NEW YORK — Tom Aspinall said a day or so after accepting a fight for the interim heavyweight title against fearsome puncher Sergei Pavlovich that he had no doubts that accepting the bout on two weeks’ notice was the right thing to do.
“I can’t win the belt sitting and watching from the couch, now can I?” Aspinall asked.
No, he could not, but when he took the fight, he had the opportunity and on Saturday, he capitalized on it.
After Jon Jones had to pull out of his fight for the heavyweight title with Stipe Miocic after a pectoral injury, the UFC made the bout between Aspinall and Pavlovich for the interim title. Pavlovich had been training as the backup for Jones-Miocic, and Aspinall hadn’t been in camp.
But Aspinall landed a straight right hand on the temple that sent Pavlovich staggering back and down on the floor.
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) November 12, 2023
Referee Dan Miragliotta quickly stopped it and Aspinall’s seemingly impossible dream had come true.
“He’s a big scary guy and I’ve never been as scared in my life as I was fighting this guy,” Aspinall said afterward. “But you know what? I believe in myself.”
Both guys entered as huge punchers and quick finishers and for the 69 seconds the fight lasted, it lived up to the billing. Pavlovich landed a combination early that seemed to sting Aspinall, and they both were firing hard shots.
Aspinall had one clear advantage and it paid off big-time. He was considerably faster than Pavlovich, and when Pavlovich threw a lazy left hand, Aspinall came over it with a blazing right and Pavlovich’s night was over.
Jones and Miocic are still going to fight when Jones is healthy, and Pavlovich will fight the winner.