built the skills necessary to ensure he wasn’t just able to compete, he was able to dominate.

Never in his career has Aspinall seen the third round of an MMA contest, let alone had to rely on the judges. This comes from his well-rounded skills, and his killer instinct. Whether it is the speed of the right cross against Jake Collier, the grappling destruction against Arlovski and Alexander Volkov, the beautiful inside elbow to ground and pound against Sergei Spivak, or the architected right hand that split the cerebellum of Marcin Tybura before he brought him level with the canvas with a flurry of shots.

In this fight there was a question as to how he would approach the Russian mammoth that is Sergei Pavlovich, by the Englishman’s own words, the scariest challenge in the division.

A (potentially) unconscious nod to the champion Jon Jones, Aspinall crouched down and strafed his way to meet Pavlovich in the centre of the octagon. Both adopting orthodox stances, a large set of double palm level change feints open Aspinall’s account. This is important. When fighting someone like Pavlovich, with the weapons he possesses, it is imperative to occupy the mind with as many questions of your own weapons as possible.

One of Aspinall’s main weapons is the grappling, so that early level change feint, 6 seconds in is a wonderful tone setting. He follows that with a stinging leg kick that off balances Pavlovich.  

Range control is second on Aspinall’s list of imperative actions. Inside the first twenty seconds he does a great job of mixing up the length of his guard, but also the length of his stance, he moves between close feet bobbing resets, to darting longer stance space intrusions.  Pavlovich must now ensure he is being defensively aware in each of those ranges.

35 seconds in, Aspinall has made the choice to go for another low kick. Pavlovich had already begun to enter the pocket, and lines up Aspinall for the right hand. Seeing this coming, Aspinall drops his own check left hook. Pavlovich however sold the right hand to use the core rotation to really land his own left hook, and he does so with vicious aplomb. A right straight helps Aspinall strafe away, as Pavlovich looks to swarm.

Unlike other opponents, Aspinall immediately has his hands to his chin, and is weaving his head in case any shots from Pavlovich do leave his missile launching shoulders. Smartly Pavlovich pulls his shots, and Aspinall circles out well. A jab and an attempted left high kick ensures Pavlovich knows that he’s still cerebrally there.

Aspinall, whether smartly or not goes back to the low kick. The angle of his body in relation to Pavlovich was better this time, ensuring that the Russian wasn’t square enough to take the shot and rotate his core through a right hand. Aspinall now circles back toward the centre of the cage, making Pavlovich square up the wrong way, to the Russians right. The speed of Aspinall got him to his angle faster, and the jab was out of the chamber before Pavlovich could even smell the right hand that clattered on the side of his head, right above the ear – perfectly placed to wobble the brain of Pavlovich.

The Russian wobbles like prime Flubber as Aspinall cleans a right hand into the chin to send him to the canvas. Some coffin nails stand as a final punctuation mark to what was a beautiful linguistic poem of violence and technical brilliance from Aspinall.

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