Tom Aspinall sums up UFC 295 title triumph: ‘I can do things that other heavyweights can’t’

Tom Aspinall sees himself as one of one.

It’s hard to argue that Aspinall isn’t, at the very worst, one of the top 3 heavyweights in all of MMA right now. The UFC 295 co-main event saw him defeat divisional boogeyman Sergei Pavlovich in 69 seconds, claim an interim title, and complete an epic comeback from a devastating knee injury. Aspinall has impressed in his three years with the UFC, to put it lightly.

Pavlovich also entered UFC 295 with a fearsome finishing reputation, so now that Aspinall has knocked him out, is he the one that other heavyweights should be afraid of?

“I’m very friendly, so I’m not sure,” Aspinall said after his win. “A very nice man and friendly. But when that octagon door closes, I can do things that other heavyweights can’t, simple as that.

“My mind is so different, and I see shots that other people don’t see. I make decisions that other people can’t make and it you might look on the outside and think, ‘This guy’s got holes in his game,’ but you jump in and let’s have a go and see how you get on.”

Conventional wisdom ahead of his fight with Pavlovich suggested that Aspinall would be best off mixing his grappling with his striking to defuse Pavlovich as opposed to standing and trading with the hulking Russian. Sure enough, Aspinall decided to put his standup skills against Pavlovich and he came out on top in dramatic fashion.

Aspinall broke down the sequence of punches that put Pavlovich down for the count.

“It’s just reactive,” Aspinall said. “That’s just a testament to my training. I’ve been training since I’ve been 8 years old and when I see a shot I’ll throw it and when I don’t see a shot I won’t throw it. I think I hit him with a step-in left hook and a right hand and then maybe a 1-2, I’m not sure, I have to watch it back.

“I’ve been in martial arts a long time. We’ve done plenty of drills over the years with my dad and stuff like that, and with all the other coaches who’ve been involved where my reactions are super fast. My eyes are super good. We still drill stuff with the eyes every day now. It’s just practice.”

Aspinall and Pavlovich were both called upon on short notice following heavyweight champion Jon Jones withdrawing from the originally scheduled UFC 295 main event matchup between him and Stipe Miocic. Pavlovich was already on call to be the backup for that fight, so when Jones withdrew to injury and the interim title fight was made, it was Aspinall who had to step in with limited time to prepare.

At the time, Aspinall knew he was taking on an extraordinary challenge, a thought that didn’t deter him from signing the contract.

“That was my exact thought when I was sat in the locker room tonight,” Aspinall said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ To be honest, I get this a lot. Too many people in this game I think and in life in general—I’m not trying to be a philosopher—hide away from fear, like you’re trying to be like, ‘I’m not scared.’ I openly admit that I’m scared and I’m going to do it anyway. That’s when I do my best.

“Look when Sergei whacked me with the overhand right and my mouthpiece started to come out, that’s when I do my best work, when a big, scary guy is coming at me like that. That’s when I’m at my absolute best and I embrace fear with open arms and I’m happy to be scared and perform like that.”

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