The UFC 295 tournament in New York was supposed to crown a historic confrontation within the heavyweight division. One of the greatest athletes in the history of MMA, Jon Jones, was going to make his first defense of the belt in a fight with the category record holder for the most victories in title fights, Stipe Miocic. However, the hopes of fans to see two legends in the octagon are not yet destined to come true. The defending champion tore his pectoral muscle during sparring and was out for about eight months. The battle was disrupted, and the organizers had to change plans in a hurry.

As a result, Dana White and company decided not just to replace the injured Jones, but to completely change the composition and status of the once main fight - in light of the events described above, the show will be headed by Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira. An interim heavyweight title was also at stake, and Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich had the opportunity to compete for it. Subsequently, this was confirmed by the Russian himself.

"Greetings everyone! As it became known, Jon Jones flew off the title at UFC 295, having been injured. We were offered a fight against Tom Aspinall for the interim UFC heavyweight belt. This news has already been officially confirmed by the UFC. We are preparing!" wrote Pavlovich on Telegram.

This news was positively received by the former Bellator champion in the heavyweight category Vitaly Minakov. According to him, it is a great luck for Pavlovich to fight for the interim title.

"Sergey has every chance to win this belt: he is hungry for victories, hardy, trained, hitting. I'm sure he'll win. The main thing is to approach in a good psychological state: not to be nervous, to avoid psychological triggers and excessive responsibility. If he becomes the owner of the interim title, then we will see a completely different Sergei: there will be a psychological take-off," Minakov said in a conversation with RT.

But is this news really that good? After all, initially, the Russian "insured" the main fight of UFC 295 and in the event of an injury to one of the participants, he had to fight for the title of not a temporary, but an absolute champion. But when everything went exactly according to this scenario, the bosses of the promotion suddenly changed their minds. And thus deprived Pavlovich of the opportunity not only to measure his strength with one of the legends of mixed martial arts, but also to ascend to the throne of the division.

In fact, instead of that, Sergey will fight for the contendership for the second time in a row. In April, he was already fighting as part of a kind of eliminator with the then number four of the rating Curtis Blades and easily prevailed. The American stayed in the cage for a little more than three minutes, adding to the list of opponents knocked out by the Russian. Earlier, the same fate befell Tai Tuivasa, Derrick Lewis, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Maurice Green and Marcelo Golm.

Yes, having a time zone gives additional privileges compared to the status of the first applicant. In the event that the undisputed champion for some reason will not be able to defend the trophy in the foreseeable future, the management can deprive him of the title and transfer the title to the "temporary". In 2005, Andrei Orlovsky won the belt in a similar way, and later it helped Jose Aldo, Renan Barao and Robert Whittaker climb to the top. But it is unlikely that the UFC will do the same in this situation. According to ESPN, the management hopes to arrange a duel between Jones and Miocic in 2024 - and probably with the belt at stake.

Thus, Pavlovich has every right to feel a little disadvantaged. But there is no time to be upset, because on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the first UFC tournament, one of the most difficult tests in his career awaits him. Although in terms of experience, Aspinall is inferior to the same Blades and Lewis, he is now on the rise and can be considered among the strongest heavyweights of the promotion. If not for the injury in the battle with the same Curtis, he could well go on a series of seven consecutive victories in the league and be higher than Sergei in the rating.

Domestic fans remember very well how easily Aspinall dealt with another star Russian, Alexander Volkov. Then the Englishman demonstrated his ability to work well not only in the standing position, but also in the referee's position. First, he laid Drago down on the floor twice, and then playfully applied a painful hold on his arm and forced him to surrender. And it is this versatility that is Tom's main trump card, which can become a key factor in his duel with Pavlovich.

Yes, Aspinall is not the best in at least one aspect. In the same strike, he is inferior to both Pavlovich and some other competitors, including Jones and Ciryl Gane. In wrestling, he is hardly superior to Blades, and in grappling he is superior to Jailton Almeida. But unlike most of them, it is well-rounded and at the same time incredibly fast. Tom's speed qualities were admired by his compatriot Michael Bisping, according to whom he moves like a middleweight.

Therefore, Aspinall may become the most difficult opponent for Pavlovich since his duel with Alistair Overeem. At that time, both acclimatization (which he himself later said) and the lack of experience prevented the Russian from performing at his usual level - that fight was his first under the auspices of the championship. In November, he will have to fight with almost the most diverse opponent in his career.

"Aspinall has a big chance... I'll bet 60 to 40 in percentage terms in favor of the Englishman. He is physically strong, tough, moves well and has good skills on the ground. It will be hard for Sergey. Our fighter cannot allow his opponent to move him to the floor - he must impose his own rules of the game. This is a really serious test. Sergey was like a backup option for the Miocic vs. Jones fight, and therefore went through a huge camp and is in great shape. Yes, he was preparing for other opponents, which means that he will have to regroup. Mentally and psychologically. Many people underestimate Aspinall: he has a good parterre," said the famous Russian fighter Kirill Sidelnikov.

However, a certain advantage will still be on the side of Pavlovich. As the former representative of the Fedor Team rightly noted, the Russian has spent a full-fledged camp and is, if not in perfect, then in close to this form, while Aspinall will have to tone himself in the shortest possible time. And it is not a fact that he will succeed. Last week, everyone witnessed how Alexander Volkanovski failed to get in shape for a rematch with Islam Makhachev in about the same period and suffered a crushing defeat by knockout in the first round. But history knows other examples. At the same tournament in Abu Dhabi, Kamaru Usman not only fought on equal terms with Khamzat Chimaev, but looked noticeably fresher than him during the fight.

Nevertheless, it is still extremely difficult to predict which of the opponents will feel more comfortable if the duel lasts more than one round. In the UFC, Pavlovich decided all issues exclusively in the first five minutes, only once he held out until the break and Aspinall - he crushed Orlovsky at the beginning of the second segment. At the same time, before joining the largest MMA promotion on the planet, Tom could hardly endure "protracted" battles. He lost to Stuart Austin by submission after he was exhausted and showed nothing on the ground, and in the confrontation with Lukas Parobiec he was disqualified for illegal elbow strikes.

Pavlovich, on the other hand, felt much more comfortable in long fights. For 25 minutes, he fought Mikhail Mokhnatkin in AMC Fight Nights, and worked all three rounds with Alexei Kudin. And in both cases, he prevailed by unanimous decision of the judges. It means that he has some experience.

It is all the more surprising that bookmakers consider Aspinall to be the favorite of the upcoming fight. And this should not irritate, but motivate Pavlovich. Yes, the fight with the Englishman is clearly not what the Russian hoped for and prepared for, so now he may well be in a state of slight frustration. But if he has seriously set himself the task of becoming a champion, then he must be ready for any challenges - as Islam Makhachev bequeathed. And his chances of succeeding are extremely high. So far, no one has been able to figure out how to contain Sergei's power. And in just two and a half weeks, it will be extremely difficult for Tom to solve this riddle.