The main event of UFC 295 was due to see Jon Jones defend the heavyweight title against divisional great Stipe Miocic, but that bout was cancelled on two weeks’ notice after Jones suffered an injury in training.
With Jones, 36, set to face eight months on the sidelines, the UFC pitted Aspinall against Pavlovich to crown an interim champion, and it was the Briton who triumphed at Madison Square Garden.
Aspinall, who admitted to being “scared” ahead of his fight with the Russian, caught Pavlovich with two clean right hands in the first round, wobbling him with the first and dropping him with the second.
The Wigan fighter, 30, followed up with a trio of hammer fists to the downed Pavlovich, sealing the knockout to become the third British champion in UFC history.
“I can’t even tell you, it’s been a crazy two-and-a-half weeks,” Aspinall said, having fought through a bout of tears. “Oh, my God. I just want to say to everyone at home: Listen, if you ever get the chance to do something, and you’re scared to do it, you should f***ing definitely do it, because there’s a chance it’s gonna pay off.
“He’s a big, scary guy. I’ve never been as scared in my life as fighting this guy, but I’ve got a lot of power, too. And I believe in myself, I really believe in myself. I’ve worked so hard over the years.”
Cue the damn music
🎵 Tommy Aspinall, Tommy Aspinall 🎵 pic.twitter.com/tMnMblcZFD
— AFeldmanMMA (@afeldMMA) November 12, 2023
In 2016, Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to win the middleweight belt on short notice, and in 2022, Leon Edwards won the welterweight title with a knockout of Kamaru Usman.
It is as yet unclear whether Aspinall will fight Jones next, or whether the UFC will rebook Jones versus 41-year-old Miocic. In that case, Aspinall would potentially have to defend the interim belt in the meantime. However, there is also a belief that Aspinall could be elevated to regular champion in Jones’s absence.
Aspinall vs Pavlovich in fact served as the co-main event of UFC 295, while the original co-main event was elevated and saw Alex Pereira beat Jiri Prochazka for the vacant light-heavyweight title.
Pereira, a former middleweight champion, became the ninth two-weight champion in UFC history by securing a TKO in Round 2. The Brazilian dropped his Czech opponent with a left hook before unleashing a series of elbows, before referee Marc Goddard stepped in.
Although some viewers suggested that the stoppage had come too early, Prochazka – fighting for the first time since vacating the light-heavyweight title due to injury last year – dismissed the notion. “I think in the end, it was right; I was out,” he said.
UFC 295 results in full
Alex Pereira def. Jiri Prochazka via second-round TKO (punches and elbows, 4:08)
Tom Aspinall def. Sergei Pavlovich via first-round knockout (punches, 1:09)
Jessica Andrade def. Mackenzie Dern via second-round TKO (punches, 3:15)
Benoit Saint-Denis def. Matt Frevola via first-round knockout (head kick, 1:31)
Diego Lopes def. Pat Sabatini via first-round knockout (punches, 1:30)
Steve Erceg def. Alessandro Costa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Loopy Godinez def. Tabatha Ricci via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Mateusz Rebecki def. Roosevelt Roberts via first-round submission (armbar, 3:08)
Nazim Sadykhov and Viacheslav Borshchev fought to majority draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
Jared Gordon def. Mark Madsen via first-round TKO (4:42)
John Castaneda def. Kyung Ho Kang via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Joshua Van def. Kevin Borjas via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jamall Emmers def. Dennis Buzukja via first-round TKO (0:49)
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