For the second consecutive week, a highly anticipated UFC main event ended prematurely due to injury. This time, it was perennial heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes who was awarded a TKO victory when fast-rising prospect Tom Aspinall had his knee give out just 15 seconds into the contest.
The two clashed in the featured bout of Saturday's UFC Fight Night 208 event, which streamed live on ESPN+ from The O2 Arena in London.
In the biggest opportunity of his career to date, the 29-year-old Aspinall clearly looked to pressure early, walking forward with intent and aggressively firing punches and kicks. Blaydes was ready, defending and countering with straight shots as the two settled into an early rhythm.
Then it happened.
Aspnall threw a right kick that connected to his opponent's thigh, but when he stepped back to plant the leg, he wobbled awkwardly back and fell to the canvas, instantly writhing in pain. Blaydes immediately raised his arms in disbelief, and referee Herb Dean called off the fight
Blaydes (17-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC), who entered the event sitting at No. 4 in the UFC's official heavyweight rankings, admitted his frustration at the result.
"It's almost like we didn't even fight," Blaydes said after the fight. "I wanted to come here and prove a statement. Aspinall is legit. I know a win over him would have shown the world I'm ready for a title shot. I'm legit.
"I wish the injury hadn't happened. I don't even know what to say, man. I'm sorry."
A visibly frustrated Aspinall (12-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC) – who was ranked No. 6 ahead of the contest – was carted out of the octagon, struggling to get up and walk under his own power, though his limb wouldn't support his weight.
Complete UFC Fight Night 208 results included:
MAIN CARD (ESPN+)
- Curtis Blaydes def. Tom Aspinall via TKO (leg injury) – Round 1, 0:15
- Jack Hermansson def. Chris Curtis via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Paddy Pimblett def. Jordan Leavitt via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:46
- Nikita Krylov def. Alexander Gustafsson via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:07
- Molly McCann def. Hannah Goldy via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:52
- Volkan Oezdemir def. Paul Craig via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN+)
- Ludovit Klein def. Mason Jones via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Marc Diakiese def. Damir Hadzovic via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
- Nathaniel Wood def. Charles Rosa via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
- Jonathan Pearce def. Makwan Amirkhani via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:10
- Muhammad Mokaev def. Charles Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jai Herbert def. Kyle Nelson via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Victoria Leonardo def. Mandy Bohm via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Nicolas Dalby def. Claudio Silva via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.