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Tom Aspinall ready to prove he is the "real deal" against Arlovski

Aspinall has already made an impression by dispatching Jake Collier and Alan Baudot in a combined 140 seconds.

Tom Aspinall is aiming to make his mark in the UFC heavyweight division this weekend, believing a swift win over former champion Andrei Arlovski will prove he is the "real deal".

Aspinall has already made an impression by dispatching Jake Collier and Alan Baudot in a combined 140 seconds but he faces a big step-up in competition in his third fight with the organisation against Arlovski on Saturday night.

The Belarusian-American was champion from October 2005 to May 2006 and has more recently fought a number of standout names including current titlist Stipe Miocic and contenders Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

All three stopped Arlovski inside a round but the 42-year-old has demonstrated he is not a spent force by winning the last two of an astonishing 51-fight MMA career, so Aspinall knows he is in for a challenge in Las Vegas.

He told the PA news agency: "I think he will be my toughest test – on paper for sure. He has shown a bit of improvement in his last couple of fights.

"He's changed his style completely, he's quite negative and doesn't go in swinging like he used to because I know he got knocked out a few times by doing that. He's learned from that. He seems to be improving to me.

"If I can stop him and stop him quick, that's going to be a little bit of a statement for the UFC and the rest of the guys that I'm the real deal, and that's obviously the plan.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't here to win and win impressively, I'd be doing something else with my life."

While power in the highest weight class is the ultimate currency – and Aspinall's is obvious with eight knockouts or technical knockouts in his nine wins – the 6ft 5in Wigan fighter believes his speed is his biggest weapon.

The 27-year-old (9-2 in MMA) said: "For me as a heavyweight, what sets me apart from the other ones is I'm a lot quicker than the rest of them.

"Believe it or not, no-one has really seen my speed yet, they've seen bits of it, but no-one's really seen what I can do."

Aspinall dipped his toes into professional boxing in June 2017 when he was struggling to find MMA opponents, winning his only bout against unheralded Hungarian Tamas Bajzath by first-round knockout.

He has also shared a ring on a number of occasions with Tyson Fury, sparring with the current WBC heavyweight champion in the build-up to his fights against Christian Hammer and Wladimir Klitschko six years ago.

Asked what he learned from Fury, Aspinall replied: "The main one was just to relax and enjoy yourself. That's what you've got to do in this sport – it's not all serious, just enjoy it in there.

"It's just a sport at the end of the day. Obviously, I learned technical stuff as well but that's the main thing I can take away from sparring with him – just to enjoy myself."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States13141037
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia810725
Great BritainGreat Britain57618
Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events

· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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