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21 Jan, 2022 10:56

Russian ‘Drago’ to headline UFC London return

Alexander 'Drago' Volkov has been handed an assignment against rising star Tom Aspinall at the UFC's return to the English capital
Russian ‘Drago’ to headline UFC London return

Russian heavyweight star Alexander Volkov will look to take another step towards UFC title contention when he fights the highly-rated Englishman Tom Aspinall in the headliner of the UFC's first event in London since 2019.

The bout, which will serve as the main event of what will be the organization's first trip to London since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, will pit one of the division's most battle-tested veterans in Volkov against Aspinall, a fighter predicted by many to be on the cusp of his own run to the top.

London has proved to be a happy hunting ground for the 33-year-old Muscovite in the past. In what was Volkov's fourth fight with the UFC in 2018, the giant fighter earned what was at the time the biggest win of his career when he finished former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum by strikes in the fourth round – and he will need every ounce of that same power to dispatch Aspinall, the 28-year-old training partner of Darren Till who has a spotless record in his four fights in the UFC.

Aspinall was originally scheduled to fight another Russian fighter at the event, Shamil Abdurakhimov, but with UFC matchmakers looking for a hometown fighter to top the card, the decision was made to upgrade him to main event status.

Volkov, though, is an upgrade of opponent. He has been defeated just three time in the past six years, winning 10 fights against the likes of Alistair Overeem, Walt Harris, Greg Hardy and Stefan Struve in addition to his 2018 knockout of Werdum. He was last seen in the cage last October where he outpointed Poland's Marcin Tybura across three rounds.

Aspinall, meanwhile, has found a finish in each of his four UFC fights to date including a swift knockout of Moldova's Sergey Spivak in his last outing. He too holds a win against a former UFC heavyweight champion in Andrei Arlovski. 

With this weekend's UFC 270 event in Anaheim, California featuring a heavyweight championship matchup between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, the next man up for the winner of that bout remains in doubt – and both Volkov and Aspinall will have designs on establishing themselves as the top contender in a division crying out for contenders.

The main event is the latest announcement for the upcoming card which takes place on March 19 and follows fight announcements for the likes of Paddy Pimblett who will take on Kazula Vargas while blue chip prospect and world amateur champion Muhammad Mokaev, who is in the midst of a 29-fight win streak across both the amateurs and the pros, will fight Cody Durden.