After injuries created major short-notice shake-ups on last month’s UFC 294 fight card, the theme continued with this weekend’s pay-per-view. And once again both the main event and the future of the division are involved.
Following the announcement that heavyweight champion Jon Jones had withdrawn from the UFC 295 main event due to a torn pectoral tendon, UFC CEO Dana White quickly announced that rising heavyweight contenders Tom Aspinall (13-3) and Sergei Pavlovich (18-1) will fight for the interim title in the co-main event Saturday (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV).
While Jones vs. former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic was certainly going to be compelling, the new matchup actually has the potential to be an even more entertaining fight — and bring more intrigue to the next two fights for the heavyweight title.
Here’s a look at the numbers behind this weekend’s co-main event, a matchup between two of the most dominant fighters in the history of the UFC heavyweight division.
Pavlovich and Aspinall have a combined 14 fights inside the Octagon. Of those fights, only one has made it past the first round. Each of Pavlovich’s seven UFC fights has ended in a first-round knockout, even his one loss to Alistair Overeem in his promotional debut in November 2018. Aspinall’s only fight that made it to the second round was against Andrei Arlovski in February 2021. Aspinall went on to beat Arlovski by second-round submission.
Aspinall’s lone UFC loss came on July 23, 2022, when he suffered a horrific leg injury just 15 seconds into his main event against Curtis Blaydes. After injuring his knee while throwing his first strike of the bout, Aspinall was out of action for 364 days.
The British fighter made his return to the Octagon on July 22, facing Marcin Tybura in the main event at UFC London. Aspinall beat Tybura by first-round TKO, earning him a shot at the interim title.
Without question, Pavlovich will be the most dangerous striker that Aspinall has faced. The Russian might just be the most dangerous striker in UFC history. While averaging only 21.7 total strikes landed per fight, Pavlovich averages 6.31 knockdowns per 15 minutes. That is the highest rate in the promotion’s history and more than two knockdowns more than the next fighter. Drew McFedries has the second-best knockdown rate at 4.27. Aspinall has the fifth-best rate at 2.78.
Speaking of Pavlovich’s striking, the 31-year-old is the most efficient striker the UFC heavyweight division has seen. Pavlovich enters this weekend’s fight averaging 8.72 strikes landed per minute, which is the highest rate of strikes landed per minute in divisional history. Aspinall has the second-highest rate, landing 7.65 per minute.
Aspinall has etched his name in the UFC record book as well. The 30-year-old has the shortest average fight time, averaging just 2 minutes and 19 seconds of action when he steps into the Octagon. Pavlovich has the third-shortest average time at 2:23. Don’t blink when these two enter the cage on Saturday.
In addition to having the shortest average fight time, Aspinall also boasts the second-highest striking differential in promotion history. To date, the Brit is outlanding opponents by an average of 4.75 strikes. Former women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg is the only fighter with a higher differential at 4.79. Pavlovich ranks third with a 4.39 differential.
Aspinall’s best performance was against Serghei Spivac in September 2021, where he landed 16 strikes and prevented Spivac from landing a single strike en route to a first-round TKO win.
Although these two fighters appear to match up very well, there is one significant advantage for Pavlovich. He will have a six-inch reach advantage over Aspinall, in a fight that is likely to take place on the feet. Pavlovich’s ability to stay out of Aspinall’s range could be a factor that sways the outcome of this fight.
In a division full of fighters who specialize in one discipline, Aspinall is truly a well-rounded fighter. In addition to his high-level striking highlighted above, he is also a talented wrestler and submission artist.
Through seven UFC fights, Aspinall has a perfect takedown rate, completing 100 percent of his takedown attempts. Although he hasn’t had to use the skill often — Aspinall has only attempted four takedowns — it’s nice to have that ability in his back pocket going into the biggest fight of his career. Aspinall is also tied for the least amount of time spent in bottom position in promotion history. He is tied with Justin Tafa, having spent only :01 second of fight time in bottom position.